Speed Sketching – DIY

To follow up on the ‘innovation game’ I did along with Antony Quinn at UX Cambridge 2011 (which was a great conference, by the way!), here’s how you can run your own speed sketching workshop.

Speed sketching rotation diagram


The point of this workshop is not so much sketching, but collaboration. Working across silos with people you might not normally interact with, hopefully gaining insights and new perspectives based on their experiences.

It is also about involving people. If you’re the UX person where you work, use this kind of workshop to bring together a range of developers, managers and other “non-designers”, and get them involved in the process!

Good for…

UI design, content design, information design, scientific problems… problem-solving and rapid iteration in general.

You will need…

  • A nice room, with several tables and enough chairs
  • Participants! Perhaps 8-10 minimum, 30 maximum
  • Real, live design problems to discuss. Participants supply these – things for which they want to find solutions
  • Labels or stickers (to categorise participants)
  • Paper
  • Pens
  • Timer
  • Whistle or megaphone

How to…

  1. Divide participants into groups of 2 or 3 – whatever fits best
  2. “Categorise” each participant, e.g. circle, square, triangle – each “category” will take it in turn to present and discuss their design problem
  3. Start your timer (set to 10 minutes*)
  4. “Circle” people go first and describe their design problem
  5. The group or pair discuss and sketches ideas for 10 minutes – lots of ideas, fast!
  6. Blow your whistle!
  7. “Circle” people always stay where they are; “square” people move clockwise to the next table; if you have “triangle” people as well, move them anti-clockwise
  8. Now the “square” people discuss their design problem for 10 minutes
  9. Blow your whistle!
  10. Repeat, alternating “circle” and “square” people (and “triangle”, if you have them) until you’re nearly out of time, and everyone has discussed their problem.
  11. Review – spend 10 or 15 minutes at the end of the workshop reviewing how it went. This might mean sticking everything on the walls, for example, and critiquing some of the ideas that have come up. You might want to use other techniques to qualify and rank them…
* You might find that 10 minutes just isn’t enough. That’s fine – experiment with what works best in your context. Just remember that an hour probably doesn’t constitute speed sketching!

Help! I have extra participants!

You have 19 people in your workshop? No problem… let’s say you have six groups of three (that’s 18 people). Add you “spare” person to one of these groups, and then have them rotate clockwise every other turn.


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