I was creating a logo yesterday and it got me thinking how different the reality of graphic design is vs. what my expectations of it were. Isn’t that always the case? Before I went to design school I was really big on drawing comics. They were mostly stick figures, heavy on content, but I really wanted to digitize them. I thought if only I knew Illustrator, THEN I could bring these to life!
Well, that is partially true. I did need to learn Illustrator. BUT, what I had heavily underestimated was the good ol’ pen and paper. You actually need to have drawing skills. You can’t just draw something poorly and then expect all the *magic* to happen in the digital realm. Nope! So to my surprise a lot of graphic design has been about getting back to the basics. Deciding on a concept before it goes anywhere near the digital space. And even then, figuring out forms and placement in black & white before it gets all fancy with color.
With that said, I thought I’d walk you through some of my most frequently used tools:
1. Canson Sketch Pad
This is where I get all my ideas out. The blank pages, in no sort of order at all. It’s chaos on the sheets. There are scribbles and half-drawn shapes. Usually the process of brainstorming and drawing breeds other ideas, and it just keeps developing until something good comes out.
I’m not too crazy about the type of pens I use. Honestly when I get an idea I grab for any old pen to get it out as quickly as possible. But when I’m preparing something to be scanned in, I will finish it off with the right tools for the job. Pictured above, and my most commonly used tools right now are Derwent Sketching pencils, a Micron 05 pen, and a Tombow N15 marker.
3. Scansnap Scanner
After the old school drawing happens, it has to get in the computer somehow! My trusty old scansnap has been with me through every move and it still performs like a champ. It’s fast, efficient, and doesn’t take up too much space on your desk. It scans files in as a PDF and has a bunch of auto-detect modes so that it will skip blank pages. One of the smartest little tools I own and saves me major headache.
4. Bamboo Wacom Tablet
I got this as a gift when I got accepted into design school and I’ve never outgrown it. It travels with me well and so far, I haven’t needed to create anything that requires a larger one. It’s great to get that handwritten pen effect, and I also end up using the pen as a mouse when I’m working heavily in Illustrator.
5. Pantone Color Book
I tend to use this on and off, but moreso when I’m doing a print job. When I have a color I’m thinking of in my head, and I can’t find the RGB swatch on the computer, it’s good to just take a step back and look at something physical. So I’ll flip through until I find the color that suits the job. Then I can punch it in on the computer and get the exact results I need.
6. Nikon Digital Camera
I’m always thinking of ways to incorporate photography into design, even if it’s just a real picture of a texture. It helps so much to take your own photos because then you own the rights and don’t have to worry about licensing and reselling something to a client. I also like photography as its own hobby, and will likely start incorporating more into the blog.
Shout out to my home state, Minnesota, for having 3M create these little magic squares! I have these ALL over my desk. When I get an idea or a thought in my head, I have to write it out immediately. If it’s a really good one, I stick it on the wall for motivation. Then at the end of the week I cycle through all of them and get rid of any crappy ones. But I picture them like a creative net, you gotta have a way of catching everything. And post-its are my way!
So there you have it! I’m curious to see how this changes for me over the years. But I’m pretty happy with my system currently. Off to get some work done now. :)