I'm still wrapping my thoughts around all of the content I consumed at Interaction 09. to be honest, I wasn't in a truly contemplative state, but I did have one realization. Maybe it's because, I picked up Buxton's book again to finish it off or maybe it was all of the talk about sketching.
In one of many side conversations you have at a conference like Interaction 09, I was talking with someone who was very concerned about her sketching skill level and the current sketching push. I assured her that sketching is not about skill, but is about generation. I think it would be very presumptuous for me to say that most designers don't understand this, but I would say that they don't articulate it.
Sketching is about generating ideas. Sketching can happen in many different mediums, using different materials. I heard one designer say over the weekend that he uses words to sketch. And in some aspects sketching is used for telling a story. Primarily I use sketching to explore and generate ideas. Whether it's in my sketchbook or on the white board, my crude drawings convey meaning, especially when combined with words. The best thing is that I can easily erase ideas and start over again without much effort and attachment.
As Buxton mentions in his book, design is about elaboration and reduction of ideas. A designer should explore the possibilities before zeroing in on the solution. I would add that there's a piece missing to this thought, definition, but that is for an other blog post.
The bottom line is a designer needs to be generative, exploring ideas and possible solutions. Sketching is one of many tools to do this. Sketching will always be part of my practice, but if there's need for detail or it's time to communicate my ideas to others I always switch to the digital for clarity. I don't think this is a hindrance, I just have a different objective.