Schematic drawing How-to?
June 11, 2008 7:45 AM   Subscribe

Designers and design contest judges: I am not a trained product designer but I would like to submit a design to a contest.

Contest rules state that submissions should include a schematic drawing and a written description as attachments.

Where can I find examples of excellent/ winning schematic drawings submitted to product design challenges? I am a complete beginner- not sure if I should send a scanned hand drawing or a computer rendering or both- if there should be different perspectives included... etc... I just have no idea what a schematic drawing is in real terms and what standards I should follow, what it should include, what media I should use, what the final product should look like, how to present it, etc...

(I can draw and I have PhotoShop, Illustrator, and CAD)

(oh, and I have a good idea, too.)
posted by ohdeanna to Media & Arts (5 answers total)
I work as staff and part-time faculty in a college product design program.

There are a lot of ways to present your design. There are control drawings that include orthographic views (usually front, top and right, like a plan and two elevations in architecture) and further details as necessary, like dimensions, section views, and detail call-outs. There are colored renderings, including the "money shot" of the product in its most favorable view, often with dramatic lighting. Storyboards are used if there's an interactive feature you need to explain or a your product has a novel function or addresses a problem in a new way. An exploded view helps if you've designed a lot of parts that fit together. Since it helps in your presentation to show how the product developed, it's common to include a lot of iterative sketches developed as part of the design process. You can also build a model, which is especially useful if you need to demonstrate ergonomic considerations. Any of the above are created manually, digitally, or a mix of both (hand sketches used as an underlay for rendering in Photoshop, for example.) Look for portfolios for industrial design, interactive design, packaging, and point-of-purchase on to see examples of all of this.

I'm not sure what the contest organizers are asking for by schematic drawings--it makes me think of what an engineer would use in developing a circuit board. Can you show us the contest info? Or memail me if you don't want it public. I promise I'm too busy to enter any contests right now.
posted by hydrophonic at 8:51 AM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Check your mehmail! Yes, that tiny envelope should be aglowin orange b/c I sent you something.
posted by Eringatang at 11:14 AM on June 11, 2008

Think about what they'll be doing with the entries. If the entries are going to be displayed at an event, they'll want stuff that is accessable to viewers, looks good on the wall etc. That doesn't mean the most wall-friendly entry will win, but it's like the honey-coating of a pill - makes it go down easier. For this, use of colour might help, larger images (A3-ish rather than A5-ish), and some presentation pages of concept sketches showing the evolution of the idea.

Conversely, if they're a manufacturer who intends to make a short run of the winning design, they'll appreciate a presentation that does some of the work for them (ie plans might help, in addition to concept sketches or money shots). Not some much because they need the plans or will use them, but because the plans demonstrate that most of the simpler real-world potential problems have been ironed out (eg the dimensions and proportions aren't the result of artistic slight-of-hand that can't work, or are structurally ridiculous but glossed over in the "money shot" picture, etc)

Concept sketches showing the evolution of the idea - these are usually a good idea. They show that you didn't leap right to the idea and just submit it, but instead to took the idea that you leaped to, and pounded on it, and refined it, and put work into making it better, and finding little things that could be improved, and every step of the way, tested it and sketched it, and evolved it, and they can see how it is getting better (but probably won't take much time to bother - lots of entries to judge, and it's nearly time for lunch!)
A potential problem is that it sounds like you did leap right to the idea and just plan to submit that. In that case, you could cheat and work backwards, using the process to draw attention to things that you think is great about your design.
For example, if you think "it's really clever how I did this corner-piece - it kills two birds with one stone", then draw a version of your design without that cleverness, so people can see the difference and how that cleverness has improved it over not having that. (Perhaps circle the corner-piece on the first sketch to feature the cleverness, to draw attention to the difference, and invite the judges to ponder the improvement and how clever it is.

How many entries are expected? If it's likely to be a hundred or more, then it's much like sending in a resume - you can expect that they're going to look at your submission for ten seconds - that's all the time your presentation will likely get to convince them yours is worth passing on to the next "heat" of judging. Pages of text might be a critical asset in final judging, but you have to get to final judging first, and they're not going to even skim-read that text if there are a hundred other submissions. So your submission has to communicate its greatness instantly, and then be able to back it up under scrutiney.
posted by -harlequin- at 12:08 PM on June 11, 2008

I just have no idea what a schematic drawing is in real terms and what standards I should follow, what it should include, what media I should use,

A schematic presumably means a drawing that communicates enough for someone to understand and build the part or device.
The standards you should use depend on the field (Probably moreso the field of the intended submitters, rather than the judges. Eg, if it's being held by a magazine for professional electrical engineers, then they'll probably be expecting (though perhaps not demanding) that style, even if the judges are from a company that makes wooden horse toys. If the audience from which they're seeking submissions is wide, then their expectations of style will be wider too).
For things like architecture and electronics and machining, there are fairly standard symbols, and if the competition is aiming for these, do the homework - look up the ISO standards, or something that complies with the ISO, as that should be safe. (ISO has standards for pretty much every field)

If the competition is aimed at submissions from the public, do whatever works best for you, and use friends and family to test whether the schematics communicate effectively what you think they do.
If it's aimed at a niche/pro crowd, you might not be able to go head-to-head on their own turf, but do some homework so you know the gist and know a few shortcuts in making your submission more legible to people that talk their language, but not needing or trying to be something it isn't.
posted by -harlequin- at 12:29 PM on June 11, 2008

Also check if they have rules against going above and beyond (such as including samples of materials an item might be made out of). Like an essay, sometimes going over the word count gets extra marks, sometimes it costs you marks, depending on the institution and the purpose of the essay, but you should be able to know before you start writing whether they penalise or reward going over.
posted by -harlequin- at 12:34 PM on June 11, 2008

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