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Why the Design Process Starts with Paper and Pencil

October 7th, 2016

In a world with lightning-fast technology at the touch of our fingertips, it’s hard to resist using the latest programs and gadgets to quickly execute professional designs. While these tools definitely help in the execution stage of a design, they should be avoided until after a clear idea has been developed. Jumping straight into a design on the computer often limits creativity and increases the amount of time spent on working out just one idea. By starting the design process with paper and pencil first, valuable time can be spent exploring different options and developing a strong concept before bringing it to life.

Keep it Simple

Creating new and interesting ideas in a timely manner can often be daunting for creatives. However, when starting the design process on paper, ideas are more likely to come naturally.  This is because there are no rules during the brainstorming phase. Sketches are normally quick and rough and do not have to be detailed or perfect. They are stripped away from online distractions and can be documented in a sketchbook or journal to take on the go. Starting with a page full of average ideas will later help to discover one perfect idea. Then, and only then, should a design be fully executed.

Tips for Getting Started

  • Start with a word bank – Write down as many words as you can think of that relate to the project. These can be adjectives that describe the client’s brand or words that describe the mood of the project. (Helpful, reliable, energetic, cheerful, etc) Writing a list of related words will help to inform the visuals later in the design process.
  • Sketch as many ideas as you can – Even if there are only minor differences between each idea, be sure to document them all on paper. Creating a goal of fifty different concepts will push for new and unexpected ideas. In this stage, quantity is key. You have to work through the really bad ideas to get to the good ones.
  • Don’t overthink it – During the brainstorming phase, it’s easy to get caught up on one idea. To keep your mind open, try sketching while listening to music or having a conversation. Give yourself enough time to get the idea on paper, but then move on. Returning to the earlier ideas with a fresh mind will give you a new perspective.
  • Trust the process – Great concepts are hardly ever created on the first try, so make sure there is time devoted to work through them. Starting a design on paper lets you work through the bumps in the road before turning good ideas into better designs.

See the process for yourself! Here are some of our early sketches for our latest branding project for RapidRPA.

Stefanie Osmond

Stefanie is Springboard's graphic designer and creative problem solver. Beyond her desk, she spends her time crafting, trying out new dinner recipes, watching competitive baking competitions, and sipping on tea.

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