How To Draw Inspiration

“Drawing is putting a line around an idea.” 

Henri Matisse

The Scenario

“Ok, so I need five conceptual directions by Monday. They can be rough, just be prepared to discuss your thoughts when we meet again.”

You and another colleague have been given your marching orders from the Creative Director. You will be working together to come up with at least five concepts for a campaign, with not a lot of time to do it. After sitting back down at your desk, you open Photoshop, thinking you’ll start there. You convince yourself, “I already have a couple pretty solid ideas, I can go straight to layout. Save a little time.”

A few hours pass and you realize that one idea seems to be coming along pretty nicely. However, your second idea is failing and you’re not sure how it can be saved. You then get up to go make a cup of coffee, thinking it might clear your mind in the process. On the way back to your desk, you see about a dozen ideas sketched out on paper laying on your colleagues desk. In fact, several of those ideas are great in comparison to your one. You feel defeated. You’re left wondering if you’ll have enough good ideas to show at the next meeting.

Scenario Analysis

What went wrong in this scenario? It’s simple: one person went straight to the computer, the other went for the paper. While many people concept perfectly fine while going immediately to layout, there are lots of us who benefit from the initial exploration of ideas by putting pencil (or Sharpie) to paper.

The creative process is highly individual, but there are observable trends. According to a 2014 survey published by the American Society of Landscape Architects, sketching proves to be a popular and productive choice: “46 percent of respondents love to sketch, 31 percent prefer to work on a computer, and 23 percent favor a ‘hybrid approach,’ using the ‘computer for efficiency’ and the ‘hand for creativity,’ as one respondent put it.” In this study, we see a clear majority of participants who view sketching as the best path to creative productivity.

Below are a few arguments in favor of sketching that applies to anyone in the creative process:

It Saves Time

Say you have a poster concept involving a guy walking on the roof of a car parked on a busy New York street, with an elephant sticking its head out of a window next to him. In order to quickly illustrate this idea, you could track down an image of a man walking towards you, the front view of a car, an elephant’s head and a city street and isolate them and comp together in Photoshop. Or you could just simply draw a stick figure and a few lines and ovals to represent the rest of the scene. Your choice.

It Frees the Mind

Sketching separates you from all the other distractions that could slow you down or take you out of the creative process. There’s no computer to crash, system updates, or forgotten software shortcuts. There’s just a pen and paper. And limitless possibilities.

Anyone Can Do It!

There is a misconception that only artists can draw. Or should draw. But that’s one of the worst traps we can fall into. I have news for you: your doodles can help illustrate an idea just as clearly as a more expertly crafted, “better” drawing can. So, don’t be afraid.

It Allows for Open Interpretation

When designing on the computer, one of the pitfalls we can run in to is getting locked down in an exact visual direction when presenting to a client. Oftentimes we work under tight deadlines, and when clients see finished layouts, we may not have been able to put as much time into them as we had liked. But, once the client sees those layouts, they will make judgements that will then determine the fate of the project – with no turning back. It’s best to keep a more open dialogue in the early stages… by using sketches.

So, next time you’re tasked with coming up with ideas for a new project, try reaching for the pen instead of the mouse. You might be pleasantly surprised. 

For more inspiration, learn how our creative director fosters a creative environment.