What Is a Sketch and Its Role in the Design Process

As a tool or skill, the sketch has its role in the design process. That role will vary depending on the end product being created, the size and scope of the project, the style, experience and workflow of the individual designer, and customer expectations. Learn more about how the sketch is used in the design process within multiple design disciplines.

The role of the sketch in digital art varies depending on whether you are creating websites, identities, illustrations, product concepts, or other designs. An illustration or logo is likely to need more sketches than a website.

A large project with a significant client budget will benefit from the sketch throughout the design process. This ensures that before spending a great deal of time refining a solution, a direction is first agreed upon with the customer. The outline can start loose, starting with the basics. Then work on compositions or designs. After choosing those directions, the concepts can be further refined with a detailed sketch.

What is a sketch?

A design sketch is an informal visualization that with sketch techniques shows the context, boundaries, characteristics, benefits and costs of a company’s structure at a conceptual, logical or physical level.

A total concept design sketch (also known as an Architecture) conceptually shows the context, boundaries, characteristics, benefits, and costs of a business structure and how to realize this business structure. So in terms of Dragon1 with a design sketch of a total concept of an enterprise structure in your hands, you are looking at a perspective (aligned views) of the architecture of an enterprise – the enterprise architecture, over a certain period of time.


  • Save time in the workflow process.
  • Great for brainstorming and collaborating with team members.
  • Refine the wireframing process
  • It helps assess the feasibility of features and eliminates design and functionality issues.
  • Anyone can sketch ideas.

5 uses of graphical representation of ideas in a sketch

There are multiple uses for drawing in the design process. Below is a review of five categories of uses with examples and links.

1. Rapid concept development

Drawing is a great way to quickly explore concepts. You can sketch for an hour or two and find multiple possible solutions to the design problem at hand. This is an essential step in the design process. It will save you time to work with concepts on paper before going to the computer. While it is possible to create sketches on the computer, it is not as fast as sketching multiple concepts on paper.

In the article bioTrekker Logo Design Sketches , designer Karley Barrett shows us her extensive use of rough sketches for logo design development. Explore more than 60 possible solutions before narrowing down the concepts to a few of the best ideas. It’s interesting to see how he explores iconic imagery, typography, and design.

Work through multiple ideas and look for the best presentation of those ideas. Because you are doing small sketches, you can work quickly and generate a multitude of ideas in a relatively short period of time.

Bio Trekker Sketch

Product designers spend a lot of time drawing. If you’re designing the next athletic shoe, furniture, or bike, the idea doesn’t start on a computer, it starts on paper.

James, on the blog Bicycle Design, He says the following about sketches: “Getting ideas quickly on paper is the only way to evaluate them to see if they are worth exploring further. Computer renderings and modern CAD and modeling packages are great, but thinking of paper with a good old pencil is always the starting point. ”

Bicycle sketch

2. Composition or basic design

Sketches are a quick way to create the basic composition of your illustration. They are also used in website design and graphic design to quickly evaluate design options. You can make a series of miniature sketches or they can be larger. As long as your sketches are good enough to capture the necessary elements, the skill of drawing is unnecessary.

In the tutorial Create a cool vintage collage design in Photoshop , Fabio describes how it is quicker to do some sketches before going to the computer. As you can see below, it captures the basic composition on the left in a sketch. Compare the sketch to the final Photoshop image on the right. You can see that the basic design was made on paper. The image of the woman is represented by a stick figure in the drawing. Amazing, or even good, drawing skills are not required to compose your composition before opening Photoshop.

Vintage Collage Sketch

Web Design from Scratch is a well-known website that offers practical advice on building websites. In the article The complete and sensible guide to designing websites , the author says the following about pencil sketch designs: “The quick pencil sketch only helps me to quickly register the likeness of what I have visualized in my head. So don’t forget it and I can do it quickly in Photoshop. I find this way of working much more efficient than starting in Photoshop. ” As you can see below, drawing skill is also not required to capture design composition. The bottom left side is the sketch and the right side is the final design.

Sketch to Website

3. Client communication and approval

Showing thumbnails or sketched compositions to clients can save you a tremendous amount of time. The more detailed the project, the sooner you want customer approval. If you’re going to spend hours on an illustration, you need to make sure the client agrees with your design choice before moving forward. Getting thumbnail approvals from customers is a common part of the illustration process. It is also common in large logo design projects and other projects.

The SOS factory designs predominantly mascot logos. Its workflow follows a methodology similar to that of a comic book design studio. The individual who draws is often not the same one who does the line work. The designer, the colorist, and the art director are different roles. They divide each function into specialties.

In this study, the draftsman elaborates concepts and client corrections with the art director and the designer. The client approves the artwork before moving on to the next stage of inking and coloring. This saves time when solidifying an idea before moving on to more advanced stages of the process. The following example is a concept developed based on initial communication with the customer. This sketch is then sent to the client for approval or for change requests. After the sketch was complete, the design moved to the next stage of inking the line work and then coloring the character.

Sketches Sos

In the article From Sketch to Vector Illustration , GoMedia’s Bill explains how early in the process they get customer approval. They send a series of rough composition sketches to the client before drawing a more detailed sketch. At the bottom left you can see the one the customer chose. Then, on the right, a more detailed sketch is made before moving on to the computer.

Go to Sketch

4. Visual exploration

The sketch can be used as a journal activity to record and explore your interests. It can also be used to explore multiple options you might make in a particular design.

Sherrie Thai has a portfolio in Coroflot. There is a section dedicated to the sketches . These sketches show his visual explorations in multiple fields of design. In the sketch area of ​​her portfolio, she visually explores topics such as tattoo patterns, identities, and styles.

Thai Sherri sketch

The Product Design Book Design Sketching explains the entire process of creating sketches for product design. Provides tutorials, explanations, and examples. The following example from the book shows how a designer can investigate a problem and explore possible solutions.

Design sketches

5. Refining visual solutions

The process of creating a design or illustration in later stages involves refinement. The overall concept and direction of the part may work very well, but an element is not. This can often be adjusted and corrected in more rounds of sketches. Of course, at some point a digital artist moves to the computer. The process of drawing then moves on to digital drafts.

In the article A project with Angel D’Amico, you can get an idea of ​​how important the sketch was in this project, but also of the fluidity with which the artist moves to Photoshop. In some cases, the artist prefers digital solutions as more corrections are requested by the client. The artist decides which medium will do the job faster as the deadline approaches.


I mentioned the article From Sketch to Vector Illustration a little before. It is an excellent reference on this topic. Bill discusses how to perfect the illustrations before switching to the computer. There is a section entitled: “Often some aspect of the illustration looks wrong. A professional artist will rework that part of the illustration on a separate sheet of paper until he gets it right. ” Then explain your process.

Faced with this situation, the artist has identified the need to rework a part of the sketch. In some cases, it may be based on a customer request, as with Angel D’Amico above. Regardless of the reason, you will ultimately want a tight sketch for detailed work. Below is a section from one of Bill’s adjusted sketches. After that, he brought the image to the computer to complete the process.



You may feel the urge to skip the sketches and jump straight to the computer or craft your solutions as digital sketches. There is nothing wrong with that, especially for your own experimental work. However, there is no faster method of exploring multiple visual solutions than drawing. Try to weigh the advantages of drawing against the project at hand.

Handmade sketches play an important role in digital arts. The larger a project and the more concepts a client needs to see, the more sketches will prove their value in the design process. Consider using rough sketches for layout or composition options on your next project. Or push yourself to make another handful of thumbnail sketches before starting Photoshop.

Please let us know about your experiences with sketches before going digital within your design process.

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