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The Joy of Sketch: A Hands-on Introductory Course on Sketching in HCI and UX Research, Practice, and Education

The ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems


Makayla Lewis, Kingston University,
Miriam Sturdee, Lancaster University,


Sketching is an ancient practice: from cave painting, picture-books to comics, we have explored the world with our visual senses. Now as technology develops, we are discovering ways in which the traditional visual arts can co-exist alongside the complexity of computing. Within Human-Computer Interaction, this co-existence can be embodied in ideation, design spaces, storytelling, impact, and much more – such as a section of code, rapid prototyping, algorithmic recognition, a digital representation, and so forth. Learning to sketch gives an educator, researcher, or industry practitioner a toolkit of skills, images, and creativity that can support and influence insightful work. We learn to sketch much as we learn to speak, so this is a skill that can be learned at any stage in life. The purpose of this course is to take the learner from basic, hands-on sketching to practical research contexts, with opportunities for practice, feedback, and creative thinking. Attendees will leave with the confidence to begin to employ sketching in their own HCI research and practice.


Duration of course: 2x 75 minutes sessions

Audience size: 35

Intended Audience: The content of this course is suitable for academics, industry leaders and practitioners, students, and early career researchers that have an interest in learning and or improving their sketching skills. Novices, experts, and those with an interest are welcome to attend.

Prerequisites: No prerequisites, although, attendees should have an interest in sketching, but prior knowledge regarding its HCI applications is not required.

Course delivery: In-person.

CCS Concepts: Human-centred computing • Visualization • Visualization techniques

Learning Outcomes and Benefits

Sketching is often overlooked in many disciplines or referred to as a ‘soft’ skill, however, it can support HCI researchers and practitioners to ideate, collaborate, document, and explore and discover complex themes and spaces. This hands-on introductory course intends to celebrate and promote the diverse role of sketching to all practitioners, but also to generate discussion – encouraging participants to adopt sketching in their everyday education, research, and practice.

Content and practical work

Warm-up ‘The Humble Line’, Icebreaker ‘Participant Portraits’, Exemplar Sketch Gallery, Visual Language, Applying Sketching in HCI Research & Practice, Without Words, Visual Narratives, Accessibility of Sketches, Digital sketching techniques, Design Fiction & Speculative Scenarios, Sketching with Participants, Remote sketching techniques, Sketch Analysis, Vignette, and HCI improv.


Makayla Lewis is a lecturer in Computer Science (User Experience Design) at Kingston University London, researching and teaching human factors in business, cybersecurity, smart money, and AI. Makayla is an accomplished visual thinker and sketcher who organizes sketching events and courses and provides visuals for international companies and conferences such as ACM CHI & ISS.

Miriam Sturdee is a research fellow in Creative Practice in Computing at Lancaster University, specializing in investigating how sketching and the arts can support the design and development of novel technology. She also has an MFA in Visual Communication from Edinburgh College of Art.