Inspiration Wednesday: Born on Paper

I went to a graphic design meeting last week where we talked about logo design. This week, I went to another graphic design meeting where we talked about hand-lettering and type design. We watched a series of videos in both meetings by professionals in the design industry. They all talked about how much work they do by hand and in their sketchbooks before starting to work on a design at the computer.

type and label books

Often times, when seeking inspiration, we sit down at our computer, maybe look through a few of our favorite sites, do an image search, see what others are pinning on a similar topic. What we should do is sit down at our desk with a sketchbook, a pencil and a fine point marker, and start making a word list of things that come to mind when contemplating the problem we have been asked to solve. An idea or concept will surface, when we transition to doodling and sketching. All this prep work before going to the computer to start designing. If we’re lucky (and old school), we might have access to a stack of design books to browse through.

design books

Great ideas are Born on Paper, meaning worked out through writing and sketching. It’s been awhile since I’ve heard that saying, but it really stuck with me when my teacher said it at this week’s design meeting, emphasizing how important it is to sketch and draw. Many of my design teachers struggle with getting students to sketch as much as possible before going to the computer. Some teachers even require a set number of thumbnails, usually a minimum of 50, to explore a creative problem or idea.

I haven’t been doodling, sketching and drawing as much lately as I used to, or as much as I want to. I don’t know why. Maybe just lazy, or a lack of confidence in my drawing, or stubbornness. (hint: one way to get over a lack of confidence in drawing is to draw with a ballpoint pen or fine tip marker. No erasing.) I vowed to myself recently to start doing more sketching at the beginning of each project. For one thing, we get points for our concepting and sketching process. As a student, points are like money. I want an A so I need to do the work, all the work. For another thing, the more sketching I do, the more ideas show up on the paper. I allow myself to do some bad sketches to get them out of the way because I know they are present in my head. Sometimes I just draw shapes and see how I can fill them in. Sometimes I start with the type, and draw around it. For one of my current design projects, I have about five pages of sketches, with different shapes, different type, different arrangements.

summer kitchen sketches

Sometimes, when I’m staring at a blank page and I just want to do some free drawing or doodling, I come up with a theme. My latest theme is Africa, so I am using that to keep drawing regularly these days. (I did these pages during a meeting where an attorney was talking about the legal side of freelancing. It was good information, but a little dry.)

sketchbook africa animals

I even pimped-out my Moleskin sketchbook cover with animal print patterns.

sketchbook cover animal print

I’m excited to see where this new theme takes me. And I’m more motivated to see what becomes of my increased sketching. I have a lot of sketchbooks going, so a full sketchbook will feel like a great accomplishment.

Thanks for stopping by!



  • It’s good to see your sketches! It was interesting that you put in bold the thought that the more sketching you do, the more ideas you have. I used to have a quote on my wall (the part of my sewing room is that I painted over all my creative quotes…) that said something like “You can’t run out of creativity. The more you use, the more you will have,” or something like that. Ideas, good and bad, often lead to new ideas and solutions to old problems. I love following along on your journey.

    • Thanks Cindy! It’s always hard to show my sketches because they are often a mess, rough, and all over the place. I put that thought in bold partly as a reminder to myself, as well as to emphasize it. It goes along with the old saying “practice makes perfect.” The more I draw, the more I like doing it, the better I get, the more I want to do it. It’s just a matter of developing that habit of putting pen to paper first to explore ideas.

  • Its great advice to take to heart – doodling and sketching can only be a good thing. I bet most great design concepts started as a doodle in a sketch pad or on the back of an envelope or napkin. You go girl and embrace all of the doodles – the good and the bad (as you call them) – some designs will be carefully executed and detail intensive, others will be happy accidents waiting to happen – but you have to put pen to paper to find out. Most of all, have fun and enjoy the creative process x

    • Thanks Shell! I see a couple of my classmates sketch a lot, and I always admire their designs, so it’s a good lesson. We see a lot of pros in the design fields sketch a lot too. Coming from a journalism and paralegal background, I tend to make wordlists first. But I need to make it more of a habit to sketch next before going to the computer to do research or start designing. The more I draw, the more I like it so it doesn’t feel like such a chore.

  • Well said!

  • I enjoy reading posts about your classes and creative process. Love how you pimped out your moleskin cover 😉

  • love seeing your sketches!

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