Although I have been doing SEO since 2001, I was a web designer first. I just read a really good post on whether to sketch or not to sketch in your design process. Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the designers block that so often accompanies the non-sketching option or to take up the pen and paper against the seas of frustration and just get those ideas down on paper and out of your head.
I thought I would give our readers some details on how it works for me. Keep in mind, this is an individualized process and you should tweak it to suit you. This is just how I do it.
First I start out with thumbnails. The idea with thumbnails is to get design ideas onto paper. I use blank paper, sometimes graph paper, never ordinary lined paper. When I have a bad idea come into my mind I can’t seem to keep it from effecting my others ideas until I get it on paper. Once the idea is on paper I can move on without worrying about the previous ideas, good or bad. I try to keep the sketching for each thumbnail under 10 seconds. I also try to keep them smaller than 2 inches sqare. This doesn’t leave time or room to make them detailed or fancy but then, that’s the whole point. Usually I find that I don’t find the idea that ends up being the final design until I have been sketching thumbnails for 20 to 30 minutes. Not that the first ideas are bad, I may even come back to them and use them on a future project.
Of course there are the times when I can already visualize the perfect design in my mind before I sit down at the computer or to sketch. I still sketch anyway because even from one single idea, I get 5 to 10 very different sketches. And even if I end up keeping my original idea, the sketching makes it much stronger than it would have been without it.
Sometimes I know it the second I finish the thumbnail. Sometimes I have to weigh the options and use the ol’ calculatus ellimatus to narrow down which ones are worthy of exploring further.
That’s right, thumbnails is just the beginning of the sketching process. Next I move on to create roughs of the ideas that show potential. Sometimes there’s 4 to explore, sometimes there’s 20. I will try to get at least 4 roughs on an 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper. I spend a little more time on them but not that much. The idea here is to add some detail and explore options within the idea. From each thumbnail I’ll sketch 2 to 10 roughs, depending on the current flow of the creative juices.
Once I feel like I’m done with the roughs, I go over them all and mark the things I like. One, two, or even three stars. Usually if I give something three stars, I have found my final concept.
From there I go to a full sheet of paper. I take all the ideas I liked and see what works well together. I might even break out the colored pencils if I am feeling it. Most of the time I can visualize the right colors with a simple B&W sketch in front of me but if you are going to show it to someone (a client maybe) the colors can help a lot. *NOTE Sketches are not usually for clients. But there may be some that you know will respond well and understand the design process. These clients are usually recognized by their budget. Clients that pay more are usually much easier to work with.
Once I have found my final concept, the PhotoShopping goes quickly. There’s little exploration on the screen and there doesn’t need to be. I know how I want it to look and I know how I don’t want it to look. From there it’s a matter of picking the right font and images to accompany the design. But that’s probably better left for another post.