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It Started With A Sketch

Continuning our discussions around craftmanship, Designer turned Senior Account Executive, Calandra Pavey makes a case for the humble pen and paper. 

It is true that modern design studios depend highly on their software when it comes to creating finished, polished creative work, and that the use of digital tools presents a wealth of possibility when trying to create bigger and bolder concepts. But so many of these concepts still start with someone sat in front of a sketch pad with a marker in their hand, or a group gathered around a table scrawling on flip charts and sheets of paper. This process presents ideas in a format that is loose and adaptable, it opens the door to alternative interpretations, sparking ideas that can grow organically into something brilliant.

By delving a little deeper into of the work currently being generated by creative types, one can often find that lying in their foundations is a tiny doodle on the corner of a napkin, or a scribble on a beer mat. Some of the world’s most highly recognised brand identities started with a sketch. The iconic Starbucks logo started life as a doodle inspired by a wood cut of a Norse two-tailed mermaid.


Whilst social site Pinterest took pencil in hand to modify digital fonts with soft, appealing curves and unique characteristics.


Even when considering today’s animated blockbusters, the majority have fully embraced digital software in order to create masterful pieces of film. Yet some of today’s most beautiful and loved animation is still generated from an infrastructure of sketches. The work of Hayao Miyazaki is an excellent example, with films such as Spirited Away, almost entirely drawn by hand, only using computers to enhance and edit. There is a distinct element of charm within these films, seeing the original sketches that lie beneath every frame is something to marvel at, bringing complete understanding of the craftsmanship and level of detail that enabled its creation.


Drawing can be done anywhere, with anything. If a brilliant idea is sparked on the bus, an old receipt and the stub of a pencil will suffice, allowing that idea to take shape and then later, be explored and expanded upon. Sketches are so often fueled by excitement, passion and urgency to get that abstract idea out of the head and into reality as soon as possible.

Picking up a HB and scribbling on a piece of paper allows the creator to project an idea directly into the minds of others and there is something quite magical in seeing a person’s innermost thoughts flowing out through their fingertips onto paper – that urgency and excitement lost when the idea is locked down and the mouse starts to click.

As technology and software continues to evolve at an impressive rate, it is an increasing challenge for creative types to retain the skill of hand sketching with the question of its necessity arising more frequently. However the value of the craft cannot be brushed aside. The speed at which sketches generate ideas, the open and inclusive nature of a drawing and the sheer sensory enjoyment of putting pen to paper are characteristics that, so far, cannot be matched by a computer.

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