The Design Process & Thumbnail Sketches
Our society has evolved into a technological wonderland. Everywhere you look, there are apps and digital devices to handle every task you can imagine. While this is great for everyday living, it’s not great for the world of design. Many graphic designers, especially ones straight out of college, start the design process by sitting down in front of Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop. While it may be tempting to try and cut corners and go straight into the design process, it’s important to stick to the basics. Getting ahead of yourself can end up costing you more time in the long run. It is important to understand the importance of sketches in the design process.
Every Design Should Start With a Concept
Just because something looks great doesn’t mean that’s the best solution. When the design is concept driven it is a lot more powerful than if it’s just aesthetically pleasing. For example, if you’re designing a logo, it will have much more longevity if it is concept driven instead of just looking pretty.
Sketches Help You Work Through the Problem
The whole point of design is to solve a problem for your client. Maybe they are a new business starting out, and they need something powerful to make an immediate impact. Maybe they been around a while and sales aren’t what they should be. Maybe they need a redesign and the rebrand in order to energize their business. It’s more difficult to try to solve the problem with pixels, then to sketch it out and try different things.
Sketches are Quicker Than Software
I know this sounds crazy, but it’s true. When you sit down in front of design software and immediately start working on different concepts, you end up spending more time perfecting those concepts than if you simply sketched them out. It hinders the design process more than it helps it. Thumbnail sketches are pretty to begin with, so you go into the process knowing that nothing is pretty, finalized, or set in stone. Your mindset is that you are developing a finished product. Your mind is geared towards solving problems in generating new concepts.
You Work Through More Ideas
The main reason why I like quick little sketches when starting a new design project, is the fact that I can work through concept after concept. You can run through 100 little concepts in a matter of a few minutes with quick and dirty thumbnail sketches. You can try out an unlimited number of variations to one concept. They don’t have to be fancy. They don’t have to be recognizable to anyone else. Your thumbnail sketches are just for you to help you work through the problem and find the best solution for the client.
The whole world is constantly bombarding you with useless information and complications. Quick thumbnail sketches enable you to work through the top layer of the ideas in your mind so that you can quickly delve deeper into the project. You make more connections in your brain than normal, which can lead you to abstract concepts and innovation. You can’t get that from sitting in front of Photoshop or illustrator when starting your projects. Put the mouse down and pick up a pencil and paper to jump start the design process!
You Find Out What Doesn’t Work
You have you ever heard the expression “it sounded good in my head?” The same is true for design concepts. Something may sound good in your head, but when you sketch it out on paper the concept just doesn’t work. Also, if it doesn’t work one way, you might be able to work through the problem and find a way that it does work. You don’t waste half an hour pushing around pixels for one concept. You sketch out your idea in a matter of seconds, realize it doesn’t work for whatever reason, and you move on to the next concept.
They Don’t have to be Pretty
You’re not creating a finished work of art. This is where people get stuck. The whole point is to get your ideas out of your head as quickly as possible to work through the problem. My professor back in college used to say that they are supposed to be quick and dirty. There’s not much deatil that can be shown in a sketch the size of a thumbnail.
Sketches are the Essential Starting Point for Every Design Project
Do you use sketches when developing your concepts? I sure do, and I couldn’t imagine anything faster or better for developing unique concepts. Here’s where you come in. Designcrawl is all about you. I want to see your sketches, and examples from your sketchbooks. They don’t have to be pretty. We don’t even have to understand what they are. I just like to see who are real designers out there putting their sketchbooks to good use. Feel free to post links to your images in the comments section, or follow me on Twitter @designcrawl and tag me with a twit pic of your sketchbook images. If I can get enough examples, I’ll create a post showcasing all of your concept sketches.
I totally agree with you. This is what I usually tell my students, since most of the time this is taken for granted and they get impatient. Thank you for sharing this important aspect of conceptualization and creating ideas.
This is the way we were taught to do it in school – and my best work has always involved this process. That said, I will admit there are times when I haven’t done it, either because of time constraints or just plain laziness. My preference, however, is to start with the thumbnails. Not only do you get more ideas, but it also loosens you up so your creativity is more alive and fluid.
I agree as well. I am working more digitally now because drawing demands it. I still like to go do those messy painting projects or go to my sketchbook. I think that as awesome as the programs are to create in, sometimes the thought process is lost.