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To Sketch or Not to Sketch – That is the Question


Close your eyes and picture this scenario. You have just landed a dream contract with a client and you are anxious to start working. You have already consulted with them regarding the subject matter (a logo, a website, a brochure, etc.) and you’ve written up a design brief. It’s time to let your creative juices flow. For goodness sake, this is why the client signed the contract and sent the check. Now, go ahead and "wow" them!


But wait! "Houston, we have a problem!" You have launched your design application (insert your app of choice) and nothing is happening. You have one hand on your mouse and another waiting for you to enter some key strokes to make the magic happen. But, guess what? Your mind is a void. And the harder you attempt to mine one nugget of creative gold, the more it would seem to elude you. And, before you know it, a couple of hours have passed and all you have to show for it is an open application with a saved file name.

Now, If you are one of those individuals who can sit at your desk, fire up an Adobe Creative Suite product and start working, I am both envious and am in awe of your aptitude. But, whenever I try this feat of dexterous skill, I end up gazing at my monitor telepathically willing something to happen. I simply think I am not wired for this type of production. As a designer, I cannot begin to conceive of a piece of work until I have spent some time sketching out ideas.

Don’t force creativity. Allow it to come to you. Link

I find that one of the benefits of sketching out my ideas is that I am not forcing my brain to come up with something tantalizing from the onset. I have always felt that designing is a process of trial and error. With a piece of paper and a pencil, I can, in a free form manner, just let the ideas come to me.

I will scribble them down. I will cross them out. I will scribble some more. I allow the process to organically ebb and flow and, at some point, I will stumble upon a concept that I would like to further investigate.

This relieves the undue pressure on myself "to produce" which will adversely affect the end product and also waste valuable time. Tara Roskell, a freelance designer, put it best on her post.

By spending a short time sketching you can save yourself hours on the computer. Not only will you save yourself hours, you may even afford yourself some peace of mind. Whenever that evil monster of ‘designer’s block’ creeps in, it inevitably leaves a path of destructive self doubt in its wake. I challenge you to start employing sketching as a part of your process and you will see a dramatic decrease in the amount of times you hit that virtual wall of nothingness.

Sketching can make you a more efficient designer. Link

By attempting to digitally design something before sketching, I am essentially forcing my hand. The computer only allows me the ability to work on one concept at a time (unless I miraculously grow three more sets of arms and hands). I find it to be more efficient to play around with ideas and solutions on paper first. This way I am avoiding the pitfalls of potentially losing focus or muddying the waters of a particular project. Since we have tasked ourselves with the duties of intelligently and shrewdly communicating a message through art, isn’t it a better idea to properly conceptualize that message before adding all of the pretty pixels?

Website Sketch

I would argue that this applies to whatever you are designing. If you are laying out a web page, aren’t you doing yourself a disservice by not sketching out the layout of the page first? Your first idea may actually be your weakest and if you have committed yourself to a digital version, you have just spent some time working on something that is not useful. The same holds true for print and logo work.

My talent for drawing is limited to stick figures. Link


I’ve seen this as a reason for skipping the sketching process lately and I am here to say that, if this applies to you, you may want to rethink this. The process is not intended for you to create a detailed sketch like Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man every time you put pencil to paper. In fact, if you ever get the chance to view some of da Vinci’s other sketches, you will see they are dominated by endless explorations. That is what the process will help you do. Explore ideas, layouts and shapes before committing to any one motif. Don’t worry if you are not knocking yourself dead with your drawing skills. This is not a drawing contest. The sketches are for you only. Nothing more. Nothing less. So, whether you have taken art and anatomy classes or you can barely draw a perfect ellipse, it simply doesn’t matter. The goal is the exploration, not the journey.

Make it a part of your routine. Link


Only out of habit will this be beneficial to you. I swear by my Moleskine notebook and various other sketch pads I have accumulated over the years. I keep one in a bag that I take with me wherever I go. There are also stacks of old ones that I like to thumb through from time to time to find unused ideas and inspiration.

Start with your next project. Before you go anywhere near your computer, sit down with a piece of paper and a writing utensil (preferably a pencil) and see what happens. Do it for as long as you feel comfortable, either in silence or with your favorite playlist blaring in the background. Take a break from it and come back to your sketches with fresh eyes. You may find a diamond in the rough you never knew existed.

The End

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Erik, a New York City native, is the co-owner and lead designer of we are pixel8, a boutique graphic design and marketing agency. Besides hand crafting visual goodies for his clients, he is a proud father, music addict and life long NY "Football" Giants fan. You can follow his shenanigans on Twitter or read more of his ramblings on his blog.

  1. 1

    Nice article, and something I will definately think about.

    Normally i go straight to Photoshop etc to design, but i normally have a design in mind at this stage. Got myself some sketch books, and im starting to do that more often now and finding great benefits.
    .-= Alan´s latest Blog Entry – Services =-.

    • 2

      Alan, that’s great that you can go straight to PS and start working. Even when I think I have something in mind and I try to do this, I end up stuck in the proverbial mud.
      .-= Erik Ford´s latest Blog Entry – 6 Free Seamless Paper Textures =-.

      • 3

        Hey Alan, I’m actually the same way as you are, but lately, I have really been trying to sketch out ideas first, and so far, with web design, it has really worked for the better.

      • 4

        Hey Erik,

        I suffer from the same. I have now taken up sketching first and everything later. I am both enjoying it and seeing results !
        Thanks for the lovely article. Re-enforces my take on sketch as a first.

  2. 5

    Nice post Erik! At first I was confused with the design but then I saw a small logo on the right side :))

    Now to the article – to sketch of course! But for deeper understanding of importance of sketching I strongly recommend you “Sketching User Experience” book from Bill Buxton, that’s one of my favorite books ever.
    .-= Janko´s latest Blog Entry – Ultimate guide to table UI patterns =-.

  3. 9

    Great article, and really useful advice. I feel I do better work when I sketch it out first, but don’t always find time for sketching. I’m definitely going to try harder to make time for it!
    .-= fiona´s latest Blog Entry – Essential Lessons for New Freelancers Part Two =-.

    • 10

      Fiona, I find it really is about getting into a habit and groove. Once you do that, it becomes second nature and you don’t necessarily think of it as a chore. It becomes a natural progression within your workflow.
      .-= Erik Ford´s latest Blog Entry – 6 Free Seamless Paper Textures =-.

  4. 11

    Brilliant!! I loved the way in which you have customized this post :) The footnotes remind me of Colly’s Blog.

    I agree that sketching is an essential part of designing. In fact, it is the best way to quickly get ideas out of your head.

    • 12

      Thank you Adit. I’m glad you liked the post design. Yes, Colly’s site inspired me to create footnotes for this particular design. Anyway, thanks again!

  5. 13

    Nice one Erik. The pencil – my favorite tool (and cheapest). I totally agree with you on sketching to find your way with a new brief. It’s both relaxing and productive – lets your mind explore, gives your eyes a rest from the screen (hey, don’t we all need that), and you’re not confined by what the software can do – think totally outside the square.

    Once you have the scribbled concept you’re going to knock it out much quicker, and it’s exciting to see a design transfer from paper to screen.

    • 14

      Michael, I do find it to be relaxing and meditative. It allows me to “declutter” my mind while I explore the possibilities of a given project.
      .-= Erik Ford´s latest Blog Entry – 6 Free Seamless Paper Textures =-.

    • 15

      Hello Michael, you are definitely spot-on. I think what happens to a lot of people is they start on the computer, then they get nowhere so then they start to browse inspirational galleries, which I have nothing against, but I find that my best and unique ideas seem to always come when I’m sketching them out first.

      BTW, love your site, it even has a pencil on the homepage. :D

      • 16

        Hello Jad
        Firstly, thanks for the compliment on my site!

        Yes, couldn’t agree more – nothing worse than getting on that “I’ll browse some galleries for inspiration” merry-go-round. Best to understand your brief, let it brew in your mind, then get your own inspiration. Mine often comes from the most unlikely places, and unexpected times. Sketching helps loosen up the gray matter… and get those ideas out :)

  6. 17

    Awesome Article Erik, its right on target for me. Concise, clear, to the point and at the same time so informative. I dont know about other designers but as a management graduate who has never been to any design school and looking forward to start up with designing (logo and website) this articles means a lot. I really enjoyed reading it and at the same time it is great source of information. I would really look forward to post where you can really share the sketching process logo designing (recently done by Sneh, LBOI which was great).

    Thanks and Keep Posting.

    • 18

      Darpan, that post by Sneh was great. There are quite a few designers who have opened their books to show their process for designing logos. These articles are always a pleasure to read and I walk away learning something I didn’t know beforehand.
      .-= Erik Ford´s latest Blog Entry – 6 Free Seamless Paper Textures =-.

  7. 19

    Nice article, well written and informative.
    My answer is: to sketch! I always have a sketchbook and a pen (black or blue) and I take them everywhere: yesterday I was waiting at the doctor’s and doodling all the time :-) Some good ideas come when you really don’t expect them (at least it happens this is how it happens to me).

  8. 21

    For logo’s, posters etc I sketch the stuff out very often (not always), but for websites, the sketch is such a loose concept that it’s only the idea in my head in pencil. I think it’s because the “elements” of a site, the stuff you have to keep in mind, while with logo sketching, the sketching itself becomes inspirational and leads your ideas.

    Just my *maybe a bit confusing* 2 cents

    .-= Tom Hermans´s latest Blog Entry – ontwerp wijnfles etiketten voor getuigen bij huwelijk =-.

    • 22

      My sketches are usually very loose concepts as well but they help to set a foundation of what I’m going to be designing once I’m in Photoshop. ;)

  9. 23

    Great post, I actually just recently started using a sketch book after a few hours of staring at my screen

  10. 25

    I’d say ‘To sketch!’. Nice article. I just stumbled across it… literally. For me sketching just works every time. I try and keep a sketchpad in hand, you never know when an inspiration might ignite some awesome idea.

    P.S: Love your design theme :)

    • 26

      “To sketch” it is! Wow, you stumbled upon the site? Very cool. Thanks for the compliment on the design theme.

      Just checked out your site as well and you have some really good articles.

  11. 27

    To sketch! That is the answer. I think that every good design starts on the paper and the goes digital, I can’t imagine myself working just on the computer.

    • 28

      Hey Ilie, I’m glad to know that you sketch. Your Illustrator tutorials and characters are really awesome and I’m not shocked that you actually sketch them because it seems like something you would do.

  12. 29

    You are absolutely correct.

    Sketching is a vital aspect of every design, its the first step in the design process and potentially one of the most important. It fleshes your ideas out and give you a quick visible reference to things that may or may not be working.

    Saying all that… I really need to sketch more. I constantly get into the habit of jumping onto my computer before doing any design work. Sometimes it works (depending on the project) but I find my ideas are always more thought out once its been sketched first.

    Thank you for this post, a fantastic read and something all designers should check out themselves (if not to remind them)!

  13. 31

    Ok first off…love love love the way this post is written lol…Anyways, anyone who gives an excuse to why they’re bad at drawing..really just needs to pick up a book, go to a class..or just draw–no one becomes davinci overnight..and the fact that people can’t draw is one of the reasons why they don’t understand fundamental design principles–hence, leading to horrid design…

    I’m a regular artist first and foremost so sketches are essential to me–rough or clean…The only people that I’ve seen go from 0-insanity only using photoshop and a tablet are people like those crazy talented artists we’ve grown to love on deviantart. However, part of the reason why they are capable for creating such great work is their understanding of these principles.
    Design is art too…it’s as if some beginners forget the element of creativity only to adapt..trending…
    People also have a warped perception of what “good/bad drawing skills are”–not everything has to adapt realism, it just has to make sense…
    Anywho..that was long lol..but I <3 some good discussion.
    .-= Melody´s latest Blog Entry – Twinup Of The Month: Twittercrush, February 10′ =-.

    • 32

      Melody, thanks for the kind words. As an artist, I am sure you are comfortable with sketching as a natural part of the process for you. I find that people just entering the “arena”, without formal training (which I am in no means saying you must have) are more likely to sit in front of the computer first and see sketching as a chore and not a tool.

      As I mentioned, if this works for you, great! But, more often than not, it is counterproductive and you end up wasting so much creative time that the project suffers in the end.
      .-= Erik Ford´s latest Blog Entry – 6 Free Seamless Paper Textures =-.

  14. 33

    Nothing beats pen and paper when coming up with ideas. Some think that sketches have to be perfect or look pretty, but they must realize it’s all about brainstorming or having fun letting your imagination go.

    • 34

      Hey Noel, thanks for the comment. That definitely is a common misconception about sketching, and hopefully, this article has helped clear that up a bit.

      BTW. did you know that one of your favorite artists, James White, starts off by sketching as well? Pretty awesome huh? :)

  15. 35

    Very interesting article and a good written one. I will definitely think about this as well as I’m usually jumping onto the MacBook and open Photoshop. I’ve been told numerous times to start sketching and my Girlfriend has even bought me a Moleskine as well but I’ve never really used it…
    .-= Andreas´s latest Blog Entry – Kreative Blockade =-.

    • 36

      Andreas, the humanity of it all! LOL. Your girlfriend is a wise person. Just start carrying that Moleskine around with you and scribbling at first. You gradually get into your groove with sketching. Try it out and see if helps your flow of creativity.
      .-= Erik Ford´s latest Blog Entry – 6 Free Seamless Paper Textures =-.

  16. 37

    Once I start to sketch things, I all too often think “yeah that’s great, let’s see how it looks on screen” far too early and then waste time creating it and ultimately disregarding it.

    Patience Ian, patience.
    .-= Ian Devlin´s latest Blog Entry – Hit it! =-.

    • 38

      Ian, you are so right. Stay patient with it. Walk away for a minute and look at your doodles and sketches. Find ones you like and expand upon it. Once you feel you are close to something, move to the computer and whip up your concoction.
      .-= Erik Ford´s latest Blog Entry – 6 Free Seamless Paper Textures =-.

    • 39

      Yes, patience is key. I’m also in the same boat as you, often jumping into Photoshop right away after sketching for a little bit.

      This article and the comments have really opened my eyes though, for the better.

  17. 41

    I agree wholeheartedly with this article. A designer that can draw is a very powerful asset to an agency and as a freelancer. I always begin my projects on a sheet of paper. Every website I do begins by sketching on sheets from the 960 grid system sketch page pdf.

    It is important to keep a sketchbook with you and draw everyday. The more you draw, the better you become. Drawing/sketching is 90% observation and 10% drawing.

    A sketchbook is a creative diary. Doodles that you do may inspire something greater in a logo, illustration or layout later on. Famous illustrators fill entire sketchbooks with one subject.

    Don’t trust your memory. Draw from source. Your memory is wrong.

    • 42

      Chris, I am so glad you raised that point. Don’t rely on your memory. I know that if I had a “moment” and something strikes me, I have to jot it down (a word, a phrase, a doodle, etc.). I’ve lost many of said moments thinking my think tank would retain the information and guess what? I was later frustrated by the fact that I could not remember that great idea.
      .-= Erik Ford´s latest Blog Entry – 6 Free Seamless Paper Textures =-.

    • 43

      Don’t trust your memory. Draw from source. Your memory is wrong.

      Excellent point you bring up Chris. Sketching can definitely help you remember ideas. I can remember thinking of an idea while I’m in Photoshop, telling myself that I’ll add it to my comp later, and then forgetting what the idea is and being really mad at myself. LOL! :D

  18. 44

    I think this is one of the biggest mistakes that new designers commit. They think that creativity is all about photoshop or illustrator and they don’t realize that people were making awesome designs even before the technology was there. Sketching is a skill in and of itself that each designer needs to learn, but unfortunately, a lot of designers overlook it when they are getting in to the industry.

    I also think there needs to be some sort of awareness to clients about the importance of sketching. With a few clients, I have sat down and actually shown them my sketches before computer work commenced. This only works well with some clients, but if you can help them visualize it before you begin the heavy lifting, you can save a lot of time and headache usually.

    Thanks for sharing the information here. Best Regards.
    .-= Preston D Lee´s latest Blog Entry – Design Essentials 2: Originality =-.

    • 45

      Preston, I also know other designers who show their sketch work to clients and this is a preference and not a steadfast rule. I actually don’t show very many people, especially not clients, what is in the sketch book at all. If you ever saw it, it would probably look to you like gibberish. (I had a hard time finding coherent sketches for this post since I tend to write notes all over my ideas). But, if you have clients who can visually follow your sketch lead, that is fantastic.
      .-= Erik Ford´s latest Blog Entry – 6 Free Seamless Paper Textures =-.

    • 46

      I’ve seen that as well. But as for me, no showing my sketches to the clients, as my sketches are just not very appealing. :)

  19. 47

    One of the biggest mistakes I made when getting started as a designer was not to sketch. My designs drastically improved once I started by sketching out some basic ideas. It allows you to play fast and easily with different ideas and narrow down a concept.

    I also liked how you styled the post, but I would have liked to have at least the usual Design Informer Navigation Bar above it.
    .-= ximi´s latest Blog Entry – How to Keep Up with Your RSS-Feeds =-.

    • 48

      Hey, thanks for letting us know your thoughts. I was going to leave the header, but I think it just occupied too much space on the top of the post. :)

  20. 49

    you were right ! at first , i never draw- i thought why wasting time in paper and bring it to pc. i was wrong. the sketch is good for bring ideas, now i always keep a notebook to scribble my ideas there and save it for future works. –
    thanks for sharing very important article – kudos

  21. 51

    Nothing beats pen and paper when coming up with ideas. Some think that sketches have to be perfect or look pretty, but they must realize it’s all about brainstorming or having fun letting your imagination go.

    (Yes, I copied nOeL’s post. Because he said exactly what I wanted to but did it more concise than I could.)

  22. 53

    A computer will never fully replace the tactile joy of putting ideas on paper. I find myself guilty of skipping this step more than I should but I’ve vowed to actually use the notebooks that I’ve purchased and this post helped reinforce that goal. And I love the way this post looks!
    .-= Chris Thurman´s latest Blog Entry – Burnt Wood Text Effect – Photoshop Tutorial =-.

    • 54

      Recently, since I have started sketching, I’m definitely having a lot of fun translating my ideas into paper. It’s very refreshing to step away from the computer a bit.

  23. 55

    This is a step too many designers either forget, or leave out on purpose. I have to admit I’m guilty some times too, but I can always tell my finished product ends up better when I sketch first. It allows you to think of things you otherwise wouldn’t when just sitting down in PS or AI and going.


    • 56

      Hey Matt! I agree, I used to leave it out on purpose as I didn’t really find it important until I realized I was wasting a lot of time just staring at a blank PS canvas, waiting for things to ideas to appear.

  24. 57

    To sketch, for sure. I’m a planner by nature, and I’ve gotten to the point where I can’t even decide which program to use until I have something down on paper as a guide.

    I’m not a “real” designer so my sketches don’t look like much–most of them are simple combinations of boxes and squiggles with arrows pointing to notes that explain what it all means–but they help me explore ideas and stay on track.

    LOVE the design of this post, btw.
    .-= Tamia´s latest Blog Entry – Reading Roundup: Learning from old white dudes and something better than a Snuggie =-.

    • 58

      Hey Tamia, that’s point of sketching for me as well. It helps me stay on track when designing as I already have a concept. I do however, am still open to ideas and I stay flexible once I start converting my sketch into an actual PS design.

  25. 59

    Great article.

    I nearly always sketch my designs on paper, I often use a white board and pens which seems to
    help my creative juices flow.. maybe because I’m stood up and moving about more.

    .-= Elliott´s latest Blog Entry – Making fixed layouts centre in IE =-.

  26. 61

    Great article Erik. I found myself stopping at every point you made and thinking “well, yea, that makes sense.”

    Every one of my professors in college would always tell the class to “bring a sketch book everywhere you go, whether its to class, or to lunch, or for a walk; never let it leave your side.” I always hated how much sketches they made us do for projects as well; but now that I am out of school, I agree that sketching as much as humanly possible is a great thing to practice.

    P.S. I love the funky post design, very original and different.
    .-= Lee Gustin´s latest Blog Entry – Love Is All Around Us =-.

  27. 63

    Definitely great article and custom design. When I try to start in PS or code, I always fail, so I prefer to start sketching too.
    .-= Paulo´s latest Blog Entry – Artist Day: Kimberley Sinclair =-.

  28. 64

    Just starting my journey to becoming a web-designer and I am so thankful that I stumbled upon your site. Every post is great and so helpful. Officially – this is my favorite site now!

    I also found that sketching on paper helps me to get a feeling of how the end result will look like. Trying to keep piece of paper and a pencil always with me cause you never know when the design inspiration will strike you.

  29. 66

    I can’t… sketch. Haha. I know, there are so many designers that sketch, not only that, they love to tell the pros about sketching, but I just can’t!

    I’m not the kind of person that only knows draws sticks, actually, I draw long before I started to truly design things. But I can’t! At least on paper. It fells unconfortable.

    I always sketch a lot on pc, using my mechaninc arm – errr… tablet. It’s less messy sketch on computer for me, and, like illustrating, some times, I just can’t visualize what the hell I’m doing until I place it on screen. With details. And some effects. And colors. I just know the elements I’m going to use, where they’re going to be used, but I can’t see nothing in my mind, I need to “do” it. And it’s useful do it on the same media I’m going to use to work on project, so, I get a clear idea if it’s going to work.

    • 67

      Camila, if this works for you, don’t stop! At the end of the day, the journey you take to a final design has to feel organic to you. So many times with posts like these, the author seems to be saying, “You must do this or fail!”. I am not saying that at all. I know a few people like yourself who can sit down, launch and app and have a piece of art in a matter of hours and my jaw always drops to the ground. I simply cannot do it.
      .-= Erik Ford´s latest Blog Entry – 6 Free Seamless Paper Textures =-.

    • 68

      Hey really cool illustration on your homepage. Did you draw that? :D

  30. 69

    I completely agree. I sketch out every design I do. It is a huge help to the client and has landed me a few jobs just on the sketch. It also helps me have a direction with my design. Nice post!
    .-= Matt Reed´s latest Blog Entry – 3 Reasons to Drop What You’re Doing and Grab Dropbox =-.

    • 70

      That’s great Matt. I on the other hand, will probably lose clients by showing them my sketches. ;)

      Anyway, that’s great that you are a sketcher. Glad you liked the post. Nice site you have as well.

  31. 71

    Thanks Erik! I love sketching things, despite not being a particularly gifted artist in that direction. I think for me it’s because I got my start in film work, and storyboarded everything. I see graphic design as storytelling much in the same way film is, and my sketches are my storyboards. It does indeed save a great deal of time.

    Great article, I enjoyed it immensely.
    .-= David Vosburg´s latest Blog Entry – Learning to Learn =-.

    • 72

      Hey, that’s a unique perspective. It definitely does remind me of storyboarding.

      BTW, really like your blogazine as well. Looks great mate!

  32. 73

    Great post! I’ve been doing sketching more and more for a year and can definitely back up what is said here. Ideas flow much easier and quicker and your ideas are not limited by the software. To answers the question, I’d say there is no question. Sketch every time! Nice design on the article too, by the way.
    .-= Ogvidius´s latest Blog Entry – Tea Typography =-.

  33. 75

    Excellent. Not only do I completely agree with the approach to sketch before pushing pixels – I love the fact that this article is custom designed.

    Will we be seeing more blogazine style articles on DesignInformer in the future?

    • 76

      Hehe, thanks Jeremy. Glad you liked it. You know that your blogazine has been one of my inspirations right?

      Anyway, I’m definitely heading that direction. I think I’m going to be doing blogazine style posts twice a month. :)

      I really find it refreshing when I’m designing a unique post. Who knows, I might start a blogazine later on, but not about design though. Just about anything that I like.

  34. 77

    It all depends on your understanding of design principles and the work in question.

    If it happens to be a small site that I am building (something like a 2 day client work) then going straight into Photoshop is easier and efficient for me. The medium is not important if you know the fundamentals of design. An apple is an apple on paper and in Photoshop or any other software. Generally with smaller projects the idea of how the client wants the site is during the ride back to my home from my client’s place for me. (I know it is funny, but since I only take projects I like the idea for, all my projects are very close to me. Also I do not freelance for money as this is my part time job so my methods would differ from the majority of people here.)

    However, when it comes to bigger sites (even a site as small as Inspiring Pixel is big) and logos, sketches ARE the way to go. I have seen so many web designers and logo artist opening up Photoshop or illustrator and rushing to design when the iA and mockups are nowhere to be seen. Also for bigger projects I always get the wireframe finalized before the design to avoid redesigns. (I am very transparent in this aspect with my clients about each stage) With iA and wireframes in place design makes a lot more sense in bigger projects.
    .-= Tuhin Kumar´s latest Blog Entry – Redesigning Inspiring Pixel: Your thoughts =-.

    • 78

      TK, you’ve raised some excellent points that the scope of this post didn’t cover. While sketching out website layouts are beneficial in getting some raw ideas on paper, don’t forget wire framing and prototyping as well, especially on large sites with many moving parts to them.
      .-= Erik Ford´s latest Blog Entry – 6 Free Seamless Paper Textures =-.

  35. 79

    This is an excellent post! I always sketch my ideas first…even though they may morph into a completely different design later :) BTW…The post layout rocks!

    • 80

      Hey, that’s exactly what usually happens to my designs as well, but it definitely helps to have a basis, a good skeleton of what you want your design to look like.

  36. 81

    Great post, also love the post layout ;)

    I’m one of those designers who jumps straight into Photoshop, usually I end up coming to a nice conclusion after a while, but the time between revisions could quite easily be avoided if I sketch ideas first.
    I’m not confident with my drawing but know that the sketches are more so to get the idea across, and not the finished product, so this shouldn’t be a problem, yet it is.

    Would you suggest showing these sketches to the client to choose from? Or would you say stick to your gut and choose your preferred sketch / idea? As with my sketching the client may be put off, even though this is not the end product…if that makes sense.

    Great post as usual, thanks, very insightful.


    • 82

      Aaron, I actually don’t show any sketches to clients. I usually find that they have a difficult time discerning my direction by looking at sketches. If you feel confident enough that your sketches gets the message across, by all means, definitely show them. Otherwise, they should probably be for your eyes only.
      .-= Erik Ford´s latest Blog Entry – 6 Free Seamless Paper Textures =-.

  37. 83

    I’m actually jealous of those that can sketch out their ideas. I’ve tried to get into the habit of sketching first, but when I do, everything falls apart – like Erik said in one of his comments above – I get “stuck in the proverbial mud.” When I get a project I am one of the ones that has to fire up the program right away. But, in a weird way, Photoshop becomes my sketchbook because I use it to create my concept sketches. If I come up with something that I really like, then I will eventually re-develop it in the proper program. If I’m stuck for an idea, then I’ll spend a few hours on research to get out of my block.

    Great article Erik! Nice work. :)

    • 84

      Thanks, Firgs. It sounds like you have a system that already works well for you. So, to coin the oft used phrase, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” Stay with what you are comfortable with. But, maybe one day when the designer’s block is really rearing its ugly head, try walking away from the computer and free form doodling.
      .-= Erik Ford´s latest Blog Entry – 6 Free Seamless Paper Textures =-.

    • 85

      Hey Firgs, I do the same thing with logos. Usually, after a quick sketch, I like to go ahead and work on it in Photoshop as that’s the software the I’m comfortable with, and once I have something that I like, I go ahead and use Illustrator to remake it as a vector.

      Not a very efficient way, but it works for me.

  38. 87

    Great article in an original and inspiring layout : )

    After a too long break, I recently started sketching by hand again. I still don’t sketch quite enough and I’m still practicing the whole bringing a sketchbook along with me always – thing (sometimes it just feels a bit strange to be doodling in public places – but it’s probably just a question of habit ; )

    Anyway, I love sketching / doodling and when you start to think of it, I guess that almost all kids do a lot of sketching in kindergarten – just for the sheer fun of it. Some continue while a lot unfortunately give up sooner or later to let math assignments or soap operas on the TV take over … I guess that what I’m trying to get at is that sketching and doodling is both fun and rewarding, especially when you get in to the habit : ) My guess is that most non-sketching designers (or people with a creative urge in general) will not be willing to give up sketching after a while once they get started. So – at least after a while sketching will have a self-reinforcing effect; you’ll be doing better designs based on more solid concepts and you’ll be having fun and gaining energy from the sketching process itself : )

    • 88

      Excellent comments mate!

      Creativity is definitely something that children exemplify the best. I can still remember, when I was younger, how often I used to draw. I even won a competition when I was growing up. Then eventually, I started to get older, play sports, use the computer, and I soon forgot about drawing, which I used to really like.

      Anyway, I’m also trying to get back to doing it as well, although I can’t say that I’ve doodled in public yet. ;)

  39. 89

    Nice article! Sketch first, for sure – faster and more productive!

    • 90

      Yes, it’s fast. And I think that the more we do it, the faster and better we will be at it as well. Also, I think that especially in web design, it is very productive because we don’t get caught up trying to work on the very specific details.

  40. 91

    Great Article! I too prefer sketching before even cracking open photoshop.

  41. 92

    Sketching is definitely very useful. In fact I even think useful of it in other matters than design. Actually I’m a student in informatics and I use sketching often if I’ve got to solve some more complex problems in these matters.

    I would even go as far as speaking of sketching as a basic technique for all kinds of problems. I think of it as a kind of clipboard for your mind. If you’ve got a complicated job to do you can break it down into smaller chunks by taking one step, putting it to your sketchbook and taking the next step. The result will be a sketch that contains all of these steps needed to get that job done.

    I like that lovely layout. It creates an inspiring atmosphere.

    • 93

      Arne, that’s a great way of putting it. It is a great way to solve problems. There is something therapeutic about and pencil touching paper for me. Even after finding the right sketch, I will sometimes still run into a snag and I find that if I jump back to my sketch pad, I usually find the answer.
      .-= Erik Ford´s latest Blog Entry – 6 Free Seamless Paper Textures =-.

  42. 94

    I highly agree with sketching up something first. In fact my pencil and notepad are the first things I go for when starting a new design project.
    .-= Ashley´s latest Blog Entry – amphigoryglory: just spruced up my twitter background =-.

  43. 95

    I am one of those people who’s drawings are reminisint of what a five year old might have hung on a refridgerator, but I completely agree that sketching things out before starting in on photoshop or illustrator is time well spent. It doesn’t matter if your sketch looks pretty, it only has to help you to come up with something that works. And if you want your sketches to look a little more polished, try using graph paper. I find that it helps me to keep my lines straight.

    Great article Erik! Thanks for posting. ~ Chris

  44. 96

    Very thought provoking article!

    Quite often I do start projects right in Photoshop. After reading your article though I’m sitting here reflecting on my work flow habits and I’ve come to an interesting conclusion. On the occasions that I sketch before opening Photoshop, I’m a lot more focused.

    If I have not done any sketching previous to opening Photoshop I find myself doing it there in the form of multiple revisions and complete re-designs. During this process I change my mind a lot and work in several directions. In the end I generally get a result I’m happy with, but there is no record of the journey itself and I’ve missed out on the opportunity to develop some of those other ideas later.

  45. 97

    Yeah i fully agree.

    I have found that you can easily work out if an idea is going to work, especially specific components by just throwing them down onto paper. This has saved me hours by not designing something that’s not going to work with the overall project and then trying to force it to fit.

  46. 98

    Firstly, love the custom layout for this post!

    The temptation to fire up the computer and jump right into Illustrator or Photoshop is always there.
    The key for me at least was to make sketching a habit through repetition. If you challenge yourself to sketch all your designs over a long enough period of time, say 3 weeks, your habits will change. Once you realize the benefits you will never look back.

    Really well written post Erik!
    .-= Duane Kinsey´s latest Blog Entry – 10 Inspirational Japanese Digital Illustrators and Artists =-.

  47. 99

    Great article!

    I, personally, sketch. I put all the ideas that comes to my mind in a piece of paper, and after that I developed the concepts, I’ll go to Illustrator!

    Thanks so much!
    .-= Hian Battiston´s latest Blog Entry – Onde encontrar Inspiração =-.

  48. 100

    Yooo this was cool! Post these custom posts more often!

  49. 101

    I really learned trough time that the sketching process is a must to every designer to achieve good results with less headaches and more confidence on what we`re working on. Great article Erik!

  50. 102

    To sketch!

    Before I start on any project, whether it be for school or something personal, I always grab a pencil and my sketchbook. I’ve always been a sketching type of guy, so I find it helps solidify my ideas. Jumping straight into photoshop or illustrator without a clear plan of attack really hinders my performance. I either stare blankly at a screen for what seems forever, or I get distracted by the internet.


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