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Why I Like the Dumb Sketch Approach to Life

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The Lure of Rough Drafts, Quick Observations and Badly Drawn Lines

I made this dumb sketch when visiting our son working in Madison, Wisconsin. Madison holds lots of memories for Mrs. Kirkistan and I: we went to school and met at the UW, we met amazing people who remain friends today decades later and made big directional choices. It was a place for fiddling with and setting trajectory—it still is that today.

Like most summer weekends there was a concert on the Memorial Union Terrace. This jazz festival (see dumb sketch) was running all weekend. These days it seems all of Madison turns out at the Terrace.

MadisonJazz-06282013Yesterday I quoted photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson likening his camera to a sketchbook: it helped him instantly sort the significance of an event. And that is exactly what sketching does: it is an entirely imperfect representation (at least my sketches are) of what we all saw. Dumb sketches invite participation, which is why my colleagues and I often employ dumb sketches as we work through a direction with our clients.

One of the functions I relish as a copywriter is this responsibility to provide a rough draft. The rough draft is this work of writing out the position or power of my client’s product or service so others can respond. Or sometimes I’m summarizing and sharpening the science behind a product so we can see more clearly why it is important. Rough drafts are both right and wrong at the same time. The power of the rough draft is to set a thought out in the open where others can reach and tag it. After all, you can’t change something that doesn’t exist. The point is collaboration: how is this right? What do we know that can make this more right?

Saying aloud what we know and what we believe is the verbal equivalent of a rough draft. And saying aloud what we know is more than helpful. It is part of the human condition and not to be missed. Our conversations reveal who we are and what we know even as they and invite participation. Getting it wrong sometimes is part of the deal.

That seems like a good approach to life.

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Image credit: Kirkistan

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6 Responses

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  1. […] pictures. These pictures help team-mates understand just what is at stake. Those pictures may be dumb sketches or verbal images. The word “picture” here is important because an image conveys emotive content […]

  2. […] model commitment to collaboration by sharing your first thoughts. This dumb sketch approach to life makes you vulnerable and open to criticism. And there will be criticism. But vulnerability + time […]

  3. […] most important things facing us. It’s a sort of speech-act theory for anyone willing to take a dumb-sketch approach to […]

  4. […] like Spring sap with honest and open communication. I think of it as another perspective on the “dumb sketch” approach to […]

  5. […] in with encouragements like “Keep going!” and “Huh.” Of course, I’m committed to the dumb sketch approach to life, and I can find a bit of joy in a well-capture shoulder, or when I drew something very similar to […]

  6. […] keep talking about rough drafts and dumb sketches. That’s because providing something when expectations are low is such a great way to share ideas. […]


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