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Your Best Ideas, Found Off the Grid

It’s not always easy being a creative at your company. I often think of the challenges comedians face – you’re expected to bring the funny, even when you’re off-stage. You constantly have to be “on.” That’s how it can feel when you’re the one responsible for bringing the “wow” factor. Whether it’s design, writing or some other facet of visionary thinking, you have to find a way to continue bringing the creative. Some days, that can be a tall order. You may not feel inspired. Your cat died. Maybe there’s no excuse at all – you’re just tapped.

And this is where I say the unthinkable. Turn off your computer (shudder). You heard me. Turn it off. Don’t worry. Your cell phone, laptop, work computer, television and tablet will be waiting for you when you’re done refreshing your brain. On average, adults spend more than eight hours a day in front of a screen, so a little off-the-grid time won’t kill you.

Sketching can be one of the most overlooked skills at an agency. It can be perceived as a waste of valuable client time when an employee is away from their computer. I say that’s nonsense. A sketch pad allows you to explore the full potential of an idea. Just look to the creative masters, such as Leonardo Da Vinci, for proof. Here are some reasons why sketching is a vital part of the idea process:

They are the foundation of your concept
We’ve all tried to rush a concept that wasn’t ready to hatch. You tell yourself, “Oh, things will come together as I work on it.” After an hour of trying to salvage a mediocre concept, you end up scrapping it and starting over. Look: If the foundation of a concept is weak, it’s going to show in the execution. My best work begins with a fully sketched composition. It takes all the guesswork out of the equation when you’ve already tackled the construction of the layout. Work out the kinks on paper, and then move forward.

Sketches show the client your thought process
I acquired the nickname “Design Monkey” at my former job. Although I embraced it as a term of endearment, the joke around the office was that a designer’s job is often perceived as, “so easy, a monkey could do it.” I get it. Drawing and illustration seems like an easy job. But a lot of thought and planning goes into a design. Sketches are your friend, because they allow the client to see all the thought and planning that went into your design. Use them as tools of persuasion.

It’s better to have multiple ideas to choose from
Take just 20 minutes to explore some preliminary ideas. You’ll be amazed at how many concepts you can generate in such a small window of time. Rather than work with the first idea that pops into your head, you’ll now be able to choose from several concepts.