The Cheeky Monkey Media Blog

A few words from the apes, monkeys, and various primates that make up the Cheeky Monkey Super Squad.

Do You Even Sketch, Brah?


I just started a new notebook. For the last decade, I’ve tried to make a habit of putting my development and design thoughts on paper. Things I put in my journals:

  • Ideas for possible apps
  • Wireframes and (poorly drawn) concepts
  • Pseudo-code
  • Course notes and bits of learning in various subjects/topics
  • My iPad

iPad in Notebook graphicWait, an iPad?

iPad in Notebook Yup. I use a Moleskine cahier. It’s not the best paper, and my Sharpies bleed through the pages sometimes, but I’ve grown comfortable with the format. As a pleasant surprise, when I got an iPad Air a few years ago, it fit in the middle of the book perfectly! Which was good since I couldn’t find a case that I liked. I can put my iPad in the book, toss the lot in my messenger bag, and be reasonably sure it’s all safe.

Okay then, back to the pen and paper thing…

One of the first things I learned as an ESL teacher was Total Physical Response. The core idea of the TPR method is that you retain more information by involving more senses. In ESL classes, this usually meant chanting or singing while dancing or moving around the room. You can’t be dancing around the office, though, but I work from home, so I guess I could. (Okay, I do. You got me.)

Sketching practice graphicHow does that apply to sketching?

By putting pen to paper and scribbling notes, magic happens that most people miss:

  • You feel the movement of the pen on paper.
  • You see it.
  • You probably also have an internal dialog as you’re doing it… resulting in you hearing it happen. This is Total Physical Response.

The personal experience bit

Keeping a notebook or sketching an idea, a tricky UI, or a troublesome interaction helps me to think clearly about possible solutions. This leads to a conclusion that’s usually orders of magnitude better than my first idea. When learning taking notes helps me retain more knowledge and have a quicker recall of the stuff I’ve put on paper. If you’ve made it this far and still aren’t convinced, consider it your first draft or working proof. Remember when teachers would tell you to “prove your work” in math class? Remember when teachers would force you to write a first and second draft of an essay or story?

Bad ideas illustration graphic10,000 bad ideas

If nothing else, it gets the possibly bad ideas out of your head so you can have better ones. Even if Sherlock Holmes’ Attic Theory isn’t proven, a person’s limits on holding information in conscious memory have. The more ideas you write down, the more immediate resources you have for new ideas!