Why drawing with “UGLY DOODLES”? | Creative technique) | TIP135

Hello Design Sketchers!

Some of you told me about facing these challenges when you start sketching:

  1. “My sketches don’t looks good”
  2. “It’s not easy to draw from imagination”
  3. “I lose my confidence and give up fast”

If you are a beginner in Product Design Sketching, this challenging situation is actually pretty common. You feel that your sketches look bad, and you don’t know how to unlock this problem.

That’s not your fault, and it can be solved. : )

Let me introduce you to the 3 steps sketching process I often use in my professional design projects.

This process helps me to be more creative and provide better sketches at the end. If you think that your first sketches are ugly, then good!

Because that’s actually our starting point. 😉


Coffee machine 3 steps

Coffee machine: From ugly to neat sketch.

What and How

Coffee machine: To illustrate that process, I was wondering what to sketch. I remembered the Nespresso coffee machine I have in my kitchen. So I draw it from memory for today’s demonstration.

Whether you are a beginner or senior it’s often overwhelming to start a project.
We tend to think at the same time as both the:

  • “WHAT”
    e.g. what do I want to draw, what inspiration, what function, what elements, what are the users’ needs…
  • and “HOW”
    e.g. which proportion, from which viewpoint, analog or digital, which size, how many views, which composition…

An essential method that designers use to release stress, is to split them into 2 distinct steps.

Start your project dropping all the “WHAT” first on paper with fast doodles. Put your ego aside and draw as many “Ugly doodles” as you can.

Make a selection of the ideas you like the most and only then you can focus on the “HOW” to present much neater and attractive sketches.

To sum up the 3 steps:


Even though this technique gives results, many young students may be tempted to skip the 2 first steps and go directly to the last one –

Some may succeed, but a good number may end with average sketches supporting average ideas.

It’s a pity because it’s not about lacking talent or creativity, but impatience (or sometimes laziness).

So keep in mind that you don’t sketch for the sake of making beautiful sketches, but to defend beautiful ideas.

STEP1 Explore drawing “Ugly doodles”!

Step 1 Doodle

Ugly Doodle for the exploration phase

Start drawing “Ugly doodles” to drop as many ideas as you can without caring whether the sketches look good or not – whether the perspective is good or not.

These sketches are personal and won’t be shown to anybody except yourself. So relax! Beautiful sketches are not the purpose here, but creativity.

Your best friend here is your imagination supported by creative drawing techniques.

Drawing with Ugly is like taking quick notes, but with doodles.
Imagine you are drawing many napkin doodles.
List down ideas, function, and various components thinking about the user’s needs, ergonomy, and how the product is gonna work, held, and so on…

As long as your doodle is comprehensive, it’s fine.
(If you have bad writing, the minimum you can do is to make sure it’s readable.)

“Beautiful sketches are not the purpose here, but creativity.”

Target quantity instead of quality. By drawing many sketches fast, you let your creativity flow regarding the WHAT – this is how you will produce a lot of ideas in a short time.

STEP 2 Get the right proportion with a side view.Step 2 Side view
Side view proportion: I draw the side view to define the proportion. (Depending on the product, you may consider the front view as well)

”Even though the side view sketch is in 2D,
Think your object in 3 dimensions.”

Let’s say we have now selected a proposal from the “Ugly doodles”, and we have decided on its components.

At this step, the challenge is proportion.
To make your life easier, draw it from the side or front view. You can adjust your dimensions easily and apply as many modifications as you want.

STEP 3 Communicate in perspective.Step 3 Perspective

Step 3: I draw with a 3/4 view to better communicate the product.

Now the elements are pretty clear in your mind.
You have memorized quite well the elements, the functions, the proportions. You have already got “rid of” most of the creative part.

Since the creative part is solved, you can focus on drawing appealing sketches. Basically, all you have to think about now is the application of your drawing techniques to communicate your ideas.

“Ugly doodles” are the foundation of greater sketches.

Don’t get me wrong.
I don’t say it’s gonna be easy at the start.

Practice these 3 steps and you will climb the ladder so much faster! 🙂

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About The Author


Hello! My name is Chou-Tac. I am a Product Designer from France. If the sketching methods I’ve acquired aid me in my life and in my industrial design career, I believe that they can also help you reach your design goal as a student or professional. My aim to help you all along with your design projects and journey. Anytime, feel free to leave a comment in the blog or send me an email at choutac@thedesignsketchbook.com : )


  • Brian Hermelijn

    Reply Reply July 30, 2015

    I have a question, do you first visualize the item you’re going to draw, or you just lets say, imagine a word, see which image related to that word, and doodle it down? I ask, because imagination drawing is one of those skills that definitely takes time to cultivate.

    • Chou-Tac Chung

      Reply Reply July 30, 2015

      Hey best is to combine both.

      Most of the time, your ideas will come first from your understanding of the user : you want the product to have great function but also give emotion that FIT his needs. Keeping that in mind, you will create great experience to people.

      A good way to improve your imagination is being curious. You will see a lot of various things and feed your library of forms, colour combination, functions… It’s one thing to “see” them, but it’s an other to observe them. Be alert, and you will spot a lot of cool things everywhere, everyday. If you see a coffee machine in the shop, ask yourself who are the users and why they design it like that.
      One day, your imagination will combine few of the cool things and create something new !

      Hope it helps !

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