Freehand design


Drawing is discovery.
John Berger
Famed art critic, novelist, poet, and painter


We’ve been making sense of the world around us through freehand drawing since the beginning of time. During the prehistoric period, we drew on cave walls. Today, we doodle to remember, to explain, to pass the time, and to get ideas out of our head quickly.

Drawing helps us articulate our thinking and understand big and small concepts—an essential part of problem-solving. So it makes sense that freehand drawing has been a staple of the design process for quite some time. And it’s no surprise that design sprints encourage drawing as an efficient collaborative tool to create freehand designs.

What is freehand design?

Freehand design is the process of designing ideas by hand. The goal with freehand design is to get your ideas out on the page. It doesn’t have to be pretty as long as people understand what you’re trying to say.

Why design in freehand?

As the name suggests, freehand design can be a “freeing” experience because you’re not constrained by the pressures of creating a finished product. This makes it a collaborative tool that anyone can use, whether they have an artistic background or not.

Freehand design allows you to:

  • Sketch ideas quickly. You need just three things to get started: 1) your hand, 2) a drawing tool, and 3) something to draw on.
  • Explore alternate possibilities. Freehand design’s simplicity lends itself to free-flowing creative exploration, encouraging you to ask “what if?” over and over again.
  • Process and evaluate your ideas. Once you get those thoughts out on paper, your ideas are transformed from the abstract to the concrete. This makes it easier to spot potential roadblocks before you prototype whatever you’re designing.
  • Discuss ideas and solutions freely. Because your team knows that a sketch can be changed quickly, it opens the door for discussion and commentary in a way that a finished product can’t.

Freehand design vs. digital design

Freehand design and digital design complement each other.

Let’s say that the design process is a relay race. As a designer, you’re always tweaking how you get from point A (the beginning of a project) to point B (the final product). Freehand design is the early part of the race, setting you up for success in the end. You brainstorm and map out solutions using freehand design; then you execute the chosen solutions using digital design.

How to supercharge your freehand design process

Freehand design and digital design used to be two distinct approaches. You would freehand design on paper and then you would either physically show your team, or scan your ideas so they could see them digitally.

Now, you have Freehand, which bridges the gap between the analog experience of traditional freehand design and prototyping. With Freehand, anyone on your team can sketch out wireframes, visual plans, presentations, and ideas—and anyone can give feedback on those freehand designs in real time.

You still have the simplicity of freehand design with the added bonus of being able to turn low-fi prototypes into hi-fi prototypes faster. So your team can use drawing to discover new design solutions and so much more.


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