Remote Sketching: Tools and Tips for UX Designers

In the days of in-office collaboration, sketching ideas with others was a tangible and straightforward process. Fast forward to the era of remote work, and digital tools like Miro and Figjam have reshaped our approach to ideation.

As a UX designer navigating this shift, I've encountered practical challenges in adapting traditional sketching collaboration methods to the virtual workspace. This article doesn't promise a silver bullet; instead, it delves into the real-world pros and cons of various approaches, offering insights for fellow designers looking for practical solutions for remote collaboration. If, like me, you've missed the simplicity of pen-and-paper ideation, come along as we delve into the practical aspects of sketching in the era of virtual teamwork.

Use a sketching app

Procreate on the iPad is my go-to for sketching digitally, so it's where I have the most muscle memory in sketching ideas. I plug in my iPad and use Quicktime with "New Movie recording" of the iPad screen so that it's displaying on my computer, which I can then screen share in Meet or Teams. I'm sure there are similar Android and Windows tablet options that will work too.



Use a phone or camera

Sometimes going analog just feels right, especially for early ideation. The easiest way I've found to share sketching on paper in real-time is to use my phone pointed down at the page, capturing what my hands are doing as they sketch.

My iPhone 13 mini supports continuity camera, which means it can act as a secondary camera in a video call without any extra software. If your phone doesn't support this or you're using a camera, you can use the Zoom hack or software like Quicktime to bring your camera's view up on your computer screen which you can then screen share.

Getting your phone or camera pointing directly down whilst still allowing you space to draw can be tricky. After trying various hacky solutions, I've stuck with a goose-neck style phone holder or a phone stand, which both allow me to position my phone so that the camera can easily capture an A4 page. If you're using a camera or have other use for it, splurging on a proper tripod with the extra arm for overhead shots might be worth the cost and setup effort.



Use a white boarding tool

As a user experience designer, these days I spend more of my time in whiteboarding tools like Miro more than I do in drawing or UI design tools. When I'm working with others, often it's in Miro with all of us contributing.

The simplest way I've found to use these tools with a stylus is by using my tablet as a second screen. I can drag Miro over to that screen and use my stylus to draw, touch for gestures, and still use my keyboard and mouse when those make more sense, such as pasting in a screenshot or typing a comment. Others in the board can of course see what you're doing and also edit the board too in real-time. This should work with any white boarding tool such as Figjam or Jamboard.

I've also started to add illustrations to boards that I'm preparing before a meeting - adding them directly in Miro saves the hassle of having to export them from Procreate.



To wrap up, remember that transitioning from traditional to digital sketching in remote work comes with its pros and cons. Take these insights as practical considerations rather than definitive solutions. Experiment with these ideas and adapt them to your team's needs. The digital canvas is yours to explore—happy sketching!