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Sketching Journal Overview

Sketching is a common practice used by designers that fosters the ability to think critically about existing objects and interactions, and generate ways of improving them.

As part of this class, you will keep a sketchbook, in which you will think about objects or interactions in your daily life and sketch situations that are problematic or frustrating and ideas for how they could be improved.

There are two main parts to this assignment. Together, they count 20 points towards your final grade.

  1. 8 weekly sketching assignments: 1 point each, for a total of 8 points towards your final grade.
  2. Final reflection: 12 points towards your final grade.

Each week, for weeks 2-9, you will need to make at least three entries in your sketching journal. There are two requirements for these sketches: At least 1 entry for the week should be related to the specified topic (see list below). Also, at least 1 entry each week needs to be of a new idea for an object or a re-design of an existing system.

  • Each sketch should be on the front of a separate page.
  • On the back of the page, please write the date, but leave everything else blank.
  • Bring your sketchbook to class every Thursday, with the three new sketches in it.

Every Thursday, in class, you will break into groups and exchange feedback and critique.

  • Take notes (on the back of the sketch would be fine) about the feedback. You will need this for the final reflection assignment.

At the end of the quarter, you will write a 1000-word reflective essay about the sketching assignment.


You will need a blank sketchbook for this assignment that you can turn in at the end of the quarter. This book should be:

  • Unlined
  • At least 30 pages
  • Sized appropriately to carry around with you
  • Dedicated only to sketching

The UCI Bookstore sells many sizes and types of unlined books that would be appropriate for this. This does not need to be expensive. You could also make your own book if you are feeling DIY.

Weekly Topics & Peer Feedback

Each week, we will have an open-ended topic or theme to tackle where you will do at least one sketch related to that topic area. For the open-ended questions, you just have to come up with any new product idea or improvement to an existing product. For example, if the theme was “Cooking & Eating,” you might redesign your toaster knobs, come up with a new recipe organization tool, or a smart refrigerator. The idea can focus on an entire system (e.g., smart refrigerator) or one specific interaction (e.g., new toaster knobs). The focus is on the quantity of sketches and communication of your ideas and not the quality of your drawing. The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas. Futuristic, off-the-wall, and original ideas are welcome and encouraged!

You must bring your sketchbook to class every Thursday with at least three new sketches related to the topic for that week. Each sketch must be on a single page, numbered and dated. The back of each sketch page should also be left blank to leave room for notes and critique signatures. You will break into small groups to discuss and critique each others’ sketches and get feedback on your ideas. Each critiquer will sign your sketches to indicate that you’ve discussed them. Take good notes during these sessions, as you’ll need them for your reflection assignment. At the end of the quarter, you will write a short reflection upon your sketching experience:

  • usefulness in the identification of problems and design opportunities
  • usefulness for the generation of design ideas
  • what you learned from feedback during the group critique sessions
  • whether you enjoyed the experience
  • whether you gained confidence in your ideas (and perhaps drawing skills ;))

### S1: Objects and interactions in daily life

Due in class, Thursday January 15. This assignment will be started in week 1 discussion

Sketch three ideas for things that would change your daily life as a student at UCI. To help you get started, you might want to think about questions like:

  • What do you notice people around you doing? How are they accomplishing these activities? Who and what are people interacting with? How could you make it easier? How could you make it more fun? What would improve things in the near future?
  • What kinds of problems do you have during the day? What frustrates you? What would make these frustrating situations better?
  • Complete this sentence “wouldn’t it be great if …”
  • What do you imagine campus will look like in 20 years? How might classes be different? How might people communicate differently? How might people pay for things differently? How might people travel differently?

For example, you might redesign your toaster knobs, come up with a new recipe organization tool, or a smart refrigerator. The idea can focus on an entire system (e.g., smart refrigerator) or one specific interaction (e.g., new toaster knobs).

The antplanner website is a great example of something that you might come up with if you were thinking “wouldn’t it be great if I could see these classes I’m taking in a calendar format instead of just a list?” Try to capture moments like this – when you or someone you know is frustrated and find yourself imagining a way to improve something you deal with as part of your regular day.

Each week, 2 of your sketches can be just like the first week – anything you notice about your daily life. At least 1 sketch should be related to the week’s topic area.

S2: Time Management

Due in class, Thursday January 22

For this sketching topic, you might try to pay attention to things like: individual or group scheduling, calendaring, keeping track of tasks and chores, coordinating plans with other people, etc.

S3: Experiencing one’s surroundings

Due in class, Thursday January 29

For this sketching topic, pay attention to how people around you are experiencing (or not experiencing) their surroundings.

Some questions to get you thinking:

Are people texting while walking? Is it sometimes a problem? What would make it better? Do you wish you could more easily send a message to someone while you’re on the move? How could you do that? Do you notice event fliers posted around campus? What would make you notice them more? OR would help you ignore them if they’re bothersome? What do you know about the places where you are walking – do you know their history, who else has been there? What things would you want to know when you’re out and about? Do you get lost riding bikes? Do you know where you’re allowed (and not allowed) to skateboard?

S4: Mobile working

Due in class, Thursday February 5

Your sketches can have anything to do with mobile working or studying.

But, if you are not sure where to begin, here are some things other students in class are thinking about:

  • How do people find locations to study?
  • How do people find people to study with?
  • What kinds of technologies do people use while studying?
  • Are technologies like laptops or phones helpful when studying? Why? How could they be more helpful?
  • Are technologies distracting from studying? When? Why? How could they be less (or more?) distracting?

S5: Transportation

As discussed in class – anything relevant to the transportation experience.

Due in class, Thursday February 12

S6: Shopping

As discussed in class – anything relevant to the shopping experience.

Due in class, Thursday February 19

S7: Sketch your project area!

Due in class, Thursday February 26

You should be moving towards making a decision about what to prototype for your final project this week. Sketch some of your ideas for possible solutions.

S8: Cooking

As discussed in class – anything relevant to the cooking experience.

Due in class, Thursday March 5

Sketch Grading

Each weeks’ sketching assignment is worth 1 point towards your final grade, for a total of 8 points for all 8 weeks of sketching. You must have all three sketches completed and uploaded to EEE from the Thursday activity in order to earn this point. If you do not have three sketches complete, or you do not have your sketching notebook with you you will receive zero points for the week. It’s only worth one point, there will be no partial credit.

Final Reflection

**Due in class, Thursday, March 12. **

  1. You do NOT need to turn in your sketchbooks. You’ve been uploading your sketches to EEE. That’s plenty of work.
  2. Review your sketches, and spend some time thinking about how your relationship with sketching has changed (or not) over the duration of the quarter. Then write a reflection essay. The objective here is to thoughtfully reflect on your experience overall. However, I would like you to specifically note your favorite and least favorite sketch, what feedback you received on these sketches during critique, and include photos of these sketches (in super high quality please!).

Additional questions you should respond to in your reflection:

  • How did you initially feel about sketching?
    • How has that changed?
  • What have you learned through sketching?
  • When was sketching most beneficial? When wasn’t it?
  • Were there any surprising moments?
  • What kind of feedback did you get in class?
    • What kind of feedback was helpful?
    • What kind of feedback wasn’t helpful?
    • What did you learn about critique from this assignment?
  • Are there things that could improve the sketching component of this course?

What to Turn In:

  • You do NOT need to turn in your sketchbook, you’ve been uploading those sketches to EEE. That’s enough work.
  • A 1000 word reflection essay on your experiences with the sketching assignments this quarter including at least two high-resolution images of your favorite and least favorite sketch.

Final Reflection Grading

The final reflection counts 12 points towards your final grade, and will be graded as follows:

  • Grammar and writing clarity: 2 points
  • Specified length & includes 2 requested images: 1 point
  • Addresses questions in the prompt: 4 points
  • Expresses student opinion and contains thoughtful reflection on own learning: 5 points

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