I wrote this initially as a post to my students - I’m teaching a graphic design course this semester at Rhode Island College, where I studied that subject when I was in school. Heemong, one of my professors in college, always had us start with a minimum of 30 thumbnails of any project we started. Some will say it should be a hundred, some will say it can be less. Some complain that it’s a burden because ‘they can’t draw well.’ But that’s just an excuse, and a condition worsened by not actually doing something to correct it. There are two big reasons to sketch - any time - but particularly at the outset of a new project. First, sketching helps you work through ideas, get the bad ones out of the way and move on, and gives you a visual memory of your explorations. The more you sketch, the more you think, the more your ideas progress. Even if the best one is the third one you drew, there is still tremendous value in furthering the exploration and refining the idea.
The second reason draws on the aspect of ‘memory of an experience and point in time’ - the way you see something right here, right now is different than how you will see it tomorrow, or how someone else saw it yesterday. Roger Ebert wrote a great post about this, and I think it’s important for every thinker to take this to heart, but especially so for designers who are becoming all too used to only thinking behind the mouse. Have a read, and get out your sketchbook.