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Designers - Do you have the courage to show hand drawn concepts?

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by John Fountain.

 

There's an art director that I know who has a pretty impressive portfolio. Plenty of big-name clients, some beautifully designed work and one or two pieces that have appeared in awards annuals. When she shows her work I'm sure that everyone is suitably impressed. But when she's finished showing all her client approved stuff, she ups the anti - and from out of her bag she hands over a cool looking ring-bound book.

This book is full of her ideas. And there are lots of them. Each one is drawn by hand, and each one offers a great insight into the way she thinks about a problem. She shows the ideas that didn't quite make it. The ideas that had been done before. The ideas that for her, were just a bit boring. She reckons that creative directors are far more interested in seeing this book than they are her finished work - because well, what better way to show what happens upstairs when a brief lands on your desk.

There's a guy I worked with a few years back (Matt) who does something similar. He's a freelance art director who comes into an agency purely to conceptualise. He doesn't need a mac. He doesn't need a writer. He arrives with a couple of pens and an A4 layout pad and after two days, that layout pad is pretty much choc-a-bloc with his thinking. Concept after concept after concept after concept. Not all of them brilliant - but all of them relevant. He's not a great illustrator or anything. In fact his drawings are a bit basic and crude - but what he offers is a complete brain dump for the creative director to cherry pick what he wants to develop to show the client. Once that's all done, Matt then heads off to some other agency, armed with another fresh A4 layout pad under his arm.

Being able to conceptualise is a key function for designers and art directors. But only a few are happy showing their sketches to the boss or the account team. Why is that?

John Fountain is a writer and blogger.
Twitter: @fountainjohn

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