Should Graphic Designers Sketch For Their Design Projects?

To Sketch or Not to Sketch? That is the Question.

Should Graphic Designers Sketch or Not Sketch

By Lois Knight

Should Graphic Designers Sketch For Their Design Projects?

And it is a very good one. Why do we need to sketch if we are designers? Most of us have no talent as artists, even though we may be top producing in our field. Personally, I have about enough talent to draw a stick person and my sketches tend to show it. And for that reason, I was petrified to show my work to anyone, teachers and clients alike. But I learned something along the way. I found out that drawing out the most primitive of sketches is equivalent to creating a road map. Would you go on road trip without some sort of directional tool? There was a time when I would, but not any more.

So where do we start? Start by listening. Listen to what your client wants and needs. Take lots of notes to refer to later, you may need them. Do you have an epiphany in the middle of your meeting? (By the way, epiphany is a great idea or light bulb moment). Take your pen and draw it out real quick on the edge of your notes. Show it to your client. Is THIS what they need? If not, ask if you are on the right track. They really don’t mind, in fact they kind of expect it.

Who is the target audience? What is the message? Are there budget restraints? Are there special instructions, colors, logos, etc. that need to be considered? What about photos? How many pieces do they need? Is this project going to be part of a media blitz or a one shot deal? The questions can go on and on, but you start to get the picture. The key is to ask the question then be quiet until they are done answering. Then if you need clarification, ask another question. There is a reason you have two ears and one mouth. Utilize both in proper proportion. Answer all the questions you have, but don’t waste the client’s time. Go to work. Even if you have to go to your vehicle and take five minutes to sketch out your immediate impressions. These will act as prompts later when you have more time to lay out a proper sketch. This practice is extremely helpful if you have several meetings in a row.

I used to hate to show my sketches to anyone. My talent was not as advanced as others with more experience. I would drag my feet; find a half a dozen other more important things to do, spend hours on the computer, coming up with what I thought my clients wanted only to have to start over again and again. It wasn’t until one of my mentors sat me down and showed me his rough sketches. WOW, what an eye opener that was! His sketches were actually worse than mine! But he could look at them and tell me exactly what he was thinking. That is the sole purpose of sketches, to guide us. Get over your stage fright and go to work.

So, how many sketches is enough? It depends on how many ideas you have. You notice I didn’t say anything about how many good ideas. All ideas are good and some ideas that I thought were horrible, were best sellers. Everyone likes choices and clients are no exception. I try to give my clients at least three or four, sometimes more if the creative juices are really flowing. But, as with everything in life, moderation is key. You have to remember, this is not Baskin Robbins, and they don’t need thirty-seven flavors. Keep it simple.

Okay, we know about how many sketches to make. How long should it take? Most of my rough sketches are done in less than five minutes. If I’m having an epiphany, it has been known to take less than a minute. Remember, this is just a guide. If you want to show the client six sketches, allow about thirty to forty-five minutes to produce them.

Sometimes a client will like aspects from several ideas, not just one in particular. Always take your tablet with you for just this reason! Sketch it out right there. Show them what it might look like with those aspects. Once they see what they like, ask them to sign off on the one they like. And I do mean sign it, not initials. Then you sign it and date it. In this way, you both know this is the vision your client is seeing in their head. This will allow you to go to work and get paid.

You Might Also Like This Article - How to Overcome Your Creative Block.

[tags]graphic design sketching, design and sketching, rough layouts, rough sketching, sketching for clients, design projects, graphic design projects, sketching for customers, sketching to brainstorm, brainstorming, design ideas, design brainstorming, sketching for creative block, creative block, sketching for ideas, ideas[/tags]

By Lois Knight - You can also see Lois Knight’s Articles on Freelance Folder

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  1. Adella Smith
    Posted March 1, 2008 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    Very informative! And it does encourage me to quit procrastinating just because I’m unsure of my own artistic talent. Thank you!

  2. Rhonda Hutton
    Posted March 1, 2008 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    Great artical! I too am a graphic designer and this artical is right on target. In school once I had a design instructor give us an assignment to do four book covers, she wanted a minumum of 25 thumbnails per cover, and everybody moaned. However I think the whole idea was to drive home the importance of thumbnail sketches. They are really important. I don’t know how many times I started a project and thought my first couple where pretty good, then I would just keep going, only to find the longer I did it, the better they got. So GO SKETCH! Rhonda

  3. Frieda Goodson
    Posted March 1, 2008 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    Love the article. Although I do not have a lot of artistic talent drawing a schetch is usually the way I start, especially since graphic design is not my number one field of expertise. It puts action to even my earliest thoughts, and allows different routes for expansion. This sometimes allows me to complete more than one project simultaneously if they are somewhat related. I cannot stress the importance of putting thoughts into action.

  4. Jen Yager
    Posted March 2, 2008 at 2:22 am | Permalink

    Excellent source for graphic artists just starting out, and the message also applies to other forms of design. Great work!

  5. Cheryl Knapp
    Posted March 2, 2008 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    I think this article applies to alot of aspects in both advertising and marketing. Record all ideas because you never know which one might be valuable. The article is very concise, well said!!

  6. navtej kohli
    Posted March 3, 2008 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the article… It has resolve many speculations made by newbees… thanks for working on it and sharing the post.

  7. Posted April 28, 2008 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    Good article and very good point. I also experienced the same situation. It’s difficult to show a sketch that your not proud of. I then opened my eyes and realized it doesn’t need to be perfect. I think if your not in front of the client and presenting the concept threw video conference or phone, you should put more time in it but if your right in front of him, your sketch doesn’t need to be has good.

    Theres another side to this… Clients can have real turn off when looking at the sketch. We also need to inform them BEFORE what is the point of sketching.

    Good article!

  8. Posted June 9, 2008 at 1:11 am | Permalink

    It’s nice article. skecthing is a tool that excute your viualize ideas into papers in a short time. The skecth gives lot of possiblities of your exploration in visualize ideas, that decides your concepts will be worth to take into digital or not. Direct digital explorations eats lot of time and may be fail to recall your ideas.
    Sketching is a always good pratices .

  9. Posted June 9, 2008 at 1:16 am | Permalink

    It’s nice article. Sketching is a tool that execute your visualize ideas into papers in a short time. The sketch gives lot of potential for your exploration in visualizing ideas, that decides your concepts will be worth to take into digital or not. Direct digital explorations swallow lot of time and may be you fail to recall your ideas.
    Sketching is an always good practice.

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