Join Scott Clear for an in-depth discussion in this video More insights on sketching from Michael DiTullo, part of Industrial Design Foundations.
- So you've touched almost everything, corporations, agencies, markets, applications, let's circle it back to sketching. Let's talk about the sketching early, you talked about how you were doing it as a kid. Share with us the value and the importance that you see where sketching started in your career and how it is today. - When I started in my career everybody had a drafting table and a parallel rule and we were FedEx-ing giant sets of drawings to the factory, and faxing sketches to clients and so I always thought there were three levels of sketching; the first is explorative, and then there's communicative, and lastly persuasive.
So exploration sketches is really just for you and me, I'm thumbnailing, I'm thinking on the page, I'm not allowing any filter from this to this, and I'm just putting ideas out that are really for me to look at or designer-to-designer conversations, where we could poke holes at things, we could throw rocks at them, we could build on them, and they're completely not precious at all. It's just like, I have no issue with you drawing over one of my sketches and me taking one of your sketches and putting a clean sheet over top and doing an idea over top.
The next step is kind of communicative and that's where I think it starts to get a little bit more presentable, that's maybe when we're working with a client, but we don't want the sketch to be totally dialed, right? It's still about having this conversation. You want it to be clear enough to transmit this idea from my mind into the client's mind, but fuzzy enough where the client could feel comfortable giving feedback, push on things, and to let them know we're in the process, we're not done.
And then I feel like the last stage which is very underutilized today with the focus on CAD is this kind of persuasive sketch. Maybe automotive and footwear are the last places where it's really done regularly. I still use it in my process, and that's just like, here's kind of a final design and I'm going to sketch it very persuasively in a way that it gets everybody excited, because there are so many people in the process that are going to through darts at this thing, engineering, sales, merchandisers, and if I can get them, at this early stage, super excited then I know when I come back with a CAD model or a working prototype it'll be that much more receptive, like that's that thing I saw and I loved, and there's no feeling like walking into a factory and seeing one of those persuasive sketches blown up to banner size, 'cuz they're like, this is what we're making, this is our ideal.
So I still use that level quite a bit too. - Your persuasive sketches that you do, you talked about that it may be underutilized today, can you explain why you think that there might be some pros or cons to this? Why do people move away from it, and then what are the dangers of not doing it. - I think people move away from it because there's the desire to just get into CAD and make things to scale and real as fast as possible, and I think that's important, very important, and I think it can be done in parallel.
In fact, I like nothing more than going back and forth in those processes, so there's nothing wrong with sketching, exploring, getting some approval to move forward, blocking some things out in CAD, printing those out, sketching persuasively over top. I think that there is this sense of why do I need to do that when I could do a CAD render, and the reason why I do it is really, kind of secret here, clients, put your earmuffs on, but it's for myself, I love it and I want to do it.
And I think that translates through the drawing, and so when I present it to the client, and frequently I'll give them that drawing they could pick up on that passion and that love and I'm going into that client and seeing, you know, I have a client I've been working with for 12 years and I was up in his office up in Chatsworth, and going into his office and seeing some of my sketches framed on his wall, right, that's just like, he's never going to forget that. That to him is that balance between art and science that design has, and it's really a talisman to that artistry.
I think it's tempting to leave it behind because it's maybe hard to get into a proposal or I think people don't see the value of it before you do it, but once you've done it once they want it every time. And it has the power to really flip a relationship where people just can't wait to see your work. - Michael, we're here in your studio and I'm looking at hundreds of projects that you had worked on, and I know each one of them has a unique story. Is there anything here that you can actually tell us the story around sketching where maybe it was going in a different direction than you had thought and sketching had kind of helped you communicate what needed to be done? - Definitely, the ability to rapidly communicate has been invaluable in my career.
One of the stand-out examples that I worked on was this product, which is a tablet accessory. I was a consultant for an audio company at the time, and the audio company asked me to go to one of the largest retailers, consumer electronics retailers globally with them and co-present all the concepts because they wanted to gauge their reaction. So we went with this really dialed presentation, full CAD renders, in-situation CAD renders, and the retailer hated everything, just was like, "I don't want a single thing in this presentation", and we were six months into the project and it was basically the meeting was over and I said, "Wait a second, give me your presentation" and I flipped it over and I said "I'm hearing from the feedback that you said that maybe something like this would work".
And I drew this sound bar that attaches to a tablet so that you could watch a movie on your tablet but get a better cinematic experience and the retailers looked at me dead in the eyes like, "I'd buy a hundred thousand of those". So we left with a client and went back and met with engineering, we made this product that attaches to tablets. Had I not had the confidence and 25 years of practice I wouldn't have done that, we would have left the meeting with nothing.
Instead we left with a bigger order than we had expected going in, off of literally, a thumbnail sketch. - Wow, that's a great story, and I think that kind of typifies where sketching can actually help you communicate again where you would have had to walk out with nothing in hand - Right. - So you walked out with the project, that's great. In the next movie we're going to talk to Michael about a project he's doing and so please join us in the next movie.