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The Eternal Debate

I was reading an article in the September issue (focusing on Education) of I.D. about the tools that some renowned professionals used to work with at school and the ones they use now. Obviously, and invariably, they all said they couldn’t live without paper and pencil in school and now they all mention the computer as an indispensable tool. This article set off a few thoughts/questions that you have probably heard already, but I’m writing them down anyway:

: : Is it so bad to sketch on a computer? why?

: : I have never done a single sketch when designing a web site, but I can not start to design a logo without sketching first.

: : Concepts are the basis of design, are concepts easier to come by when sketching?

: : It’s the year 2002. Would you hire a designer that has over 20 years experience, worked with some of the best designers in America and creates beautiful design but can not use the software needed to get things produced, and requires a personal designer to “help” him/her get the job done?

: : I know, that was a long question.

: : My friend Tom already posed this question could the good use of design software be considered a craft? why not? it requires skills and talent that not everybody has.

: : I probably don’t sketch as much as I should, but I never wonder “what if I had sketched?” because I really don’t have good drawing skills. So far, the computer is my BEST tool. Let me clarify, my MAC is my BEST tool.

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PUBLISHED ON Aug.29.2002 BY Armin
Armin’s comment is:

Anybody want to comment on this?

On Oct.16.2002 at 02:29 PM
Jon’s comment is:

Ok, here's a comment:

I absolutely have to sketch on paper when concepting for an identity. I often do rough sketching when working on packaging assignments, more just to get the idea out, less about formal layout.

I'm a big believer in the sketch process. I find that the computer allows things to look too perfect when you are sketching on it, and therefore it is easy to get lost in the details. If I sketch, say, a spirally background on paper, then in my mind, I know what I'm going for, even if it looks very far from reality. If I am sketching the same thing on the computer, I have a harder time seeing it as a sketch, and instead start worrying about curves and beziér curves. Suddenly, I've spent 2 hours making the perfect spiral and I don't even know what the rest of the idea is. So, working on paper allows my mind to focus on ideation, whereas working on the computer puts me closer into the act of creation even if the idea isn't fully formed.

I also believe that sketching on the computer makes the end product more a result of the tools available in that particular program. Why do you think swooshes became so prevalent in the past 6 years? Because you can overlap 2 elliptical forms and subtract one from the other in Illustrator's Pathfinder palette. Voila! Swoosh. (and I'm not talking Nike here...)

In the end, when it comes to actually creating design work and working out final drawings of a logo, there's no place I'd rather be than on my G4, but I need to be freed from it's constraints when I'm concepting.

On Oct.17.2002 at 09:41 AM
Armin’s comment is:

>I find that the computer allows things to look too perfect when you are sketching on it, and therefore it is easy to get lost in the details.

Like choosing color. I'll admit it, sometimes I get caught up in trying to decide on a damn PMS and spend two hours on that.

I do think too, that there is no substitute for a good sketchpad, but as designers become more computer-savvy, or dependant (whatever you wanna call it) it is probable that it will be a thing of the past. I had a stage where I was a non-believer of sketching, thank god that passed! I still don't sketch as much as I should or wanted to, but nowadays with clients asking for an end product with such tight deadlines it's hard to find the time to just sketch and think. Plus, if I showed a client a sketch, we would probably get fired, it's a shame, because you could show them more ideas in less time, but they just can't seem to visualize it.

On Oct.18.2002 at 08:40 AM
Jon’s comment is:

>they just can't seem to visualize it

The computer has been the greatest and worst development when it comes to client presentations. Sure, you can whip up a bang-zoom show and wow them with fancy animations, graphics, big printouts and full-color mockups. Unfortunately, this has led to the client expecting to know EXACTLY what it looks like before willing to commit to it. I was recently reading through Paula Scher's new book (it's good, she rocks), and was struck by how she used to sketch out a record cover, sell it to the client, THEN commission the illustration and final lettering. I'm sure the sketches were somewhat tight, but there's still room for interpretation.

Reiterating my point from the last post, clients see color printouts and they start reacting to typeface choices and colors, not concepts. Even the smart clients can get caught in this.

I wish I had the answer to this conundrum. I've often considered adding the sketch process to my client presentations: in selling an idea for an identity, I would actually sketch the logo in front of them, talking through my concept as I went, THEN revealing the nicely colored printout. What do you think of this?

On Oct.18.2002 at 09:45 AM
Armin’s comment is:

>sketch the logo in front of them, talking through my concept as I went, THEN revealing the nicely colored printout. What do you think of this?

I like it. They'd probably think you are crazy. But it would be a nice exercise to teach clients about our process, and how a logo doesn't appear by magic.

On Oct.18.2002 at 09:50 AM
Armin’s comment is:

>Paula Scher's new book (it's good, she rocks)

No doubt about that : )

On Oct.18.2002 at 09:50 AM
Jon’s comment is:

hey, how 'bout a thread on design/typography books that are out these days?

On Oct.20.2002 at 05:02 PM