Starting a Project: Pen and Paper

How do you start a project? I think this is one of the many topics of discussion for creatives, and especially designers. There are those of us that meticulously plan, sketch, and get it just right before jumping onto the computer. Then there are those of us that when an idea strikes, we can’t get to our computers fast enough to start working.

In this post, I’m going to be talking about some of the benefits of starting a project with pen and paper, rather than a computer. No way is wrong, it’s just your preference, and mine happens to be the pen and paper approach.

Starting with pen and paper… 

1. Gives you a template

When you start with pen and paper and sketch out your idea before jumping on the computer, it gives you a template to build off of. I almost always start a project by sketching out my idea and scanning it into the computer, so I have it digitally to build off of and tweak.

2. Gives you an overall plan for your project

If you are a frequent reader of my posts, you have probably already caught that I am a big planner. It’s one of my strengths, but it’s also one of my weaknesses. I love having a plan, and I love planning things, but sometimes I am a planner to a fault.

When I go into a project without a plan, I am the most scatter-brained and confused person, but it also might take me days before I think a sketch is ready to go digital. It might be perfectionism talking, but who really knows? ( ;

Some of the things that I like to plan for a project are:

The Style – is it going to be minimal, sleek, feminine, decorative, light-hearted, serious, etc?

The font types – this all depends on the style, but am I going to use san-serif, serif, scripts, or am I going to hand draw them?

Idea for color palette – this will also depend on the style, but I like to go in knowing roughly what colors I will use

Rough layout – I like to plan out the overall layout and where things might be, so that I can use my sketch as a template, once it is scanned in and placed in the background

 3. Keeps ideas for future inspiration

One of my favorite things to do when I get a new project or come up with an idea is to go to my sketchbooks and look through the sketches that I’ve done in the past. Sometimes you can repurpose some of your designs that weren’t used as the final piece in past projects. I am consistently using pieces of old sketches in current projects.

4. Allows more freedom for creativity

When you start on the computer, you are limited to the tools that you have digitally. When you start with pen and paper, your options are limitless: hand lettering, custom hand-drawn shapes and design elements. I find that my mind has more freedom to work when I can draw my idea before going into Illustrator and trying to manipulate text and shapes. 

5. Saves design time

This is probably the top benefit for me. Time is money, and when I jump straight to the computer, I normally end up reverting back to pen and paper after running around in circles of confusion because I don’t have a plan to start from. I end up saving a ton of time by planning out my idea, sketching it out, and then building from it digitally, rather than jumping on the computer first thing. 

Here are some of my sketches, and the final design.

So what do you do? Are you a computer first person, or a pen and paper person?