Taking notes, making sketches

I have been discovering quite a few ways to sketch, to take visual notes, and to draw in general. Just like writing, sketching produces new ideas – it makes you look at mundane things with new eyes.

One of the ways I find interesting (but haven’t tried exactly), is the method suggested by the naturalist John Muir Laws. What he applied to his explorations of nature, we can apply to physical and digital products we see in our day to day ‘wilds’.

It helps because as we navigate our busy lives efficiently, we ignore the thoughtful details of the products we look at.

This article outlines the core approach:

 In his view, it’s a way of stimulating your awareness of beauty and wonder — which also helps make the things that you see more memorable. The trick is that your brain gets acclimated to things that it thinks it already knows (oh, another California poppy, or even more impoverished: Oh, another orange flower) so it gets inured to the wonder-filled things happening around it all the time. Laws counters that with a three part approach designed to stimulate awareness, curiosity, and creativity. For each thing you record, note these three things:

Awareness: “I see…”: You notice something, draw a picture of it, make notes about it

Creativity: “It reminds me of…” (or more simply “IRMO”): You consciously seek out analogies to what you’ve seen and make notes about those

Curiosity: “I wonder…”: You ask questions or create hypotheses about what you’ve seen.

I tried something like it, when I encountered the Corsair mouse. It reminded me of a weapon – due to the war gaming metaphor. Though it was actually used by a friend to be better at – Microsoft Excel. And he was. He participates in international level financial modeling Excel championships.

Corsair Mouse
Piece from my ‘Product Capture’ notebook, with a sketch of the Corsair gaming mouse

While I  looked at some product details and metaphors, I didn’t think about hypotheses around it. It could be helpful. I wonder if this design could be adapted for pro Excel users? For professional graphic designers? I wonder if there is a clear way to measure the performance improvement by this device?

Then there is another detail which John Muir Laws mentions, but I haven’t tried yet. Adding numbers.

As an additional stimulus, Laws suggests making three kinds of notes on every page: drawings, words (descriptions), and numbers (measurements). That helps engage a wider range of your brain’s abilities and contributes to the awakening of awareness, creativity, and curiosity.

I love how this would engage a ‘wider range of brain’s abilities’. We tend to think of numbers and picture in separate ‘buckets’, and this seems a promising way to think about a product in a more wholesome way.

I intend to try this and will report the results if they are interesting.



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