Whenever I’m working with a designer and concepts come back that are missing the mark or the designer indicates they are struggling with a project the first question I ask is, “Did you sketch first?” I wish over the last 10 years I had kept a tally of the number of times the answer to that struggling designers question had been “no” but my guess would be somewhere close to 98 percent. When we’re coaching a new designer we always strongly encourage sketching first. And despite our best efforts and our heavy handed suggestion we often get push back from designers.
Here is what they typically say and why they’re wrong:
Response #1: I don’t need to sketch I can work faster on the computer.
Wrong: There are exceptions to every rule but as a rule of thumb you will never be able to lay out your concept on a computer faster than you can sketch it. I don’t care if you use your left foot… it’s still faster to sketch it out by hand. The other interesting things bout sketching is you can vary the aspect ration you’re working with and how often can you say you’ve been concpeting and thought to try different shapes, sizes, and ratios for your artboard?
Response #2: I’m not very good at drawing.
GREAT! No seriously, this is great news because you’re not trying to be. Graphic artists tend to be perfectionist and if drawing isn’t their thing they find it to be a frustrating task because they perceive the end result as being less than perfect. The truth is sketching concepts doesn’t have to be and shouldn’t be about drawing something good – most times nobody is going to even look at them except the designer themselves. You don’t even have to actually draw something recognizable… you can use a few circles for a person and squiggly lines for the location of text.
Respond #3: I already know what I’m going to do so I don’t need to sketch.
Maybe, but what if it doesn’t work? How many times have you had what you thought was a fantastic idea for a concept and in your excitement you put mouse to screen immediately and 45 minutes later you’re like, “uh oh, something isn’t working.” But at that point you’ve invested too much time to just scrap it so you keep going and going and going. Pretty soon, you’ve traveled three hours down the rabbit hole and the design isn’t getting any better. Sketching prevents helps you avoid this. If you remember one thing from this post remember this – sketching allows you to fail faster. Spending 10 minutes putting pencil to paper can quickly reveal three or four losing ideas and spotlight the one or two you should focus on.
Sketching is fast, cheap, and easy. It doesn’t have to be on paper, it could be on a whiteboard, a napkin, or chalkboard. The more you do it, the faster you’ll get, the faster you’ll fail, and ultimately, the fast you’ll get to a winning solution.