The importance of sketching and why you should be doing it

Are you sketching? There are so many ways and reasons for journalists and web technologists to sketch that you may be making your work harder by not doing so.

Sketching allows you to share your vision of a project with others early in the design process before you begin working with time-consuming tools like Photoshop, Illustrator, or Flash. For example, in my role as a multimedia producer for California Watch, I sketched my vision for multimedia components during or before talking with the reporter or editors. The sketches — sometimes made on the fly using giant Post-It notes — allowed my colleagues to see exactly what I had in mind and make suggestions and amendments before too much time was sunk into the project.

You don’t have to be an artist to create a sufficient sketch, just an ability to communicate your ideas on paper.

Sketching also helps you get an idea down on paper while it is fresh in your head. If you are the type of person who is constantly sketching new ideas, you should keep a small, unlined notebook (you can’t go wrong with Moleskine) on you at all times to capture the idea when it strikes.

If you have an iPad and nimble fingers, consider iPad apps like Draft ($9.99) that allow you to sketch using your finger and email the results to yourself or anyone else.


I’ve ransacked some of my notebooks to show you the different kinds of projects that benefited from sketches:


Illustration from The Digital Journalist’s Handbook


Interactive Media

California Watch: Comparing student-to-teacher ratio nationwide


Print Design

California Watch contest entry


Web Design

Guide to the U.S. Senate Floor Procedures; Click for full-sized version


Guide to the U.S. Senate Floor Procedures (mobile)


California Watch website


Web designers are already familiar with the sketching process. Wireframing allows web designers to define the structure of a potential website. If you’re interested in upgrading from pen and paper (or napkin) to something more refined, check out Mashable’s list of 10 free wireframing tools. The list includes personal fave Mockingbird which allows anyone to create online sketches and share them with others.

NationWide/NASCAR wireframe by Chris Stevens as featured on Web Design Ledger

As a special treat for reading all the way to the bottom of the post, here is a sketch for an unrealized entry for the New Yorker’s annual Eustace Tilley contest. Happy sketching!

Also on 10,000 Words:
The Mood Board: A designer’s best friend
DVD design: Great menus are great inspiration (Part I)
3 reasons journalists shouldn’t use Flash