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Around Design Podcast — episode two: Martijn van de Wiel

Episode two of the Around Design podcast is live, and features a discussion between Martijn Van de Wiel and Daniela Paredes, Founder and CXO of Gravity Sketch. They discuss Martijn’s journey into design, the workflows he uses and teaches, and cheating sketches.

Gravity Sketch
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Martijn is a design teacher and independent creative entrepreneur with a background in Industrial and Spatial Design. His teaching surrounds industrial design, the art of design sketching, and tapping into your creativity. He teaches online as well as at universities including Technical University Delft, Technical University Eindhoven, and The Hague University of Applied Science.

Martijn’s design journey

Martijn has always had an interest in drawing and sketching, and as a child at school was looking at cartoons and trying to replicate them through drawing – experimenting with his own style. After considering graphic design or illustration for further studies, it was industrial design that caught his attention following a visit to a family friend’s studio. Martijn’s studies began in The Hague, one of the places where he now teaches. 

Martijn went on to complete an internship in Milan and worked at several Dutch design firms. Following this, he returned to his studies at ArtCenter before working in Chicago at the industrial design consultancy Sundberg Ferar. In 2002 he made the move to start his own practice, now called Sketchform.

Sketching: a fundamental activity in the design process

Martijn calls sketching a fundamental activity in the design process, but what does he think constitutes a sketch? For Martijn the answer depends on the context and angle, but generally talks about sketching as being a rough representation of an idea. The term can encompass more than just pen and paper, including making mockups or models. According to Martijn, the distinction between sketching and drawing lies in the process; sketching is about investigating and exploring possibilities, while drawing is about representing a preconceived image. Ultimately, sketching is a process of starting a representation of an idea and seeing where it will take you.

He likens sketching to learning how to speak a new language. Trying to get good at sketching to successfully communicate design intent is like trying to get to the level of making poetry or writing a book in a second language. You need a lot of hours of practice for it to come easily to you.

Martijn’s personal workflow

Designing products requires a tried and tested workflow, and for Martijn, it starts surprisingly with a rough CAD model to capture the mechanics and dimensions of the object. The next step is creating perspective sketched views of the object from different angles, such as side, top, front, back, and more. The CAD model acts as an underlay, so he prints it out and uses it as a guide. This technique provides a starting point for the sketching process and allows him to quickly swap different underlays to see how the product looks from various angles. By using this approach, he can efficiently explore different shapes and designs for the product, creating a strong foundation for the visual brand language. 

Underlays don’t have to be CAD, and can also include photographs, providing a similar visual starting point for the designer. Martijn teaches his students to use underlays as a way to begin their own creative process. It’s an easy way to investigate and explore different design possibilities without the pressure of creating something from scratch on a blank page which is all part of a wider sketching process.

Martijn is beginning to experiment with Gravity Sketch

Martijn is beginning to experiment with Gravity Sketch as a new tool in the sketching process

Visualizing objects’ proportions

Designers need to use various tools and techniques that work best for them in the design process. For instance some use cardboard models or tools such as Gravity Sketch at various stages in their workflow to provide a more complete visualization of an idea.

Martijn encourages his students to use tools such as cameras early in the creative process to help them better understand perspective and improve their sketching abilities. One of the field trip assignments he runs is for students to take photos of objects of various sizes, and then sketch over them with a red pen to understand perspective, convergence, and foreshortening. He calls this a type of “cheating” that can actually speed up the learning process by helping students develop their skills to a confident level, allowing them to focus on the creative process rather than worrying about technical details.

More from Around

You can listen to all the Around Design Podcast episodes, or watch previous sessions from the Around 3D Design Festival  all on the Around website.

You can subscribe to the podcast and listen on the go with Spotify, Apple podcasts, and Google podcasts

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