May 14, 2024

Sketch It First

One of many sketches from October Custom Publishing's art meetings with a client
One of many sketches from October Custom Publishing's art meetings with a client
One of many sketches from October Custom Publishing's art meetings with a client
One of many sketches from October Custom Publishing's art meetings with a client

We have had a number of junior designers and design interns pass through our hallowed halls, and one thing I have found myself repeating to them over the years is "sketch it first." Even if you know exactly what you want to create, and in your mind it's as clear as the hair on the palm of my hand, sketch it first. It doesn't matter how rough or crude the sketch is - that's the point of a sketch. It can help you immediately see issues that your brain-image might not notice, and you gain a much clearer understanding of what you want to create.

One of many sketches from October Custom Publishing's art meetings with a client

This is especially helpful when you are trying to take large amounts of data and convert them to a chart, diagram, or infographic. You can decide what goes where, why, and the reason it may or may not work before you even touch the mouse. In meetings with clients, as well as taking notes, we are both sketching ideas, and often sharing the sketch on the spot. It helps everyone get on the same page. We also encourage everyone to sketch something while they're describing it to us. You don't need to be a designer or artist - you just need a pencil and paper.

One of many sketches from October Custom Publishing's art meetings with a client

Your first idea is rarely the one you go with, especially in a group setting like a magazine, where you have multiple contributors. Your job as designer is to be as clear and concise as possible - to not only understand what your client wants, but to then explain why it fulfills or exceeds their expectations. I can't tell you how many times just holding up a sketch in a meeting has helped us get on the right track, and also - weirdly - cleared the air and made everyone feel more comfortable (I'm guessing because some of the sketches we've produced have been laughably bad).