01 / Article

See that sketchbook? Keep it with you

Justin Brown
Justin Brown
4 min read

Your brain processes a ridiculous amount of information, daily. That data may be an image, a conversation with your Creative Director, or a strategy you are thinking of at the time. Sadly, almost all ideas find a way to slip through the cracks, if left on the back-burner. The best way to commit these to memory, is to record them in your sketchbook!

Keep one with you

I always have a book on hand. One in my car, one in my work bag, one at home, and a small Moleskin in my wallet. You never know when that great idea will strike, so it's always nice to be ready when it does. It's also fun to take your sketchbook out when you are with friends or family to draw and generate ideas. You never know what you may come up with when you are with enjoyable company!

For example, I find it striking how often I come up with a viable concept out of thin air, over an after-work beer with the team. Cocktail napkins only get you so far, and computers are too risky to have at the bar.

Now, you may ask: "why not digital?" Digital is good, too, particularly if you have an iPad (or similar) with a stylus. But, you waste precious seconds fumbling around with cables, applications, et cetera. Instead, being able to jump right into an idea and iterate on it, yields the best results. Apart from some sci-fi solution, it's very hard to replace the agility of pen to paper.

Others take these concepts very literally. One of our favorite artists at Vulcan, Bobby Chiu, runs a hardcore group of sketchers in the Toronto area. They dedicate their daily commutes on the subway to filling up as many life sketches as possible. As a result, their individual skills have grown immensely! This has been the catalyst of some of them getting jobs with the likes of Disney, Pixar, and other large studios.


How I work with my sketchbook

As a Brand Designer it's important for me to always have a place for my ideas. When we get a new client or project I will always start planning in my sketchbook. From UI iteration to logo design, pencil is the quickest way to explore options.

I first start by crushing out ideas for an hour or two, or, until I've exhausted the concept, then I take a break. Periodic rests are important when it comes to sketching, as your brain and hand both need a breather. Coming back to your ideas after, can help with getting a new perspective, on your task. More often than not, you see details and various options you may have missed or forgotten. Usually these breaks are a good time to stretch and grab some tea!

No matter the type of materials I'm working on in my sketchbook, I always try to use simple geometry. This is key to maximizing the speed of your efforts. Akin to how I wireframe digitally, I box-out typographic layouts and logo lockups. Only then, do I start packing in detail and elaborating on my hypotheses. More often than not, this yields the cleanest solutions. And, of course, visual hygiene is ideal when we will ultimately need to bring this into a digital space.

Go get one already!

You should have sketchbook for every facet of your day-to-day. I recommend going out and getting a couple, they're inexpensive. Places to keep your ideas are a must, if you are a designer looking to grow. As long as you are sketching you are in the green. Let your creative thoughts roll from your fingertips to your pencil.