Discover content & activities to learn about, teach, and create compelling stories & visual communication.

Fundamental sketching skills

The ability to draw is one of the most important yet elusive skills for visual communicator.  So much emotion is leveraged on a drawing “looking pretty” that the practice is often left to experts and novices—moderately skilled folks stick to the sidelines with the burden of self-consciousness.  It is true that practice does improve drawing—physical and digital—skills.  However, regardless of skill level, the ability to effectively communicate is not necessarily linked to virtuosity: given time and medium constraints, every visual practitioner can communicate with clarity & confidence.

Michael Barry, faculty member at the Stanford, presents an approach for considering how and why to sketch effectively.  The intent isn’t to create the most detailed and realistic drawings: the ability to communicate complex concepts often depends only on execution of simple shapes & concepts.  Understanding the intent of communication in the face of a challenge—whether that be drawing something in a short time, with limited tools, or amongst a group of folks speaking different languages—is generally more important than technical prowess for immediately effective visual communication.

Review the slide deck below and look for examples of shorthands and guided exercises that will give you a set of “rubber stamp” elements to put to use for quick visual communication.


Michael Barry is a founder of Point Forward; he is an Adjunct Professor at the Stanford University School of Mechanical Engineering. Active in all aspects of design, Michael has shared his presentation “Rubber Stamp Drawing” as a tool for teaching visual communication.

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