Under The Loupe #4: Keeping a Sketchbook
This week we are going to take a brief look at the benefits of maintaining a sketchbook and the impact it can have on your own creative process. To be thorough in the context of this series, let’s define a “sketchbook” as a place to store simple visual representations of ideas and concepts.
Sketchbooks are about as basic as it gets when you are talking about visual design. You, a pencil, and some paper. But oh, the power these simple tools hold! Sketchbooks take many forms, and at times the actual sketchbook can be it’s own form of expression. They range from the stylish Moleskine, to basic art store brand, to handmade stacks of stapled paper. You don’t need to be a great artist to have one, and you don’t need to be trained in… well, anything. Sketchbooks aren’t as expensive as software, but they can be much more powerful.
Designers need to be visual leeches, constantly cataloguing and recording information like a camera that’s always snapping photos. As designers we really never stop working, every thing thing we see, every thing we hear and experience shapes our creative process. A sketchbook serves as a physical repository for all of those outside stimuli. I use my sketchbook often to scrawl down ideas before I forget them or to quickly flesh out concepts. It serves as a timely archive of where I have been and what I’ve done. Because I created everything inside, it takes on a new life as a book of my ideas. It’s not a design annual or a gallery of websites; it’s a book of my concepts that I can always go back to and reference for future work.
Have you ever gotten an idea for a design in your head that you think is great, only to find out once you have it in Photoshop that it wasn’t as wonderful as you thought? Me too. Sketchbooks fuel that all important need to see an idea realized. But, the difference is that there is very little commitment and time involved in evolving your ideas on paper before getting to the computer. Due to this, you are able to cycle through many permutations of one idea which will often lead you to more ideas. Most times you end up in a far better place than where you started.
Since design is about communication, much of the real design lies within the ideas behind it. Most times design is not created by the medium, it is created in the mind of the designer. The design is therefore only realized by the medium. One thing I have been reminded of over the years is that design and communication are both skills. Like any skill, the more you practice it, the more you will improve. Keeping a sketchbook will make you a better designer and a better thinker.