Sketching is good

[Hey students! is a multi-part series. Read the rest.]

True story. Since I started at Oxide last June, I have filled 14 official Oxide sketchbooks (and I’m well on the way to finishing the three I have on my desk right now), a large 200-page sketchbook, a small hand-bound sketchpad, three Field Notes memo books, and countless index cards. In addition, I have a three-inch stack of computer printouts, hand-rendered sketches, and other miscellaneous design ephemera. (And those are just the notebooks I used at work”¦ I also have a giant stack at home.)

I guess what I’m trying to say is that”¦ I sketch a lot.
And I think you should too.

I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’m not really an artist, I really can’t draw, and most

of my sketches are ugly. But I am a designer, and I communicate ideas. Sketching helps solidify those ideas and work through how to present them.

Here are a few thoughts to get you started:

In the beginning, make them quick and dirty.

The really great thing about sketching is it lets you work through a large number of different ideas very quickly. At Oxide, most projects kick off with all of us sitting around a giant sheet of paper and getting all of our ideas out there.

They don’t have to be pretty.

Concept, not execution, is the name of the game. Like I said, my sketches tend to be pretty ugly. But they help to refine and clarify my ideas. In fact, sketches shouldn’t be perfect. They should be loose and helping you work toward the solution of the conceptual problem.

Take notes.

Design is as much about thinking as it is about creation. So write down your thoughts, make notations. Why do you want it to look that way? What are you trying to get across? This not only helps you remember where you’re coming from, but it helps you to explain your work and process later.

Refinement comes next.

Once you’ve got your ideas out there, then you can start to refine where you want to go. What concepts are rising to the top? Can you combine any of your ideas? How can you make it better? This is the point where sketches can get more detailed.

Use sketching to work through your problems.

After all the initial sketching, and finding the right concept to work from, I most often find myself sketching to work through the problems that come up along the way. Even the best-laid plans can fall apart once you start translating things to the computer. Sketching throughout the project makes it even better.

Grab a pencil (and a sketchbook) and start sketching!

25 Mar 2017

‘Enter’ to submit

The design student’s dilemma

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Your online portfolio

Here at Oxide, we review student portfolios on a fairly regular basis, and I have some thoughts to share. First of all, when you are not showing your work in person, you need to have your portfolio online. (This isn’t just because I’m a developer.) An online portfolio shows so much better than flipping through a bunch of pages on a PDF. And I would highly recommend against sending a potential employer or internship several individual files of your projects.…

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Never stop learning

I recently had a discussion with one of my professors from Iowa State University. She was asking what skills I felt ISU needed to better teach to prepare students for the real world. Which got me to thinking about the things that I have needed to learn in the past ten months at Oxide. I spent most of my four years learning about typography, proportions, and print design. And while I still utilize those skills, I’ve had to learn how…

Put yourself out there

For most of us, landing a job in design didn’t just happen. In our field, there is an abundance of applicants and a minimal number of openings. This means that you’re going to have to do everything you can to even get noticed. If you’re getting ready to take the plunge into the frigid waters of the design job market, following these guidelines will help you to get noticed.

Live! Seriously! Let’s do this!

Last weekend, intern Kelsey was reading through the Hey students! series. During Monday’s traffic meeting, she suggested that it’d be really helpful for students if we could talk to them directly about the entire series “live, in-person.”

Know when to care

This is a sequel to the first post in this series: Care about your work – which continues to be the most important lesson we have for you. But caring is more complicated than that. When you start caring, you lose the ability to evaluate your work independently of your personal investment in it.

Awards don’t matter

At Oxide, we have a love/hate relationship with design awards. We have a good number of accolades laying around at this point, but I’m not sure what they’ve ever really gotten us, save for a quickly fleeting ego boost. In the local (and probably national) design schools, it seems like there’s a great deal of importance placed on the winning of awards. Students are encouraged (and sometimes required) to enter competitions held by local organizations and national publications. But a…

You’ve got competition

While judging the 2010 Nebraska Student ADDY Awards, I was inspired to address the student readers of our blog. While Joe has been the regular author of our Hey Students! series, he has graciously allowed me to contribute to his already great student reference. There’s no easy way to say this. If you didn’t already know, there simply aren’t a ton of desirable jobs just waiting to be filled by design students. Knowingly or not, you have signed up for…

Start with the problem

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Let go of the leave-behinds

When you’re in the classroom, you imagine that life as a professional is just like life as a student. Or, at least, you prefer to imagine it that way. Even though, buried deep inside your thoughtful designer brain, you know you’re kidding yourself. Some of your classroom experiences translate into the real world and others don’t. Every moment that you spend designing is worthwhile, but each finished piece isn’t necessarily going to help you outside the classroom. One particular project,…

Yeah, really, you

Over the last few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to sit down with several design students. I won’t embarrass any of them (intentionally), but here’s the general consensus: most need to spend more time designing, several show a lot of promise, but very few are ready for the next step.

Design is not a job

We listen to a lot of internet radio at Oxide, which means we hear a lot of internet radio ads. One of these ads features a list of college degrees that, I assume, people listening to internet radio during the day may be interested in. They’re they kinds of degrees that are often listed together in these kinds of isn’t it about time you did something with your life kinds of ads: nursing, criminal justice, business, technology, management, and graphic…

Care about your work

It’s portfolio review season, so if you’re showing your portfolio around this year, there’s a chance you’ll see one of us. Personally, I’m returning from a portfolio-review-hiatus. You’re probably thinking: “Mr. Sparano, Professional Designer at Oxide Design Co., why in the world would you need to take a break from student portfolio reviews? It’s totally fun!”