Long, long ago, before digital technology began to infiltrate the world of design, promising to simplify the more laborious tasks associated with the discipline, the ability to articulate design solutions merely using pencil and paper was a prerequisite.
Whether taking the form of rough thumbnails generated during a brainstorming session or elaborate renderings for client review, the pencil sketch was the foundation of every design initiative. In its rawest form, it represented the very first visual interpretation of what was previously just a concept floating around in our heads. It served as proof of whether or not the design solution was worth pursuing. In its most refined form, it illustrated, quite literally, how far the design solution could be pushed, and in which direction.
As decision makers on both the agency and client side have become accustomed to the perfectly polished appearance of digitally generated solutions, even at the earliest phases of concept development, perception of the pencil sketch’s function has changed considerably. It has been relegated to the role of a behind-the-scenes proxy that designers use as reference while they develop the refined, digital execution of the design solution.
Now, I do realize that this isn’t necessarily true in all cases.
There are plenty of design agencies that rely on the pencil sketch as an integral part of the design process. In fact, they often view this capability as a competitive advantage and a point of differentiation. Those who do so successfully employ team members with the appropriate skill set; they know which phases of the design process will be more effective when design solutions are presented in pencil. They also know that only the most imaginative of clients will appreciate – and value – the creative freedom and versatility of thinking that can result.
At Design Force, the pencil sketch has always been fundamental to our success and innate to our design process. As many of our clients would attest, our ability to clearly convey design solutions in pencil is one of the most distinguishing and equitable characteristics of our design consultancy. Through our own maturation and experience, we’ve come to understand how and when to best leverage this capability.
In my next post, we’ll take a look at some scenarios where wielding a pencil is most beneficial, and I’ll explain how it can add considerable value to the design process. In the meantime, I’d love to get your feedback on the following:
- If you’ve been fortunate enough to participate in the design process over the last decade or so, whether on the agency or client side, have you noticed a change in the integration or acceptance of the pencil sketch as a format for client presentation? How so?
- What is your perception of the use of pencil sketches to articulate design solutions? Does it seem archaic or passé? Or, is it refreshing to see in contrast to digitally executed solutions?