Defining Terms: The Sketch

When brainstorming and thinking of new ideas, a sketch is a helpful way for me to get ideas on a page, along with words. It is a companion to writing out, or typing out, ideas that adds “flesh and bones” to that which was a thought.

The Definition

Mirriam-Webster defines a sketch as “a rough drawing representing the chief features of an object or scene and often made as a preliminary study.” For my purpose, a sketch is a quick drawing intended to lead to further action. It’s part of the transition from the process of coming up with ideas to analyzing those ideas and putting them into practice. Individual words can mean a lot of things, but a sketch adds specificity – without being so specific that there is not longer any wiggle room for revising or expanding the idea.

Other attributes of sketches include simple materials and a short timeframe. They are done quickly, so that you can create multiple versions of one idea, or illustrate multiple ideas in a short amount of time. You should not move too quickly to refining a product before testing it as a sketch – similar to creating a loose prototype for evaluation. Another aspect is that you do not get style points for a fancy sketch. A sketch that communicates an idea in a way that can be understood by others is good enough.


Below are a few examples of sketches I have created using a variety of methods. All were done quickly and were focused on communicating the main idea while leaving out anything unnecessary.


I don’t personally have anything against doodling, but I do think there is a difference between a doodle and a sketch of we are defining terms. Mirriam-Webster’s doodle definition is “an aimless or casual scribble, design, or sketch.” Doodles can be good for visual thinking and hashing out ideas, but once it is preparatory for the next step, it is a sketch.