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Since illustrative design is all about drawing out your ideas before you build them digitally, the place to start is with thumbnail sketches. Let's talk about what thumbnail sketches are, how many you need to draw, and most important, selecting your strongest ideas. What are thumbnail sketches? They are nothing more than small, thumbnail-sized rough drawings that you'll use to capture general ideas regarding your visual design. Using all the information you gathered in the creative preparation stage you'll now approach your design project and begin to sketch out your rough ideas.
Keep it simple or even crude. These are glorified doodles. There is no need to refine or redraw anything at this point. You're just taking an idea as it forms in your mind and capturing them on paper. These loose drawings will encapsulate your general ideas. Once you've drawn one, move along to the next one and keep drawing. As you do this you'll no doubt stumble upon other visual possibilities and you can sketch those out as well.
So how many thumbnail sketches do need to draw? There is a Latin phrase on our money that says E Pluribus Unum. It means out of many, one. This is also a good way of defining thumb nailing. You could draw hundreds of roughly hewn ideas in order to discover a few that will work well. There is no set number, but a good rule of thumb is to do far more than what you think you'll need. At least 50 sketches is what I'd consider the minimal amount on most design projects.
It's now time to audit your thumbnail sketches and isolate the strongest ideas. These will be the ones you move forward with and develop fully. Remember only the strong survive. So focus in on those ideas that do the best job of communicating with the intended audience. Does the design you've drawn fit the bigger marketing picture and will work well in all the various applications of use? I recommend picking at least three to five solid ideas you can move forward on and refine during the next stage of drawing.
Whatever project you work on make sure to thoroughly work through your ideas using thumbnail sketching. We may work digitally, but our ideas are still best developed in analog form.
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