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4 Things I Learned from a 30-Day Sketching Project (and You Should Too!)

Published on July 27, 2016 by John Robb

I decided to sketch 30 experiences in 30 days. I used the word “experiences” to keep my opportunities open, which resulted in sketches of website designs, dishwashing routines, and everything in between. Before starting the project, I set a few goals to keep in mind:

  • Think about designers’ decisions through emulation
  • Learn to visualize thoughts and ideas through sketching
  • Step out of digital interfaces by observing physical experiences
  • Explore sketching with various tools and mediums

Here are a few things I learned from the experience:

Bend the traditional definition of “sketching”. When you’re going to visualize a story, idea, or concept, don’t think pencil and paper first. I used a sketchbook on some days, but cardboard, receipts, or even videos worked just as well.

sketch 1sketch 2sketch 3







Experiences are everywhere, and there’s something to be learned from each. By allocating 5-10 minutes each day, you’ll be forced to find experiences that are hidden by every day routines.

sketch1sketch 2experience 3







The medium is part of the message. In what context you show the message can be part of the story, and sometimes even more powerful than the sketch itself. By drawing iTunes at the size of a penny, the complexity of the interface becomes quickly apparent.

sketch 1sketch 2medium 3








Learn through emulation. While emulating an experience, it becomes a focused meditation on the design itself and what choices were made. You’re forced to think about “what is it that makes this unique,” “why is it this way,” and “how could it be changed?” By sketching the interface of my alarm clock, I was able to see the merits and pitfalls of the design I just emulated.

sketch 1

sketch 2

emulation 3







Now it’s Your Turn!

Designers should be ready to sketch at a moment’s notice as soon as a problem arises. This 30-day sketching project is a great exercise for those who want to be quicker to unsheathe their sketchbook in times of trouble, allowing you to gain important insights into a design problem.

Please share your thoughts about sketching experiences with me at @johnrobbdesign or via email at

Happy sketching!


I’m a research associate at the User Experience Center at Bentley University, and my business cards say “UX Designer.” I'm currently pursuing my MS at Bentley’s Human Factors in Information Design program, and I'll be starting at Google as a UX Research Assistant in the Fall. You can reach me at or @johnrobbdesign




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