Module 2

Introduce | Learn | Apply


Topic 1 | Topic 2 | Topic 3

Read the material below and any additional resources listed for this lesson..

Topic 1:Rapid Visualization Tools

The use of simple pencil and pen lines to create design drawings is one of the most powerful methods of communicating ideas to clients. The designer needs to imply lots of information in a quick simplistic manner. The best way to accomplish this task is by using one of the most basic methods of drawing called OUTLINE DRAWING. The use of OUTLINE drawing is the most common method of preliminary design sketching. Most designers use it but don't often understand how to make their drawings look more professional.

funnel, block, can and ball drawn in sepia tone pencil

Simple pencil line drawing using overlapping objects and thick and thin lines to add depth and style

In design drawing almost all designers attempt to use sketching to communicate information to clients. But designers don't often give the client a full picture of the CONCEPT or IDEA because they forget to add notes, arrows, line thickness for light and shade and a variety of other simple techniques that can enhance a thumbnail sketch. As designers, the rapid visualization of ideas is our goal in the beginning of our design process. We want to communicate quickly and effectively ideas that clients can readily understand, comment on and make decisions about. Those client based choices become the stepping stones to finished works as designers. Without feedback, designers seldom can move forward. Learning to sketch is simply a matter of practice and following a few rules. In the next topic we will explore the use of outline sketches to create design drawings for a variety of design occupations.

cans plus details

Use of simple shaded drawing technique to model the objects and create a 3D effect.

Outline drawings can be used in the most rudimentary ways for IDEATION, NOTATION and COMMUNICATION.

IDEATION is the driving force behind all design drawing. You need to draw multiple thumbnail sketches on a single page and develop the ideas to explore design concepts. Don't draw one large idea and think you got it right the first time. Even pro's continue to think with a pencil, long after they have reached professional status. My designs go through multiple iterations before I'm happy with them and certainly before the client signs off on them. Look at the example of the designs for Foothill College's 50th anniversary that a student began to develop BEFORE she went to the computer and did a digital mockup in Adobe Illustrator. The more you think, the more you should draw and try to capture those ideas on paper.

logo sketches

Student thumbnail concept drawings for logo design contest

Simple conceptual design notation begins with Mind Maps or word games to stimulate creativity.

mindmap 2

MInd map for an apple sales campaign

mind maps

Complex mind map for winter travel poster to Hawaii

NOTATION is the method of adding notes to idea drawings for better communication.

Notation with sketches

Student thumbnail sketch with notation

notes with sketches

Student thumbnail with extensive notation

COMMUNICATION is best accomplished by organizing IDEATION and NOTATION in a way that is most effective.

hammer skeches with notations

Student progressive design thumbnail with notation

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Topic 2: Standardization of Drawing Methods

As creative artists, working as designers, we need to remember that we need generate tons of ideas and the best way to organize them is by standardization of methods.

Use the same size paper as often as possible. I often use 8.5 x11 or 11x17 since they are both easily converted to smaller and larger sizes with copy shops and I can print it out at home of my HP or Epson large format printers if I decide to digitize the drawings or use WACOM tablets to enhance my drawings with digital tools.

Save you work in file folders. Be organized and file things using a reliable system to find the drawings. For years I had stacks of drawings, blueprints, sketches and designs in boxes in my garage. It became insane to try to find references for jobs I'd done before that I needed to go back and rework for the client. I found that by purchasing a few oversized folders, I could organize everything into 11x17 file boxes for future reference. It saved me hours of time and made me a lot more in commissions because I could work faster and more effectively.

Use simple drawing techniques to communicate. Remember a SCRIBBLE drawing with notes is faster and more helpful then a badly done traditional drawing without any notes at all. Don't get into using all sorts of fancy techniques yet. Concentrate on getting good at one or two in the early part of this course. You will improve you drawings and your design presentations will be filled with confidence because you are able to quickly sketch in front of clients and make instant changes with a few strokes. You will amaze your friends.

For fun, go out and buy a game called PICTIONARY and practice with a few of your design friends. Its a game that is based in quick sketches that communicate a lot of information in a few strokes. Sound silly? TRY IT! You will be stunned at how hard it is at first, but you get better fast and you will pick up tricks from others in the game!


Practice the scribble types of strokes below on paper. Don't just look at them. A picture is worth a thousand words, but YOU need to draw a few pictures to get good at drawing. SO DRAW DRAW DRAW! SCRIBBLE SCRIBBLE SCIBBLE>

pen strokes styles

Hatching techniques for pencil and pen.

Be consistent in paper orientation for design drawing and keep each set of drawing in the same vertical or horizontal format. It's easier to work with clients and looks more professional. I rarely use a sketch book anymore, I find it cumbersome and hard to find drawings that i need for any particular client. I tend to use single sheets of paper, easy to scan, easy to copy and easy to file and retrieve. No messy ripped edges and bond paper is super cheap at 500 sheets for a just few bucks!

Limit your drawing tools to those that you can use well and use quickly. This course focuses on using mostly pencils, pens and markers combined with simple cheap paper to create design drawings in a standardized method that will allow you to create design concepts quickly and effectively. we are not making archival fine art work yet. Design drawings are usually quick and simple. Consistent drawing style, paper size, pen or pencil strokes, hand written notes, progressive stages of development and content framing are the keys to effective rapid visualization of concept sketches.

Practice drawing using different pen and pencil strokes in an ordered systematic method on paper. Create small rectangles and fill them in with a variety of strokes.

pen strokes styles 2

Student pencil stroke variation practice sheet

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Topic 3 Examples of Design Drawings

In this section we will explore the some types of line strokes that professionals use for creative exploration of ideas.

Here are a few design drawings for you to think about:

The first one is a set of page layout thumbnails for magazine layout. You'll do a few of these in the latter modules

Page Layout Thumbnails

This one is a sheet of composite thumbs for the College's 50th anniversary design competition by a student in GID 70

Logo thumbnail composite drawings

This is a composite sheet of designs for liquor bottle done for a company called Ballantine by Michael Peters LTD in London. A team of 4 designers + an art director did the group of sketches. This is a stage ONE level sketching and brainstorming session for design development.

Quick Sketches


  1. Design drawings can be simple and often use a variety of strokes
  2. Design drawings don't use shaded techniques in the same manner of fine art drawing.
  3. Study the 7 stroke techniques below and practice drawing them on paper before you attempt to do the homework assignments.

7 strokes techniques to use - sheet  1

Line drawing, Contour lines, Parallel lines, Crosshatching lines

7 strokes techniques 2

Stippling lines, wavy lines, scribble lines, crisscross lines

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Topic 4: Example of Contour drawing methods:

In blind outline or contour drawing, try to outline the objects from memory on paper without looking at the paper. Then try another version while looking only at the paper and not the object. Don't worry, you don't need to upload these "blind contour exercises".

In the third try, look at the object and then back to the paper. In this way, you will train your mind to remember what you saw, your eyes to see better and you hands to follow what your eye saw and you mind remembers. It is a time tested method of learning how to sketch and draw using what is called the OBSERVATIONAL method of drawing and wonderful things happen to your skills as you practice this technique over and over again. In DESIGN DRAWING, we use research photos, web images, photo copy images, and out own memory or " recalled mind prints" of what things look like. The problem most young designers get into when trying to sketch is that they have NOTHING to refer to. They try to sketch an object and don't really have a clear image in mind from memory, or a resource to use for the sketch.

NOTE: It helps to build a morgue of images to use for each project. I often will use the WWW to snatch images into a file for visual references BEFORE I start sketching. Try it. I works really well and you get used to using one of the major tricks of the trade called "RESEARCH FILES". Its not really a trick, it's just what we all do! So you should do it too!

Remember: DESIGN DRAWINGS are usually some type of outline drawing technique (and there are many types that we will explore) with added hatching and notes. So begin to really understand how to do both outline and contour drawing and don't use anything else for the time being and your sketches will improve if you practice. Remember that a pen method works really well and a pencil doesn't reproduce as well with repro methods such as scanning or digital photo copy.

coke bottle outline drawing

Example of blind contour drawing.

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What Next?

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