Do You Need to Draw to be a Designer?
There is a misconception that to be a good designer you need to have amazing abilities to draw and sketch. This is not true.
In past times it was important to know how to draw because everything had to be designed by hand. They didn’t have access to the vast knowledge and free assets of the internet. These days, design programs and assets like pre made icons make the designer’s life so much easier.
Although drawing will help in some cases, just the ability to sketch out a rough idea is more valuable then a finished, polished drawing. Most designs and drawings are done on the computer anyways although sketching via paper is always the best first step.
Sketch to Communicate
Sketching is to communicate your ideas via a visual medium. No one expects these to be polished. The important part is to get everyone on the same page and to make sure you don’t go with the first idea that comes to mind.
When you have a collection of sketches for a project, you can show them to your team or to the client and get good feedback about what they want and don’t want. You might find out early on that you missed a crucial detail or that they might already love what you come up with.
You also do not have to sketch the whole project at once. Sometimes breaking a huge design into smaller details might lead to better discoveries and designs later on in the process.
If you’re working on branding, you might start with the logo and move on to other pieces once they like the logo.
You might spend a while sketching out the landing page of a website more than you would the about page or the 404 page. Maybe you have a really great idea for the 404 page and sketching it out can lead to good ideas overall.
Also learning how to communicate your designs starts with sketches. If you can’t explain your basic ideas from the sketches, explaining them when they’re even more complex on a program will be harder.
Sketching can also be a good way to bring your team on board. You might start with an idea, pass your notebook to your team member, and they can add in another sketch to help collaboratively bring it to life.
A graphic designer needs to be able to take the time to sketch in order to create good designs. Sketching may not seem that important, especially when you think you already have a GREAT idea! But sketching can lead to some other interesting ideas and it can be very relaxing.
A lot of people use sketching as a form of visual journaling. Sometimes you can draw your feelings better than you have the words for them. And you can turn them into a cool art piece later on.
Sketching Makes Your Life Easier
Plus, I feel sometimes it’s easier to sketch out ideas first, and then scan them into the computer to refine. Illustrator is great for this and especially if you are not familiar with how to use the pen tool or struggle to draw digitally via pen or mouse, scanning in a paper drawing is a great tool.
Plus, it’s great to save your sketches for later on.
Maybe you realized what you first made isn’t turning out how you thought. Well if you have a collection of sketches, you can always refer to that later and try another idea. Or you can sketch out what you already have and work on some quick variations to come up with better solutions.
Or maybe you’re looking for inspiration and ha! You already came up with something brilliant in your sketches.
What we may picture in our heads might not always look the same on paper.
That’s why a quick 20-30 minute sketching session is often recommended before starting projects. Learning how to quickly sketch an idea or multiple variations will aid you later on and help you get started faster.
When sketching becomes second nature, you no longer have to focus on the act itself, but you can instead focus on your designs and getting your project completed faster.
Should I take drawing classes to become a better sketcher?
Drawing would be important if you really wanted to get into illustration and then knowing how to draw by hand or on the computer takes different skills. And if you really wanted to learn how to draw, there are a lot of free resources online these days.
But the ability to draw is different from learning how to sketch. A drawing class might be able to help you get more detailed, correct sketches.
Typically in drawing classes, you’ll learn the basics of drawing. You’ll learn techniques like different ways to shade, how to control your pencils, different hardness of pencils, different ways to draw lines, etc.
You’ll also learn the basics of art and design such as repetition, color, etc.
But you can also learn how to sketch better by practicing.
The easiest way to start practicing is to get a pencil and notepad and start doodling!
You can even practice anywhere you want.
Doodle on a napkin at once, in park while the kids are playing, or on the subway or bus ride home. Maybe it’s late at night and you can’t sleep, pull out the sketchpad and create something.
Draw for Fun
If you’re not looking to make money as an illustrator, there is nothing saying you can’t draw and sketch. Drawing can be a fun relaxing exercise where you focus on the details.
Plus there are all differently kinds of drawing and ways to draw. It can be beneficial later on to bring some of those skills to your sketches, as long as you focus on the communication still.
Sketches are not meant to be final pieces, but drawing can be.
There are lots of drawing tutorials out there and they can be really fun and enlightening to try.
Ideas to Sketch to Get Started
If you’re into web design or user experience, you can start creating wireframes for any project. Wireframes are simple and easy to make via a notebook or on the computer. You can even turn those into 3D paper models or use sticky notes and crayons to get your ideas out.
In case you’re stumbling though on what to sketch here are some ideas to get the juices flowing. I recommend trying to sketch at least once a day.
Get a “365 Things to Draw” sketchbook and doodle a prompt a day
Google drawing prompts online
Take a product or an app you wish could be better and start creating wireframes or sketches for how to improve it
Sketch random objects around you
Ask a friend for something to sketch
Sketch ideas for logos, product designs, websites, etc of things that don’t exist, but maybe you would like to create one day
Sketch a “day in your life”- what’s a problem you’ve been having and how can you use design to solve it?
Sketch an abstract concept like hope or love
Create a sketch around something you heard about in the news
Find a drawing tutorial book or online resource and follow the steps