A Few Weeks With Sketch

Adobe Photoshop has been the single most important application to me since the dawn of my design career. Skillfully understanding and using Photoshop as a tool to express design intent has paid my way for nearly twenty years. As much as I feel connected to it, Photoshop has given all designers reasons to look for other solutions throughout the years.

Enter Sketch, the first product I can recall that has designers excited and willing to step away from Photoshop. The roster of designers using it mean it’s worth taking a look. Recently I created a few sample iPhone application interfaces, icons and web designs and found the app to be quite a formidable alternative to Photoshop.

Pros:

  • Vector+Raster: The need to design independent of resolution means vector is the optimal format for creating user interface graphics. Freehand was ahead of its time, but it’s nice to see the convergence of vector and raster in a single application make a return.
  • Artboards: The more I’ve had a need to use Illustrator the more I have become reliant on artboards to manage interaction flows, wireframes and interface/customer maps. Sketch make creating and managing the workspace easy.
  • Templates: In concert with artboards, Sketch’s templates for common platforms is extremely helpful and empowers designer to get up and running quickly. With simple duplicate tools you can have a multi-screen flow created and ready to go in a matter of seconds.
  • Plug-ins and Integrations: Sketch has a robust and growing collection of independent plug-in developers. Other products and services are starting to notice, some offering useful integrations.

Cons:

  • Shortcuts and Keys: I’m still struggling to get out of the habits I’ve built over the nearly two decades with Photoshop. I’ve deliberately tried to not work around the Sketch keys and learn them, versus mapping or spoofing them. It’s a chore but worth it if I ever want this to be my tool of choice.
  • Bug & Performance: There have been improvements but the app remains buggy (like crash and lose your stuff buggy) and slow when you start stacking elements and layers deeply. I have faith it will get better over time, but it’s noticeable enough to mention.
  • Inspector: I prefer panels and simple, direct actions tied to the tools I’m using. Personally I’ve never liked the Apple inspector-style UI, it slows me down.

Until I get a chance to really dive in and work on substantive projects it will be hard to have a true sense of the long term viability of Sketch as a design tool. On the surface it feels like a very worthy option.