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What the 'Draw Something' App Can Teach Training Designers

— by Trina Rimmer

Course development

Draw Something’ AppA friend of mine introduced me to “Draw Something” last month and I must admit — I'm addicted. I've always been a doodler but this app really ups the ante by challenging me to illustrate a wide array of concepts — everything from simple words like “cow” to people like “Lady Gaga” or “Madonna” — so they can be guessed by a friend who's also drawing words for you. You earn coins for correct guesses and successful rounds are celebrated.

Now, I already fancied myself to be a visual person, but playing Draw Something has really reinforced to me that visual thinking is only one layer of design. It's also shown me where some of my own design strengths and weaknesses lie. Here are three specific lessons I've learned:

1. Animate vs. Illustrate

I've seen an interesting trend. Some people take the quickest route to communicating their ideas, illustrating with maximum speed and simplicity (think about the timer you're up against when playing Pictionary). This is despite the fact that Draw Something doesn't impose a time limit on drawing, nor is there a time limit or bonus for quick guessing. While the quick illustration approach keeps the game moving, it can backfire when there's not enough detail for your partner to correctly guess the word — which is the object of the game after all.

Then there are the people who take their simple drawings a step further by animating their illustrations. By purposely trashing their drawings in favor of further iteration in the subsequent sketch, they are in effect using animation (as opposed to a static illustration) as the means of communication.

Take the term “omelet,” for instance. One friend drew an egg cracking over a bowl. Then she trashed that image and drew an image of the egg in a bowl being beaten with a whisk. She trashed that one and drew an image of the egg cooking in an omelet pan. The final drawing in the series was of a folded-over omelet centered on a circle (a plate). Would I have guessed “omelet” without the animation? Probably. But animating the steps of making an omelet was a rather brilliant way for my friend to make herself clear. By feeding me information in manageable chunks that built one upon another I wasn't left to divine information based on one limited interpretation of the idea. Further, since I can stop the animation by guessing the word at any time, it's a clever way to leverage the game's features for maximum effect while freeing me to guess at my own pace.

Illustrating concepts is good, but does that mean animating them is always better? Not necessarily. I think the more important question is how often do we as designers forget that clear communication is a balance between efficiency and practicality?

Lesson learned: Too much focus on economy may result in a loss of clarity.

Read the full article: “The 3 Things ‘Draw Something’ Can Teach Us About Being Better Designers”

More on the Daily Mindflash: What Angry Birds Can Teach Us About Instructional Design.

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