“A picture is worth a thousand words”

– Napoleon Bonaparte (August 15th 1769 – May 5th 1821)

The importance of images can never be diminished. While viewing an image engages the audience with instant understanding, sketching ideas opposed to writing them often allows exploration in directions potentially unconsidered via text alone.

As with the earlier brainstorming technique, sketching has been encouraged throughout my education, and is now inherent to my own practical process. Subsequent to completing the brainstorm I begun sketching relating to the chosen subject ‘geometry’, exploring the areas previously identified. Unlike brainstorming, sketching offers me a continual thought path to follow. This more constrained approach allows me to thoroughly explore my channels of thought potentially overlooked with a less linear strategy. By following an organised procedure I was able to progress with the Practice 1 assignment.

Initial Sketches

The initial sketches are rough and potentially lack interest to the audience. Unfortunately when embarking on the primary sketches for this project I begun to suffer again from ‘sketching anxiety’. In the previous months when there has been little pressure to undertake sketching exercises I have been able to sketch freely without direction. However, upon setting myself the task to begin with the fundamental sketches for the project I was unable to move the thoughts and images from my head to a tangible form. Until researching for this blog I believed I was alone in my inability to perform under pressure due to anxiety, but this sketching situation is shared by others. Jonni expressed similar concerns within their blog, detailing how fear prevents us from expressing the creative side held in our brain.1 I have since identified myself as a shy sketcher. It is a physical struggle for me to sketch in public as I believe others are constantly judging my efforts.2 Despite my fears, I believe sketching is fundamental to the artist process and the only way for me to fully access a project.

When sketching I have a preferred set of equipment honed through years of practice.

Firstly, I always use sketchbooks small enough to fit in my bag, this allows me to sketch in the spare time I have available commuting and previously while working in the call centre. I found occupying part of my mind partially with repetitive tasks, for example selling call packages, I was able to sketch without the anxiety of the achievement of the drawings.

Next I always use 2B pencils, chosen through my experience of being soft enough to allow freedom and shading techniques however not too soft to smudge. I do not trust myself with the elegant clutch pencils previously used by my fellow students.

Caran D’ache clutch pencil

Anon. 2011. Caran D’ache Clutch Pencil. [electronic print] Available at: <http://www.artsupplies.co.uk/img_item/cd_clutch_pencil_1.jpg&gt; [Accessed 30th Novemeber 2011].

Throughout my own sketching exercises I chose to investigate why we sketch, what others achieve from sketching and their approach.

The majority of designers believe sketching is necessary to the process of design. Douglas Bonneville advocates sketching is fundamental to the generation of ideas amongst graphic designers. Bonneville states the designer will struggle without rudimentary sketching skills. While it may not be necessary to form beautiful sketches for every project, without the ability to quickly transfer your thoughts onto paper you will hinder yourself, both through university and in real life client situations.3

Glen Elkins suggests taking sketch breaks instead of mindlessly surfing the internet to “untangle [his] brain”. Here Elkins relates the therapeutic side of sketching, demonstrating the freedom it can deliver, provided you avoid sketching anxiety!4

Furthermore Web designer Ash Smith suggests sketching to identify and prevent future mistakes. I agree with this method to quickly test out multiple ideas.5

Tsutsumi questions why we sketch. Many of the points raise within the post agree with the reasons for my own sketching.6

While researching I encountered a variety of sketching styles, from the neat and meticulously finished to rough working sketches.

Daniela, D., 2011. Summer Sketchbook Day 6. [electronic print] Available at: <http://lh6.ggpht.com/-lpmWqdzhPEU/TjfH3KxyOkI/AAAAAAAABPA/52ehPvtr0Q8/Summer%252520sketchbook%252520pear_thumb%25255B2%25255D.jpg&gt; [Accessed 30th November 2011].

Adolfsson, M., n.d. 12 Horsepowers. [electronic print] Available at: <http://www.mattiasadolfsson.se/sketchbookpages/12horsepowers.html&gt; [Accessed 30th November 2011].

It is reassuring to read other designers and artists still sketch and we haven’t moved to an entirely digital age. As discussed, Elkins suggests sketching as an alternative to the digital. Similarly following a post on the Smashing Website relating to the combination of digital and analogue techniques recently, many comments relate to the importance of sketching and how it is still refreshing to see sketching and analogue techniques as a feasible alternative to digital output.7

“these digital tools approximate their analog parents”.8

– Douglas Bonneville, 2010


Many of us were encouraged to sketch, throughout school, throughout University. Previously a chore, it is possible to now understand why we were forced to sketch. By continually accessing this process of searching for solutions to creative problems by sketching them out we develop an affinity with sketching and eventually it becomes a natural tool to utilise when approaching a project.

I made the decision to proceed via sketching based on past experience, what others are doing and how I believe the best way will be to achieve the desired outcome.

By sketching out ideas it is possible to quickly understand how an idea will appear to the audience. This is an accepted method for generating new ideas as you can appreciate how your ideas will appear and also distribute them in order to receive feedback.

These ideas are evaluated firstly through your own judgement; by having intuition into which direction you wish to take with the sketching you can assess your own work to decide whether or not it is achieving your required goal. Secondly the ideas can be evaluated by your peers, potential clients, tutors, any exterior person. Unlike written work it is far easier for someone else to appreciate and quickly respond to sketching.

Following the initial sketching stage of my investigation I will analyse those which appear successful or achieve the desired outcomes, set by both the project brief and my own study proposal before developing them further into a potential body of work. I follow advice from my tutors, fellow designers and compare my work to that of others in order to assess the best possible route for progression.


1. Jonni., 2010. Fear of Drawing? Sculpture Anxiety? Creative Block? Ultimate Paper Mache. [online] Available at: <http://ultimatepapermache.com/random-thoughts/fear-of-drawing&gt; [Accessed 30th November 2011].

2. Sandor, A., 2006. Sketching for Shy. Art-SX. [online]. Available at: ,http://www.art-sx.co.uk/content/view/473/200/&gt; [Accessed 30th Novemeber].

3. Bonneville, D., 2010. Why Graphic Designers Should Learn to Draw. Bonfx. [blog] Available at: <http://bonfx.com/why-graphic-designers-should-learn-to-draw/&gt; [Accessed 29th November 2011].

4. Elkins, G., 2011. Why I Take Sketch Breaks Instead of Surfing the Internet. Lifehacker. [blog] Available at: <http://lifehacker.com/5854926/why-i-take-sketch-breaks-instead-of-internet-surfing&gt; [Accessed 31st October 2011].

5. Smith, A., 2011. Why I Sketch (It’s all in the UX). [online] Available at: <http://ashsmith.co/2011/06/why-i-sketch-its-all-in-the-ux/#.TvCPaiM9VYg&gt; [Accessed 29th November 2011].

6. Tsutsumi, D., 2007. Why Do We Sketch? SimpleStroke Blog; Art of Dice Tsutsumi. [online] Available at: <http://www.simplestroke.com/wp/?p=64&gt; [Accessed 28th November 2011].

7. Mottram, D., 2011. Mixing Up Illustration: Combining Analogue and Digital Techniques. Smashing Magazine. [online] Available at: <http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2011/12/07/mixing-up-illustration-combining-analog-and-digital-techniques/&gt; [Accessed 7th December 2011].

8. Bonneville, D., 2010. Why Graphic Designers Should Learn to Draw. Bonfx. [blog] Available at: <http://bonfx.com/why-graphic-designers-should-learn-to-draw/&gt; [Accessed 29th November 2011].

Further Reading

Additional reading of interest surrounding the importance of the image

O’Hagan, S., 2010. Writing and photography – is a picture really worth a thousand words? The Guardian. [online] Wednesday 4th August 2010. Available at: <http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2010/aug/04/writing-about-photography-robert-adams&gt; [Accessed 29th November 2011].

Beakes, G., 2003. A picture is worth a thousand words. A personal view of using images in the teaching of the biological sciences. Bioscience Education. Volume 1. Issue 1. [online] Available at: <http://www.bioscience.heacademy.ac.uk/journal/vol1/beej-1-3.aspx&gt; [Accessed 29th Novemeber 2011].

Bonneville, D., 2010. Should Graphic Designers Know How to Draw or Not?. Bonfx. [blog] Available at: <http://bonfx.com/should-graphic-designers-know-how-to-draw-or-not/&gt; [Accessed 29th November 2011].

Bonneville, D., 2009. Every good graphic design starts with a good drawing. Bonfx. [blog] Available at: <http://bonfx.com/every-good-graphic-design-starts-with-a-good-drawing/&gt; [Accessed 29th November 2011].