As art artist, designer and illustrator, I have come to understand the importance of sketching. Sketching is the proverbial drawing board. It is the place where our ideas start, and where we can put them down on paper. I have found that sketching helps tremendously in getting the ball rolling when I am stuck on trying to come up with a concept.
Sketching tends to free your mind. They don’t need to be large sketches. They can be rather small. Most of us who use them already call them thumbnails, mainly because they are roughly the size of your thumbnail. I find that it helps to do dozens of these sketches, as many as possible, as your mind tends to wander, and you can weed out all of the obvious solutions to your client’s problems. The point of your sketches is not to come up with something beautiful, it is to come up with a creative solution, or a solid concept.
Our minds are so clouded with technology and checking Twitter and Facebook, our email, our voice mails, remembering to do this and that, meetings, parties, clients, problems, etc. When it is time to come up with ideas, sometimes it can be extremely difficult, because our brains are clogged with so much pointless junk. We try and try to come up with ideas, but only come up with mindless dribble, because we have so much else on our minds. This is where sketching comes in. It frees us. Even if we sketch useless sketches at first, eventually we will get the ball rolling, and get past all of those thoughts that just clutter.
How long does it take?
It takes as long as you need it to in order to find the best, most creative, and viable solution. You don’t want to spend a lot of time on detail with each thumbnail sketch, as the point is simply to try another idea and get it down on paper. Some people make notes to help remind themselves about key concepts, or they may make notes about color or some other aspect of their solution. The point of your thumbnail sketches is to help you to come up with a great solution to your client’s problems. You can use them however you want to. I have found that it is best to hop from idea to idea, getting the basic idea down in a sketch. Letting your mind wander a bit, while trying to stay on the path to your solution enables your subconscious to take over. That is where some of your best concepts can come from.
Do real professionals really use these sketches?
People actually do use these sketches in the professional world. Most professionals will easily confess to keeping a sketchbook with them at all times, just in case something pops into their head. Thumbnails are a great starting point, and from these, we develop roughs and preliminary sketches and build on our initial ideas. It is a fast and cheap way to figure out what works and what doesn’t. A lot of times we get an idea in our head, and it simply doesn’t work on paper or on the computer.
Keeping your ideas handy
If an idea doesn’t work well for one client, sometimes it can help to look at sketches from another client with a similar problem in order to open ourselves up to new solutions. Keeping your sketchbook handy allows you to look at past thumbnails, which often helps in finding a good solution. Something may inspire you, or may spur a moment of epiphany that you need. There is noting wrong with looking at ideas from other projects, because all of these sketches are your own thoughts anyway.
How many times have you ever had an amazing idea, only to forget it by the time you get somewhere to write it down or sketch it out? You might come up with just the right words, and then forget them and lose the idea completely. Keeping your sketchbook handy also enables you to jot ideas and images down that may pop into your head when you are out on the road. Maybe you’re sitting in a cafe having coffee, and you have an epiphany. You whip out your sketchpad and pencil and get the idea on paper, and it’s there when you get back to your computer in order to try it out.
So why keep a collection of sketches?
You should keep a library of your sketches in a binder or somewhere safe, where you can refer back to them at a later time. If a concept didn’t work for one project, it may work for another. Don’t assume that you should just throw away sketches after a project is over. You never know when something may spark an idea that develops into something big for one of your clients. You can also use them to study what did work, and what didn’t work, so that you can apply that knowledge to projects in the future. You should always be honing your craft, which means you learn and get better as you go. Mistakes are only permanent if you never learn from them, or you keep repeating them.
Keeping a library of your old sketches can also free up your mind. Part of us wants to hold on to our ideas because they are sacred to us. However, if we know we can always revisit them by referring back to our sketchbooks, we can learn to let things go. Thing makes room in our heads for new concepts and ideas.