What is Design Drawing?

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Topic 1 | Topic 2 | Topic 3

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Topic 1 - Materials in Design Drawing:

All materials used in fine art drawing are fair game to use in concept and design drawing. Most design, concept and preliminary drawings start out as thumbnail sketches using pencils or pens and evolve to more finished drawings depending on the project and method of communication with the client. Most of our work in this course will use pencils, pens and some colored pencils and conte. You may also use digital pens and digital tablets if you already own or have them but they are not required for success in this class. Other then digitizing your images and drawings for upload to ETUDES, all the work can be done with very inexpensive pencils and pens on regular BOND drawing paper. I often use simple standard printer paper for most of my sketches and drawings, although I sometimes use bristol board 3 ply papers and an assortment of other materials for more finished work or when I use water based media.

I suggest you use flair or pentel pens for most of your exercises to eliminate the desire to erase. It's fine to turn in work that is sketchy. If fact 80% of the work in this class is about sketching, not the other type of drawing called "FINE ART" drawing!

Learning to draw like a designer is like learning to communicate all over again. Design drawing uses many of the methods and the rules of standard or traditional fine art drawing but adds a few new ones to follow. Read on to discover what designers do to make themselves and their drawing better understood. As we progress throughout the quarter, you will see many examples of design drawings in multiple career fields. You will begin to recognize the difference between fine art drawing, illustration and concept and design drawings. Reading chapter one will give you a great basis for all the drawing materials you will need to complete mind maps, thumbnail concept drawings preliminary drawings, and final comprehensive drawings

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Topic 2 - Types of Design Drawings

There are at least four stages or levels of design drawings:

  • concept thumbnails
  • concept roughs
  • preliminary drawings
  • final comprehensive drawings

Concept Thumbnails are usually small sketches made in random fashion using pencil or a pen. Thumbnail drawing sheets usually have several small sketches on a single sheet of paper with design notations, color notes, size and material notes and any other doodle notes that help to communicate the message of the concept. You might wind up drawing all over these in a design meeting as I often do, so I sometimes make xerox copies and keep a back up set, just in case. Example of thumbnail logo sketches:

Image of Biotrekker logo sketches in pencil

Thumbnails of BIOTREKKER© logo design

Concept roughs are larger drawings with less notes and more finish. They are often a half sheet of paper and are a refinement of thumbnails after meeting with the client for the first set of design meetings. As computers become more sophisticated, these can be done in software, but often take a ton of time. Since they are usually tossed into a pile of other roughs, I use traditional media for the most part up to and including this stage of drawing

Preliminary drawings tend to be more finished and combine the best of all the changes and adjustments you made to the concept roughs, after the thumbnail stage. These can be done with traditional media or digital media or a combination of both as a hybrid drawing style.

Final comprehensive drawings can be hand drawn or done on a computer or done in a hybrid style. They represent the last stage of your drawing process and are as finished as you desire them to be for your clinet.


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Topic 3- The Role of Sketching in the Design Process
by Sean Hodge

Read a bit of the the article below by Sean Hodge, in an edited format or better yet, click the link and read the full article online to see ALL the great images and get the full impact of his words.

Link to the full article with images:

As a tool or skill, sketching has its role in the design process. That role will vary depending on the end-product being created, the size and scope of the project, the individual designer's style, experience, and workflow, and the client's expectations. Find out more about how sketching is used in the design process within multiple design disciplines.
Author: Sean Hodge

The role of sketching in digital art varies depending on if your creating Web sites, identities, illustrations, product concepts, or other designs. An illustration or a logo is likely to need more sketching than a web site.

A large project with a significant client budget will benefit from sketching throughout the design process. This makes sure that before massive amounts of time are invested on refining a solution, a direction is first agreed upon with the client. Sketching can start loose, beginning with basic concepts. Then work on compositions or layouts. After those directions are chosen, the concepts can further be refined with detailed sketching.
5 Uses for Sketching in Design

There are multiple uses for sketching in the design process. Below is a review of five categories of uses with examples and links.

1. Rapid Concept Development

Sketching is an excellent way to quickly explore concepts. You can sketch for one or two hours and work out multiple possible solutions to the design problem at hand. This is an essential step in the design process. It will save you time to work through concepts on paper before going to the computer. While it is possible to build sketches on the computer, it's not as fast as sketching multiple concepts on paper.

Product designers spend a lot of time sketching. If you're going to design the next sport shoe, piece of furniture, or bike, the idea doesn't start in a computer, it starts on paper.

2. Basic Composition or Layout

Sketches are a quick way to create the basic composition of your illustration. They are also used in Web site design and graphic design to quickly evaluate layout choices. You can make a series of thumbnail sketches, or they can be larger. As long as your sketches are good enough that they capture the necessary elements, drawing skill is unnecessary.

Web Design from Scratch is a well-known Web site that offers practical advice on building Web sites. In the article The Complete No-Nonsense Guide to Designing Web sites, the author has this to say about pencil sketching layouts: "The quick pencil sketch just helps me quickly record the likeness of what I've visualized in my head. Then I don't forget and can make it up quickly in Photoshop. I find this way of working a lot more efficient than starting off in Photoshop."

3. Client Communication and Approval

Showing sketched thumbnails or compositions to clients, will potentially save you an enormous amount of time. The more detailed the project will be the earlier you want client approval. If you're going to spend hours on an illustration, you want to make sure the client is in agreement with your choice of design before moving forward. Getting thumbnail approvals from clients is a common part of the illustration process. It is also common on large logo design projects and other projects as well.

4. Visual Exploration

Sketching can be used as a journal activity to record and explore your interests. It can also be used to explore multiple options you could take in a particular design.


Sketching can be used as a journal activity to record and explore your interests. It can also be used to explore multiple options you could take in a particular design.

4 Refining Visual Solutions

The process of creating a design or illustration at later stages involves refinement. The overall concept and direction of the piece may be working great, but one element isn't. Often, this can be tightened up and corrected in further rounds of sketching. Of course, at some point a digital artist moves to the computer. The process of sketching then moves into digital drafts.

You may feel the desire to skip sketching and jump straight to the computer or work out your solutions as digital sketches. There is nothing wrong with that, especially for your own experimental work. There is no quicker method for exploring multiple visual solutions than sketching though. Try to weigh the advantages of sketching in regards to the project at hand.

Hand-drawn sketching plays an important role in the digital arts. The larger a project is, and the more concepts a client will need to see, the more sketching will prove its worth in your design process. Consider using rough sketches for composition or layout options in your next project. Or push yourself to do another handful of thumbnail sketches before firing up Photoshop.

We will discuss ways to incorporate hand sketches in your digital layouts later on in the course.

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