Pattern Based SketchingMay 15th, 2009
Ryan Singer of 37signals has written about and recently reaffirmed his satisfaction with a sketching technique he uses. The technique is inspired by Christopher Alexander’s book, Notes on the Synthesis of Form, and supports a number of important design qualities. It abstracts the starting point away from the specifics of UI elements, toward requirements or design considerations such as human needs, tasks or behaviours that are to be fulfilled. The technique emphasizes the interaction and forming of relationships between various requirements into manageable chunks or patterns. Prioritization of these patterns is then suggested. Finally, this approach also affords the exploration of multiple alternatives for each pattern or chunk followed by a unifying synthesis. In the end, the central ideas of Alexander are about letting design ideas emerge into unified and contextually fit forms.
Here is how Ryan describes the approach:
1. List all the things a screen should do. What should the customer be able to accomplish? What information are you sure should be displayed? Which affordances are necessary for customers to start a process or reach a goal? Label these things with numbers.
2. Look for any numbered items that relate to each other, conceptually or spatially. Label these groups of numbers with a letter.
3. Sketch a design (or multiple designs) for each number or letter group.
4. Combine the individually sketched blocks into a unified design. Let the pieces fall together into a whole.
Credits: Ryan Singer