Design: No School Like the ‘Old School’

By E. Brown

Have you ever seen a graphic designer given a creative project and the first thing they do is hop on the computer and start designing? Have you ever been that person?

The desire of seeing a crisp, clean, almost complete design on the desktop can sure be alluring. But at what price? I just read an article by my friend Duncan, where he told a story about a Creative Director and a Graphic Designer. I’ll let him tell it–

Not long ago I sat at an organization’s conference table with the Creative Director and a young graphic artist. The CD and I passed a legal pad back and forth across the table, sketching in perspective and adding to each other’s ideas, fleshing out the direction of a project. The graphic artist, fresh out of some art school, was astonished by the fact that we could draw. AARGH! How depressing is that? She added what she could to the conversation, but her creative vocabulary and visualization skills were constrained by her purely digital experience; when she offered creative thoughts, she had trouble expressing them verbally or on paper. Sigh…

Turn Off The Computer
I have experienced this same phenomena with contractors and design staff members. I’ve assigned projects and immediately the designer hopped on the computer and start “designing”. I cannot tell you how many times I have encouraged young artists and creatives to get a sketch pad and pencil and start doodling first. It is so much faster to conceptualize numerous ideas on a piece of paper. And you can quickly make changes and combine elements from any of your, loosely sketched, ideas.

Next, I encourage them to grab some color pencils, markers, or watercolors and work out a wide variety of color combinations for their three most interesting ideas. All this without sitting at the computer.

Once you have several design ideas and color studies, then you can take it to the desktop system. You’ll be amazed at how much time you save and how much better your ideas can be.

Sometimes, you need to turn off the computer and get outside or in another room for a while. Reacquaint yourself with sketching, painting and modelling. It is rewarding to see how simple yet profound this exercise can be. After a while it will become part of your workflow and the allure of pushing pixels around before pushing a pencil will become a thing of the past. Like the quote from the animated movie The Incredibles®, “there’s no school like the old school.”

Other Articles
Start A Creativity Journal
“Squiggles” Creativity Exercise

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3 thoughts on “Design: No School Like the ‘Old School’

  1. There is no substitute for the “slow” method of conceptualizing. It’s interesting to see the recent resurgence of interest in drawing and of its possibilities – this is demonstrated by an increase in museum block-busters on the topic of “Drawing”. Drawing, to draw and to make marks has been my abiding passion!

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