The art of the thumbnail sketch

March 18, 2009

I used to hate, hate — let me say this again — hate it when my college instructors had us do page after page of thumbnails. As much as I hated them — and, honestly, I still don’t do as many as I should — I know they have a real value when brainstorming for any design. Thumbnails will help any designer to chart a path of visual thinking in the design process. They are thumbnails because they are small Thumbnails are small in size, but they should always be proportional to the actual piece you are designing. You wouldn’t want to sketch a thumbnail for a vertical banner in a square. Some die-hard instructors will say it needs to be exactly to scale; but, in all reality, you don’t sketch to scale. As long your thumbnail is the same general shape as your end design then you’re good. Thumbnails are small for a very good reason: You can quickly produce them. Fast is beneficial when you are just trying to organize your ideas. Small is also useful, because you can get several onto one page, giving a visual evolution of your ideas to chart. Let your brain empty and sketch every idea, and don’t dismiss it until you’ve explored it in your thumbnail. Organize and keep your thumbnails to pull out and use when you are ready to put your project to the computer. You may find it valuable to keep the thumbnails for reference on future projects. The value of thumbnails Thumbnails show relationships among symbols, images, color and type. They allow for quick testing of alternate composition systems and color pallets. Finally, my personal favorite thing about thumbnails is their portability. Keep a sketchbook and pack of colored pencils in your bag so when the idea strikes you won’t even need WiFi to get your ideas down.

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