Efficient Sketching Studios With Remote Participants

The design studio approach continues to gain favor in our process. It brings together teams to rapidly brainstorm, create solutions to a defined problem in a structured process. It’s all about sketching and sharing ideas visually, together, really fast.

At EightShapes, we use many variants of design studio. During our monthly share and care meetings, we get the whole team together to brainstorm about different projects. Since we’re a company that’s distributed beyond Washington, DC, our studios involve staff across the country.

With our recent success sharing sketches with the IPEVO camera individually, we stretched its use to see how it would work in a design studio.

Without IPEVO, Studios Slow Way Down

In past studios, quick 10 minute sketching with remote participants ground to a halt as we’d pull out smartphones, snap pictures, attach to an email, and send to the entire team. What a pain.

Plus, with a big team IN the room, showing sketches is hard because sketches are small, and some rooms don’t accommodate people standing around in circles. Finally, it’s chaotic to gather stacks of sketches and make sense of the mess a day later.

Setting Up: More than Just a Camera on a Stand

We solved all these issues and improved upon the studio format using the IPEVO camera and adapting our process. Part of making it work is getting set up before the studio even started.

The Setup

Key considerations included:

  • The Projected Surface: I set up the camera above a dark surface at the head of the table. Additionally, I marked the corners of the surface with scotch tape to denote boundaries of the captured image. Therefore, successive presenters knew where and how to orient their sketch on the table top.

The Projected Sketch, With Visible "Scotch Tape" Boundaries

  • The Video Capture Software: I opened the P2V software that comes with the IPEVO camera, and displayed the live camera feed full screen.

P2V Software, with Full Screen Button

  • The Projected Screen: The full screen display was perfect for projecting sketches in large view for the local room.
  • The Screen Sharing: I launched screen-sharing software and made sure remote teammates were logged in too. Remote participants watched the full screen display, which I could easily swap for them to share their remote IPEVO setups.

Tasking & Sketching Don’t Change

Setting the assignment and sketching were the same: a facilitator developed consensus around the problem to solve, and the group sketched individually or in small teams.

Sharing Sketches: Get In Line

The process changed when it came how we shared our sketches. When pens went down, people stood up, but did so to line up behind the camera. Local participants got in line around the table, with the camera operator adjacent to the projected surface going first.

Chuck Borowicz Sharing His Masterpiece

Each person shared their sketch under the camera, told their story, and then took their seat. The rest of the room – and those watching remotely – looked on and listened. At EightShapes, we applaud after each presentation, and with everyone in line, that’s one standing-O after another.

Chuck's Sketch

After local participants finished, remote participants shared one by one based on the order of the screen sharing participant list.

Images in Named Folder

During presentations, the camera operator captured each sketch using the P2V snapshot feature, collecting the images in a predefined folder.

Facilitating Discussions

Once all presentations finish, the camera operator opened the snapshot folder and moved the new shots into a subfolder named for that round. Using the Mac OSX Spotlight feature (select the files in Finder and then press the spacebar), the operator displayed the images in a grid view.

With sketches in view, the facilitator summarized ideas and led the discussion. As the team discussed a concept, the camera operator zoomed into a sketch, returning to the grid as discussion shifted.

Everyone – both locally and remote – could see every sketch clearly and follow the discussion without the needless rigor of opening files and verbal interruptions to align everyone. What a relief!

The Missing Link (This Time): Individual Feedback

Typically, after each individual presents an idea, observers inundate them with feedback and suggested refinements. However, we saved feedback for the more general discussion due to limited time, our larger group of 12, and oversized ambition of how much we wanted to sketch. This format doesn’t preclude feedback per person, but we omitted it this time in order to generate more ideas in the available time.

Bonus: Sketches Are Recorded, Organized, and Shared!

At the end of a design studio, facilitators can be overwhelmed by sketched ideas in messy stacks thrown haphazardly into a manila folder. No more!

After we concluded, it took a few seconds to copy the images – organized into folders by sketching assignment – into a shared Dropbox folder, available immediately for everyone on the team.