Sketching is Valuable
Sketching can fast become an indispensable practice that is a routine part of your design process. It can help you to develop initial ideas, select a final idea and to plan the creation of the final composition. Essentially, sketching is a valuable tool to help you take your creative process to the next level, overcome indecision and achieve more design success.
- Depending on how you place the rectangle on the paper, you can discern whether the height or the width is dominant, and therefore how the proportions are directed – vertically or horizontally (or maybe you've drawn your rectangle on an angle … another potential design option).
- The rectangular shape automatically determines that there will be parallel sides, and right angles (points of tension) to work with or contrast against.
- The ratio between the sides will establish the proportions – are you working with a tall, slender rectangle (dominant height, high contrast between the vertical sides and the horizontal sides), or a low, robust looking rectangle (dominant width, low contrast between the vertical sides and the horizontal sides), or some other proportions?
- Starting with a rectangular shape also sets the initial visual balance as symmetrical, with a dominant, central axis either horizontally or vertically, depending on how your shape sits on the page.
Having to plan your ideas on paper forces you to make some artistic decisions that you may otherwise only encounter when you actually begin the project. Sketching can help to pre-empt and solve fundamental technical problems and design challenges that may be encountered at any time during the project, before you have cut the first stem. Employing sketching as a part of your planning process can save time, money, material … and some grief.
We all sometimes have too many ideas and don't which to choose or where to start. The following practice may help to develop, evolve and refine and idea, and assist in deciding on the idea that is a good fit for your intended project – your final idea. It can help you to explore spontaneous ideas and their potential – all through the use of sketching.
- Divide a page in to a series of rectangles, using a thick black pen. The rectangles can be any proportions you desire, but keep them consistent. Perhaps in ‘landscape’ format, with similar proportions to an A4 page (width about 1.4 times the height) … maybe nine or twelve rectangles to a page. Begin in the top left hand rectangle and you proceed through the exercise move across and down the page, the same way we read (left to right, top to bottom).
- Contemplate a project or concept (design problem/question) at hand, or select an idea or theme to develop.
- When you have an idea, begin sketching an outline for a design … showing rough components and proportions, without paying to much attention to exact details or content.
- Keep going for as long as the idea remain fresh, or until the idea keeps developing, or until another idea grows from this idea. As soon as one of these things happens, move to the next rectangle. Begin sketching the new idea that grew from the last one, or, if the last idea has been exhausted, begin with a completely new concept.
Don’t think too much about the designs you are sketching. The moment you begin to analyse your sketch, move on the next rectangle. This will keep your ideas fresh and vital, and provide an abundance of material for you to develop and refine in to workable design ideas later. The idea is to tap in to your creative energy and bring all those amazing ideas lurking around in your depths to the surface, giving them life and setting them free.
For example, think about a tall, sculptural design, with a shape that is uncertain to you. Begin sketching in your first rectangle a familiar shape. Perhaps a classical, circular, topiary shape. This idea might evolve in to an oval shape – move to the next rectangle, and sketch that. Then you might remove the middle so the shape has a circular void. Move to the next rectangle. Change the shape of the void, to maybe a keyhole shape. Then in the next rectangle, keep the keyhole shaped void, but change the outer shape to a hemispherical top with an irregular tapered bottom, like a tad pole. (Don’t worry that it doesn’t make sense how it is going to stand up and balance …. technicalities come later). Keep moving from rectangle to rectangle and allow the idea to grow. If you exhaust inspiration on this first idea, start on another.
Once you have enough sketched ideas, analyse them briefly by suitability and logistical ease, and select one to work with. From this point on, you can develop that one idea further. The sketch will give you a load of core information about the idea, a great start to exploring the concept and a solid start on the journey to realising the final composition.
This process can be used from the small, single designs, to elaborate displays. It can also be adapted for other designs or projects, for example, body flowers or headpieces, or working with a particular container. Instead of starting with a page full of empty rectangles, begin with a series of blank figures, head shapes or container render, and sketch your design over the shapes, moving from one figure to the next until you have enough concepts from which to make a final selection.
Have you got a new creative project on the horizon? Perhaps it's time to get out your pen and paper.