Ye Olde Sketchbook

By Angela Cho, Graphic Designer, Shutterstock

Many years ago I was preparing for an interview with a well-known graphic design studio. I spent weeks polishing up my resume and perfecting my book. When I got to the studio, the first thing they asked me for was my sketchbook. The question caught me off guard; I was speechless. Once I revealed that I did not, in fact, own a sketchbook, the interview ended there. Although I left without the coveted internship position, I did take away a valuable lesson: the importance of having a sketchbook.

What is a sketchbook? A humble notebook, it is a receptacle for visual and conceptual representations of thoughts and ideas. It is also one of the easiest things to keep because all you really need to have is a pencil, paper and your imagination. You don’t even need to be a particularly skilled artist to use one; it is purely a forum in which you can freely express your creativity and further develop your ideas. Best of all, a sketchbook has a profound effect on your creative process. So why do so many designers, my younger self included, underestimate the value of this simple tool?

Designers, like writers and artists, are constantly finding inspiration in their surroundings. Often ideas are fleeting–they can be gone almost before you register them, so if you don’t scribble them down, it’s as if they never happened. A sketchbook acts as a mental butterfly net and a physical archive of all of those random thoughts, quirky sightings and everyday experiences that can add up to an inspired idea.

User-Friendly

Unlike using a computer to test out your ideas, sketchbooks allow you to quickly jot down ideas as you have them. So whether you are 30,000 feet in the air, taking a stroll in the park or having lunch at a cafe, the sketchbook allows you to record your ideas. After all, inspiration can strike at just about any time.

No Strings Attached

Ever had a cool concept in your mind but after you lay it out on your computer, the results are not quite as wonderful as you had imagined? Compared to that experience, which is all too common, a sketchbook offers liberation and immediate gratification. An intricate drawing of a fire-breathing dragon that might take a person hours to draw using a computer program, could take mere minutes in a sketchbook. There is no time commitment attached to a quick doodle. Even mistakes are welcome–they often lead to better sketches and ideas. Essentially a sketchbook allows for commitment-free artistic expression.

Treasure Chest

If you sketched out every single thought that popped into your head, your book would be crazy collection of key words, illustrations and concepts. In other words, a repository of ideas–and how often do designers wish they had access to new ideas by simply opening the cover of a book? You’ll be constantly surprised at what you find by flipping through an old sketchbook. Sometimes a day that starts out particularly uninspiring can take a turn for the better by simply revisiting an old scribble from your sketchbook.

Expand Your Horizons

A sketchbook encourages you to challenge your imagination. It enables you to see the world in fuller detail so that when you finally capture the perfect element for your sketchbook, you can express it better in your medium. In fact, after carrying a sketchbook around for a few days, you’ll notice how much clearer ideas become when you are finally ready to work. Keeping a sketchbook can make you a better designer and a better thinker.

The sketchbook is a playground for your creative vision and it’s a more important and effective professional tool than you might think. Personally, I haven’t been without mine since that fateful interview day. As a devoted sketchbook user, here are a couple of summary tips from me to you: The next time you dismiss that silly imaginative idea that popped into your head as insignificant, scribble it down anyway. Make it a practice to draw something at least once a day. Not all doodles are intended to be works of art–but every once in a while, one becomes a masterpiece.

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