While most commonly found in topographic maps to illustrate elevation changes, contour lines can be equally effective for product designers and engineers during the design iteration stage. Among other reasons, it’s a quick and easy way to add subtle design features – such as a groove or a lip – without spending too much time on detail or having to bust out the markers.

Of course, few are better at teaching these design sketching skills than one of our regular favorites Spencer Nugent over at Sketch a Day. Using just a pen and a marker, Nugent shows a super quick and easy way to convey 3D forms and communicate shape and depth.

“I didn’t have to use any markers, I didn’t have to use markers,” says Nugent. “My point is, you can use really simple tools to communicate form.”

YouTube video

Be sure to check out the rest of Nugent’s sketch video library over at Sketch a Day.


Simon is a Brooklyn-based industrial designer and Managing Editor of EVD Media. When he finds the time to design, his focus is on helping startups develop branding and design solutions to realize their product design vision. In addition to his work at Nike and various other clients, he is the main reason anything gets done at EvD Media. He once wrestled an Alaskan alligator buzzard to the ground with his bare hands… to rescue Josh.