How to Sketch Like an Industrial Designer | Julia Troy | Skillshare

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How to Sketch Like an Industrial Designer

teacher avatar Julia Troy, Design Director

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Your Assignment


    • 3.



    • 4.

      Laying Out Your Sketch


    • 5.

      Defining and Refining


    • 6.

      Adding Color and Depth


    • 7.

      Submitting to Quirky


    • 8.

      Explore Design on Skillshare


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About This Class

Julia Troy, Quirky's Design Director, teaches you how to take your product idea from an image in your head to a presentation-worthy sketch that effectively communicates your invention and its purpose.

Quirky is an invention platform that brings real people’s product ideas to life. In this class, you’ll learn about the skills behind product sketching and how to convey an idea’s details, features, and functions on a single sheet of paper. Sketching is one of the easiest and most effective ways to communicate your invention idea. Once you’ve mastered this skill, you’ll be one step closer to submitting your idea on

Whether you're a beginner or an expert designer, this class is for you. All you need is an idea and a problem to solve.

Quirky is a New York City-based invention company. Ordinary people with extraordinary imaginations submit ideas to Quirky every day. To take the best of those ideas from sketchbook to store shelves, in-house designers and engineers collaborate with an online community on nearly every aspect of development. When a product is sold, Quirky shares a cut of the revenue with all those who had an impact.


Looking for more inspiration? Head here to discover more classes on industrial design.

Meet Your Teacher

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Julia Troy

Design Director


Julia is an industrial designer at whose main objective is finding creative solutions for consumers in order to enhance their every day lives. She is obsessed with pushing the boundaries of the physical with innovative aesthetic solutions in all her designs. Born in Cleveland, Ohio and graduate of Columbus College of Art & Design, Julia eventually moved from the Midwest to Connecticut to work for the product design consultancy Evo Design where she worked on projects for leading brands such as Converse, Cannondale, Waring, Le Creuset, Rubbermaid, and Hasbro. She later worked at Fahrenheit 212 where her passion for design-driven innovation, fused with her interests in consumer interaction and product aesthetic were just the spark she was looking for as a designer. She also help... See full profile

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1. Introduction: My name's Julia Troy. I'm the Design Director on the product team here at Quirky. Quirky is an invention platform where anyone in the world can submit an idea and with the help of an online community, the end result is to have the idea come to life through a real product. The class I'm teaching today is how to convey an idea through multiple sketches on a single page. Really, in a matter of seconds, anyone can come in to see that idea and be like, "Oh my Gosh. I get it now." This assignment is taking that product idea that you have and learning the skills behind a product sketch, in order to convey that idea to a larger audience. So, they understand the details and features and functions of what that concept is. You don't need to be an expert designer, all you need is paper and pencil, or marker, and have a great idea, the problem that you're trying to solve. The purpose of this class is to really just teach you how to story-tell, on a single page. 2. Your Assignment: The end deliverable for this class is to have one idea articulated in many different ways on a single page. The materials you need is a white, 8.5 by 11 sheet of paper, a black ballpoint pen, a black Sharpie marker, a black felt pen, as well as a camera, and a scanner, and some markers. After this class, if you want to share your project, upload it on Skillshare, get feedback from the community. Once you come to a sketch that you really like or get the feedback that you want, feel free to submit on 3. Storytelling: In this lesson we're going to be identifying a product problem, a solution, and then some features and functions of what that product could be. So if you have any ideas that you've had in your head that you want to just maybe work on today, feel free to use that, but if you don't, feel free to find something in the room like a stapler or a remote control and there can be like the product that you're going to be sketching around. Really, what we're going to be doing is figuring out how to convey a product story on a single page. The idea that I'm going to be discussing on today is one that's in our product portfolio called prune and it was an idea submitted by Peter Ractal, and the problem that he had was whenever he was gardening, he had to carry around so many tools and he found it really annoying and it was heavy and he wanted to create a product that was a multifunctional tool that maybe did one or two things so that he could reduce how many things that he was walking around with. We love this idea in particular just because it's something that just seemed to make sense and for whatever reason, wasn't on the market. Once you've established a product idea and a product problem, go ahead and start listing out some features and functions that might be able to help us solve that, those issues. For the idea that I'm working on today, this is my roadmap. It says it must cut my shovel, it must have a handle, look like a garden tool, be durable and have a safety handle lock. This list I want to keep in front of me the entire time sketching. The reason for it is that it will remind me what I'm doing, why I'm doing it and it'll just help guide, and make sure that I don't go off the path. So again, take the time to do this. It doesn't have to be long or elaborate, you might have one or two points, you might have a list of 10, but usually, you want to keep it pretty simple and basic so that it's something that you can actually show on a sketch. 4. Laying Out Your Sketch: In this lesson, we're going to be learning about sketch layout. I typically like to sketch on an eight and a half by 11 sheet of paper and the paper doesn't want to be too heavy so that you can actually see through it when you're sketching on top of another sketch. It also wants to be pretty fine and not heavily textured either so that markers don't gets super absorbed. I also sketch it typically in a horizontal format and the reason for that is that if you do share this electronically, screens tend to be horizontal. However, if I'm sketching something tall like a camera tripod or a broom, you might want to sketch vertically and there is no right or wrong, so do whatever feels natural to you. When I begin any sketch I like to think about the actual product, and so I know with my product in the idea that I'm doing right now, it's a tool that does two things. So, I know in the main sketch. I'm going to probably have two large views of the product. So, I'm going to quickly box that in right now and it shouldn't take very long because this again is not going to be the final sketch, I'm going to be tracing over this. If I refer back to my list, I know that I want to be able to talk about in my story that it must cut in shovels so I feel feel like in a less smaller view on the side, the left hand side it might be good to be showing someone cutting like a weed and then shoveling some dirt. So, I'm going to again box that in. And then I think that a really important feature of this tool is the handle and then maybe that safety lock that's incorporated. So, on the right hand side I have some room so I'm going to go ahead and box in an area for me to sketch on that feature and I think like overall at this point, I've addressed these top three and then the durable and safety or at least the safety is coming in place. So, I want to say like whenever I'm sketching like I just have to make sure that it looks like a garden tool and it looks durable. So, that's just going to come across in the overall design. So, now that I did that pretty much my page just looks like this. It's really messy, it doesn't need to be neat, it just gives me context of where I'm sketching. The underlay just sets the groundwork for your final sketch. What I created in the last section right here, we're going to actually use is like the first underlay. You don't necessarily need to do this. Sometimes you can actually just sketch on top but for our purposes, I'm going to literally just take this and put it underneath another piece of paper. Now this underlay here is going to be the guide for my new sketch. So, in this section here, this isn't going to be a final sketch, this is going to be working out a little bit of the details now and filling in the boxes with a sketch and it's going again be a guide for the final sketch. So, I'm going to start working on the main body and what I'm sketching in this section I'm pretty much. I wanted to show the two views, I wanted to show a view of the product open in this interaction and then closed and the reason why I want to show it just living by itself without a hand on it is that you see the full product because it is a hand tool. Seeing the actual handle is important. So, I think glorifying this main body shot is super important. So, I'm going to start doing that now. Go ahead and do the same for you. In regards to perspective, you just really want to make sure that there's one clear vanishing point in your sketch. The reason for that is this so that all your lines are going in the same angle. If you don't do that you get this like really crazy looking product and it doesn't make any sense. So, just make sure that if you're seeing something in perspective, you try to funnel all the angles going towards that. When choosing the overall shape of your product, it sometimes helps to have an understanding of what the products look like in the category. You never want to copy another design on the market. However, it does help with proportions so and also some like maybe details that you might want to include so like with a shovel, they all have handles and then they generally are made of stainless steel. So, these are little details that I'm including on my sketch or I will include in my sketch. So, just keep it in mind so if you are sketching a pair of shoes, make sure that they maybe they're shoelaces maybe they have Velcro straps like just put those details in and market on this page and that's the whole purpose is like you're starting to like figure out overall. So, what I'm going to be doing here is like on the actual product I think there's going to be a little button, so I'm just going to put a little box on the handle at where the button might be and it's something really, really subtle. Now that I've established with the large product sketch is on this page, I'm going to start moving over to the smaller images now, and on this one I want to move over to the right hand side and what I wanted to showcase from what I mentioned earlier is the locking mechanism on the handle. Here it's just a little slider button and I imagine in my head. So, what I'm going to do is take the same perspective that I have of my shovel here and I'm going to actually just zoom in on that little area of the product and so when you look at this box, all you're going to see is a little section of the handle with the highlighted button, and that's it. So, I'm going to box that in. It's going to be really loose really messy. Doesn't have to be clean, because again this is not the final sketch. So, as you can see, I've very quickly just boxed in a zoomed in view of the handle. It's really straightforward, there's not much detail there but it gives me a general sense of the perspective and angle and the little detail that I wanted to call out. So, I'm going to now move over to the left side of the page. On the top part here, I'm going to do a sketch of the hand tool being used as a shovel. So, what I think would be the most important part here is maybe having it used. So, I want to incorporate a hand and then maybe it going into the dirt. So that maybe in just a matter of seconds someone understands very quickly that this is a hand tool and it can shovel something. As I'm sketching this I actually realized that there's not enough room to sketch the shovel on the top. So, just so you know this is all just laying the groundwork. Things can change and evolve, so that's really the opportunity here is that sketching isn't really locked down. I don't really know what I'm going to be putting down on the paper, I'm really just doing it and creating as I'm going. So, you can quickly on the fly make those changes because there's no harm done. This isn't the final, so I'm just going to switch it real quickly. The scissor is going to go actually go on the top left because there's a lot more room for that. So, I'm going to sketch it in really quickly right now, and that too is going to have a hand with the product and showing the weed being cut and that just gives context to what this product is. Then in the very last sketch is it just being shoveled. Again, with a hand on the hand tool and then I'm going to quickly just mock-up like maybe the hole it's digging and some grass around it. I'm quickly going back to the top part and adding a little weed. When choosing a pen, I typically like to think about the product that I'm actually sketching. If I was doing something that was softer more toy like, I might sketch with like a felt pen or even colored pencil. Just so it keep things really loose and soft and flowing. Things more technical or more detail-oriented you might want to use a ballpoint pen to start and the reason for that is you can actually layer pretty well with this. It's pretty forgiving too, like you can get a really, really, really soft line and then as you feel more confident in the lines that you're creating, you can go in and darken it. So, just keep it in mind, there is no right or wrong with pens that you use but these are just quick little tips that I find it very helpful. All right, so, I'm feeling pretty good about this sketch, I think we're ready to move on to the next lesson, which is doing a final sketch rendering. 5. Defining and Refining: Now that you have your underlay created, feel free to now put it underneath another sheet of white paper. You want to make sure that the paper that you're sketching on again is semi transparent. You don't really want it to be opaque because if it is opaque, you won't be able to see the sketch underneath it. So you can use tracing paper, thin computer paper, I use this special pad of paper here. Anything's fine, it's just make sure that you can see through it. So here's an example. As you begin a new sketch, just make sure that you pick a pen that you really, really love. I prefer a ballpoint pen because I can go in and layer my sketch. Sometimes it's a lot more forgiving and it's not as dark as maybe a felt-tip pen. So again, you can choose whatever you like. Ballpoint is the best for me. The reason why I love this is you can be more sketchy and you just want to make sure that you keep your sketch really loose, this isn't a final product design sketch, it's going to be a final product design idea sketch. So there is a difference. I'm going to begin here just pretty much working out the overall form. As I mentioned before, I think I want the handle to be pretty comfortable looking. So I'm thinking that just from looking at other things in the market and knowing a little bit about hand tools, generally a very softer sided handle is comfortable to hold so I'm going to make sure that that is shown in my sketch. As I'm doing this, you'll notice that I kind of sketch through a lot and the reason why I sketch through and what I mean by that is I don't just do these hard tight lines, I might go back and forth over a couple of things until I'm really confident in the line and I'll go back in and darken it, and the sketch lines also show like kind of motion and it gives the sketch a little bit of a life that I think industrial designer sketches have. That's the difference between, I think, a drawing versus a sketch is there's a lot of life in these things. The purpose of this sketch is that it will be a little bit more detail-oriented than the underlay. This is the opportunity from what might be a little bit more like chicken scratch to be a little bit more articulate on the paper. The lines may make more sense. There still might be some sloppiness which is totally fine because you're not supposed to have everything figured out in detail, you probably won't in an idea sketch, but you kind of hint at them. Another tip that I have is when you're sketching hands, it's pretty hard sometimes. A little trick I do is if it's something that I can actually hold myself if I'm sketching a hand tool for instance, I might actually find a hand tool and hold it myself and then just use it as a reference when I'm sketching. Another tip is you can actually go on Google and find people holding a hand tool and print out like a little tiny square and then do an overlay on top of that and then use that as your underlay, like it's a little little trick that you can do any time. Well, sometimes people actually might take a photograph of themselves holding that tool. Then what I recommend doing if you do decide to do that just print it at like 10% or 20% so that when you trace it and put it underneath the page, the image underneath it isn't just overpowering, you're going to only see the outlines that you actually want to focus on. While we're on the topic of using your own imagery or Google searching images for underlays, another tip too is if you're working on a product that does exist in the market but maybe the features and functions that you're incorporating are different and unique, you don't necessarily have to make your own underlay. I'm showing that just because that's one technique. You could easily take that image and trace over that as your underlay. You just don't want to copy a design ever, you're using that for more scale purposes and proportions, you would incorporate your uniqueness to it. So keep it in mind if you feel like that's something that you want to do instead of the one that I taught you how to do, it's okay. Everyone sketches differently and there is no right or wrong. As I'm sketching the smaller views when it's being used by a person, I feel that adding the scenery around it sometimes helps. So I am incorporating the leaves and I am incorporating the dirt and the grass and the reason why I'm doing that is I think when I'm telling the story, it makes more sense that this is a garden tool when I show it in the garden. I think if I didn't have that in this particular sketch, it might look like just a large or a weird pair scissors. So you don't really understand that it is the shovel. So it's just providing context for the story. At this point, I'm just wrapping up the last hand. It's very quick at this point. What I want to start doing very shortly is start layering with other markers and pens that show depth. This layering is a great way to really just highlight certain areas of the sketch that you feel are very important. This is actually a step that you might do where you don't even need marker at all. As long as you add this depth, again, your eye will go right to the dominant thing on the page so if you darken something or add a shadow people's eyes naturally go there. So keep it in mind. When I am adding this layering in the depth, I usually always pick one light source and the easiest way to explain it is I usually always say that the light is coming from the right-hand side of my page. So everything in my sketch that has a shadow is on the left, the bottom left. So you'll see when I'm adding the thicker layers of just black, everything's going to be more on the left-hand side. If I really want to showcase a certain edge, I like to use just a Sharpie marker. The reason why I think Sharpies are great is that in just a matter of seconds, you can get that like eye-popping look that you want. So I'm just again going around that left edge that I talked about. I've been doing this already with majority of my sketch but this just kind of digs it in a little bit deeper that like this is really going to pop off the page. I also sometimes will add like a cast shadow with it and what this does is it grounds certain parts of the sketch and then round the Sharpie, I'll quickly do another quick longer and taller shadow and what that is doing is it's kind of letting know that the height of the sketch is actually casting a shadow on the floor. So it gives the sketch an overall more dynamic feel. I'm not really in love with the area of the button that I just did. I could either white it out or maybe layer it in with some cross hatching because I don't really know what the detail is there, I'm just kind of fudging it. So right now, I am going to actually just add cross hatching because I don't think it's that important. I just really think in this detail, the button detail, I want to show that it's a slider mechanism because when you slide the button down it will open up the scissors, so that's really the important part of this small sketch. I'm also adding a small arrow on this sketch because when you do that it indicates that there's something happening there. So for this case, if you move the button, the scissor handle will open up to the scissor action. In addition to the arrows that I've added, it's sometimes really helpful to add notes and these notes just help reiterate maybe some of the details that are important to the sketch. The overall image, obviously, tells the story and sometimes you don't even need the notes but this is just at that extra level of detail that if for whatever reason maybe someone doesn't understand visually what something's going on then they might read the little note and then together with the note it will help them understand what they're trying to convey. So again, you don't have to write a paragraph, it's literally just bullet points. I'm just going to use the notes that I wrote here and those will be my little annotations that I have. I'm feeling pretty good about this sketch. I'd say I have the notes, the arrows, I've darkened the lines that I think are important and yeah, I think it's done. At this point, this is a final sketch. There really isn't any more you need to do if you're just going to do a black and white sketch. However, in our next lesson, we're going to learn the importance of marker rendering. 6. Adding Color and Depth: In this lesson, we're going to learn about marker rendering. Markers actually are my favorite part about the sketching process. It really brings a simple sketch to life and if you use color correctly, it will benefit the sketch. You can add marker and it can look pretty silly and so, I tend to photocopy every sketch before I start markers. Just because, I mean, I've been doing this for years now and there have been times I've picked up the wrong color or I started rendering something and it just looks absolutely ridiculous, so it would be terrible to actually sketch on your final and then all of a sudden realize that you did make a mistake and then have to start all over. So, save yourself that time, photocopy your final sketch that you did in the previous lesson right now, and then we'll start marker rendering. Before we start the sketch, I like to actually think about what I'm going to be coloring. I usually will do an entire marker rendering for the main product. So, this sketch here and maybe a little bit here will all be covered in marker. In this view, I would only marker render just the button because that's the only feature I think is relevant. Then here for these two auxiliary views, I'm really just going to marker render down in this area just to highlight that there's a plant here and that there's some dirt that the shovel is digging. So, keep that in mind, think about your layout and where you think color's important and go out and do that. The way to work and the way to layer color is always start with the lightest color first. So, if you're using any yellows, use yellow first. I tend to always like to have a light yellow and then a dark yellow, or if I'm using greens, I like to have a light green and dark green. I'll go into why in a little bit but it tends to be because you want the highlight or the base color and then you need the shadow color. You don't always need to do that but what it will do for your sketch, is give it more three-dimension so, usually getting two values within that color is a pretty important thing. I'm going to start with the actual metal tip. When you render metal, depending on the color of it, this is going to be a natural stainless steel I would imagine. I'm going to do a very light gray and that'll be pretty much majority of all that's needed for this part. When applying color, you actually want to go back to the basics and color within the lines if that makes sense, but you could go over the lines. If I'm coloring this section, I really just want to make sure that I don't start on this side of the page over here and then go back to that, and it's because the markers dry very quickly. So, you want to make sure that you're filling in that area while the marker's wet and so that it all bleeds together. Otherwise, if you don't do that, you'll start getting this really streaky look. I tend to apply the base color first over everything and then I'll go back and look, all that little detail as we do this sketch. For the handle, I think the color I want the handle to be is more of a dark grey, almost black. So, I'm just going to go with a middle gray. For this purpose, I'm using a 70 percent. Typically, if you want to do blacks, you can do anything, I would say 60s to 80s are the best. You don't want to start off right with a black or a sharpie, let's say, because that is black, that's the blackest black you can get. So, you can't layer that. Once you put that line down, that's it. So, the only thing you can actually go back and do is add white pencil and highlights, you can't add any more depth. So, you want to pick a grey that is fairly dark but not darker than black itself. I feel sometimes, if you sketch something with a marker and you feel like you're getting too tight, you probably are. What I mean by that is, if you're layering and layering and not moving around the page pretty quickly, stop that. The reason for that, is you want to keep going and it's going to feel rushed almost sometimes but that's okay because the whole secret of marker rendering is moving really fast and then you can always go back later and add more to it. As markers dry, they're really easy to work with. The reason, like I said before, you want to start off with those lighter colors is because you can go back in with a darker color and add something to it. So, if you're using yellow and decided that you actually didn't like the yellow and you wanted to make it green, you can usually go back in with the green and it'll be more of a yellow-green but that's fine. Then on these smaller views, I don't think it's necessary to marker render everything, so I'm really just going to marker render around the actual functioning part of the product which is this resurrection in the shovel. So, I'm going to add the green to the plant right now, and then I'm going to add some brown for the dirt. Again, I'm just supplying the color to the lower left corner of the square. I am going to fill in that all brown just because it helps direct your eye to the actual functioning part of the product. I'm going to use that light gray for that metal. I'm only going to add it to just the blade area. I'm not going to detail out the handle because the handle as part of the story isn't that important to me. Then I'm going to fade up as I go so that people realize the rest of the sketch is part of it, but it just bleeds into it and that's it. So now that I have the base colors down, I'm gonna go back in and add the darker darks. So, the green, I have a darker green, I'm going to use a darker gray, almost a black I can even use if I wanted to. Then for the metal I'm going to go in with a darker gray as well. The stroke should be quick, don't color too long in one spot. You can follow through with a shadow. Sometimes I actually like to bleed it off the page because it makes it look a little bit more sketchier. I'm going to use that darker brown for the dirt, and now I'm going to add the shadow to the metal. There's all sorts of ways to render metal, just so you know. So, sometimes if you're doing a chrome, you might want to add a blue or a warm gray. A nice little trick too, is you might want to add a little bit of color on that little base shadow that I had mentioned before, helps ground it. I don't really have any other markers. Normally, for the ground shadow, I'd use a warm gray. I don't have warm gray here, so I'm just actually using the lightest gray that I used for the metal. Then, I want to go back in and add some highlights. I'm going to use pencil for that purpose so, I use a prismacolor pencil just because I feel it's a really soft lead and it's the easiest to go over with marker. Sometimes I felt, if I use other brands in particular, it's too hard and it won't actually go over smoothly so prismacolor is my personal favorite. When you do the highlight, if it's a softer- this is a soft touch part so I'm going to go in and add the highlight in just a certain top right area because that's where the light is coming from. For whatever reason at this point, if there's a note that you feel you missed- actually I just noticed one now that I missed. I should have called attention to the spring in here. So, there's a spring mechanism that gives it that scissor action so, I think I should actually call attention to that, maybe even add a color blue so it pops out a little bit more. I'm going to do that right now. I'm going to add that note, and that's the final product. 7. Submitting to Quirky: So, now that I feel that this is our final sketch, I think I'm ready for the next step, and everyone that's gotten to this part, you should feel really proud of the work that you've done. This isn't easy. It takes some time, takes practice. You're probably going to mess up a couple times while doing this, and that's natural. It's part of the process. It's really hard for any designer to have a perfect drawing right off the bat. Usually, underlays and mess ups are part of it, and so, feel proud that you've gotten here. So, I'd say at this point, next steps are to upload your image. You can either scan it in a scanning bed or actually take a photo of it. So, we're going to take a photo of it. So I have my iPhone, and I am going to take a photo of it. Thanks everyone for participating today. I had a really fun time teaching you guys all the skills that I use everyday. Sketching is one of my favorites and I really hope that you guys practice and take these skills to help with your idea of development. Feel free to submit to and hopefully, I get to work on your next idea. 8. Explore Design on Skillshare: way.