Sketching can take your designs to another level

Technology is ruling the world, that’s been evident for a long time now (if it doesn’t already). Which leave the good old pen and paper forgotten in the attic.

In this article I will address why you should turn off your computer, put away your tablet, and go back to the basics during your design process, at the same time you will be provided with some tips on how to get started in effective sketching.

Why should you sketch?

When you start a project, there’s a tendency to automatically start coming up with various ideas. These ideas may seem great, but there’s a big chance that your first ideas are pretty obvious.
Sketching lets you get all the obvious ideas out of the way, so you can start coming up with interesting, more innovative designs. Plus, you never know what will inspire you – it could be one of those obvious sketches that spark a great idea.

You can sketch where ever you are

Taking a sketchbook and a pen is even more convenient than carrying your laptop. You might end up finding yourself in more interesting areas like the beach or a  park, as well as museums and subways.  You will also be exposing yourself to different environments, which will inspire your designs and bring you new ideas.

Find the artist in you

There’s something about holding a pencil in your hand that activates your creativity in a much different way than holding a mouse. When you get used, the movements of your hand become much more fluid and it becomes really easy and natural. You may also start seeing some ‘artistic’ influences in your design work.
The more you practice, the better you will become at sketching.

Get in touch with your designs

For me, one of the most important benefits of sketching is that it gets you in touch with your design work on a whole new level. By spending so much time developing a solid concept, you have a stronger understanding of the elements that go into your design.

Let’s sketch!

Word lists
These come very handy when you’re starting a new project, or completely stuck with one you’ve been working on for a while. With word lists you basically list every possible word that’s related to the subject of your project. When I use these for my projects, I first come up with all the words I can think of, then circle the best ones and create sketches of them to get things going.

Draw, it doesn’t matter what, just draw something
Often, facing a blank page can be a bit intimidating. It’s hard to know where to start and what you’re supposed to sketch.

Just sketch something!

It doesn’t matter. Just let your mind and your hand wander together.  As long as you’re sketching something, you’re on the right track to coming up with your next great design. Don’t forget that your sketches don’t have to be the a piece of art. You don’t need to fall into the perfection trap…every ‘mistake’ you make is really an opportunity to get better and learn.

Remember this: no one has to see your sketches, so don’t be shy!

Sketch out of the box
I try to designate specific sketchbooks for specific things. “This will be the sketchbook for these designs and that one for these other sketches” Unfortunately (well, maybe it’s not unfortunate), it doesn’t always happen that way.

Sketch anywhere and everywhere. Ideas come to us at unpredictable times, and in unpredictable places. It’s hard to keep track of which sketchbook is for what, and which one you’re supposed to be carrying around. That’s why you should use whatever’s available, even napkins.

Free time
To start falling in love with it try sketching in your free time, too. Sketch things for fun, big things, tall things, buildings, clocks, fluffy animals.

Be creative
Find what works best for you. Try using different tools like pens, pencils, watercolors, charcoal, and chalk as well as different surfaces. Use ones with which you feel you can express yourself in the best possible way and you enjoy most. The more fun you make this for yourself, the easier it will be to stick to it.

In times of where a pencil sounds like an obsolete tool, do you still make time for sketching before your designs?  If so, what are your techniques?  If not, would you try it?

6 replies
  1. Peter Burgin
    Peter Burgin says:

    Awesome post, Daphne (as usual). 🙂

    I find, even as a developer, that sometimes it helps to diagram functionality by hand. There’s something inspiring about pen and paper, and it helps to remember that. Thank you for the reminder!

  2. Rick Sherman
    Rick Sherman says:

    I did a piece for a start up motorcycle shop called the Steel Horse Garage. They loved the pencil rough so I used it as a basis for a finished airbrush photoshop design. It was slick and techy.
    It was rejected.
    They loved the pencil rough. I moded the pencil work in on top of the slick layers and it was a hit. I went on to create a line of clothing designs for them.
    Much of the time, the freshness and vibrancy of the exploration in the pencil roughs has much more appeal then the technical and labored finished digital art.

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