Sunday, March 16

Beware of PCI - Discussion #7

Design is about the idea. It's a well know fact that the better the idea, the better the design. And our goal as designers is to figure out that idea. It's the one that pops into our head and makes us giddy. It's the one that can't come out fast enough as we desperately try to draw as fast as our brain is working. It's that one brilliant, shining, fabulous idea that will ultimately save the universe… or at the very least, make your client happy and bring them the business they need.

So what is this "idea" we all so love to talk about? According to the dictionary, it's a concept or mental impression. I like to think of it as the answer to the question "what if?" After gathering all of the information needed from the client, we need to determine the course of action we'll be following for the job. This is where the idea comes in. We're all talented individuals, that's why we're in this field. We can draw and paint and dream and imagine. What we need to do is start questioning. What if speed were represented by a bird? What if I can somehow connect the client's process into a visual cycle? What if I change the format to an unusual size to stand out better? What if I draw my own type? What if I turn the whole thing upside down and see what shakes out? What if I push to have a more illustrative logo so I can better show the client's business? You get the picture.

Let's talk about a real job. Let's say it's a logo and we've already made our conclusions on audience, final output/placement (such as web, print, billboard, etc.) and communication needs of the client. What's the next step? Believe it or not, the majority of designers do thumbnails. No, really, we do. Seriously. In my many years of experience in the design field and at the jobs I've held I, and all of the other designers I've worked with, have done thumbnails for 98% of the jobs we've done. Now that I freelance, I still do thumbnails for every job I work on. Why don't I get right on to the computer and start the job? The easy answer—I don't know what my idea is yet. In my experience, working on the computer first is distracting. I have too many decisions to make before I can get down to the task at hand. I have to decide which program to use, page size, font choice, font size, color, tool I'll use to render, etc. By the time I'm really ready to begin, I've wasted an inordinate amount of time I could have spent on generating ideas. In addition, I can pump out more ideas as thumbnails in 30 min than I could ever do on the computer (and I will gladly challenge anyone who claims "I work faster on the computer" to a showdown any day). A good designer should be effective with their time since time is money after all. Too many good thumbnails are discarded or never even brought to fruition because of PCI, Premature Computer Involvement.

Thumbnails help me think of all the possibilities, not just the ones I can render in the computer. I wouldn't bake a cake without a recipe nor would I start a design without my thumbnails. I tend to begin any job by making lists. I take the parameters of a project and write down as many adjectives, verbs or ideas that spring into my mind. I may write down five words or I may write down 3 pages of words. They consist of image ideas, format ideas, synonyms, icon representations and anything else I can think of. The words become the basis of my thumbnails. I analyze my lists and begin drawing. The thumbnails are more than just pretty drawings. They are concepts and ideas. I draw everything that comes to mind but if I can't justify why the thumbnails works, it doesn't make the final cut. Just looking nice or cool won't do, it needs to be functional. As always, you need to be able to communicate the needs of the client through your design. If it communicates AND looks good, then you've done your job.

In addition, your first idea isn't necessarily your best idea. Sometimes it takes a few rounds to suss out the best way to go about the design. Thumbnails are the quick way to determine what does or does not work. If something doesn't work in one try it a different way in another. You really like the way 3 different design pieces look—try them in one design together. Try, try ,try. It's the whole point of thumbnails. Too often a designer will fall in love with a typeface or alignment or size or color during PCI (see definition above) and not be able to see beyond it to the better idea. Thumbnails are a way to make sure that doesn't happen.

So now that you've heard my rant on thumbnails, why else are they important? Why bother doing them at all? In addition, what else can you do to generate ideas so you have better thumbnails? Where else can these universe stopping concepts come from? What do you do to brainstorm ideas?

**UPDATE After reading some comments hitting on quantity of thumbnails, I have a rhetorical question for you. I did these 2 pages of sketches for a logo. Does it make me an incompetent designer because I couldn't "nail it" within the first few? The logo ultimately chosen by the client was about the 60th one sketched. Just some food for thought…**


Anonymous said...

Ahh...thumbnails. Although I often hate doing them, they can really be important to generating that amazing idea. Once you nail your concept in thumbnails all you have to do is go into the computer and create it. My thumbnails are always very rough and loose and I feel that is fine as long as it gets the point across. I dont think it has to be the next Mona Lisa as far as quality but it should be neat and clear enough to demonstrate the idea.

I think the reason so many of us hate thumbnails is because there is always a number set to the amount we should have. If we have a requirement of 30 thumbnails but nail our concept after just five...why come up with 25 other bad ideas just to fulfill the requirement? Yes, sometimes you can branch out your idea or even better it by doing more but if you come up with something awesome, I feel there's no need to keep going.

I do feel thumbnails are important but I think requirements on their numbers is a bit much. I also agree that it is much better to thumbnail some ideas out before starting on the computer. Once again, if you nail your concept I think you can get on the computer and get going and not spend even more time on the thumbnails. Sometimes, however, I do my thumbnail requirements and then go onto the computer and start playing around with everything and come up with something completely different than my thumbnails that really works well. This doesn't happen often but when it does its a good point that you dont always need to spend TOO much time on the thumbnails.


Anonymous said...

I never mind doing thumbnails and I think it’s because I never thought about jumping right on the computer (or PCI) to get done quick. Going right to the computer hinders everything, I find it hard to even start and would much rather begin with a bunch of rough sketches. I always scribble down ideas on a sheet of paper, whatever comes to mind first as soon as I get an assignment and then start with the thumbnails. Usually when I’m doing the thumbnails I’ll think of something else along the way and go back to the sheet of paper and write it down to draw it out later on. I remember being told to just keep sketching or drawing ideas even if you think they are bad, and something will come out of it, and it almost always does.

The number requirement for thumbnails does throw you off but in the long run I think it helps out. It pushes you to keep going even if you think you came up with that great idea. Another idea might come if you just keep sketching and thinking of ideas. Another thing with having a lot of different thumbnails is for backup. If the idea you thought was the best one and it turns out it really wasn’t then at least you have something else to show for and your not at square one. Some of the thumbnails you thought were bad might end up being much more and just needed a little extra to get them there.

Spending too much drawing masterpiece thumbnails really is a waste of time. As long as you get your point across even if it’s with stick figures then I think your where you need to be. It ends up leaving time later on to work on the final design.


aldyn said...

i agree with the above post.

i hate doing thumbnails, but i think the main reason is because there's a set number. alot of times when "sketches" are just required, i will work out idea in thumbnail-ish forms and then expand on some of those ideas with more doodles, scratch some of them, and come up with more ideas. it's easy, without a set minimum. i often worry too much about getting the number of thumbnails and spend too much time on one idea (which sometimes isnt even a good one) rather than pushing out as many as i can and letting out as much as i can think of.

i like doing sketches and thumbnails for graphic ideas and illustrations or layout, moreso than for typographic designs. i like exploring with fonts of the computer and distressing or distorting on screen. sometimes i come up with more unique results than something i wouldve drawn out.

in addition to thumnails, i look at other works of design. not even graphic design most of the time— often interior designs or industrial stuff. product designs and stuff too. or i look at fabric patterns and textures. i guess just anything that inspires me, really.


Anonymous said...

Thumbnails, where do I begin? Who knew they would be such a necessary step in bringing to life all of the crazy designs we have made over the past 3(ish) years. And who knew we would be using them for the rest of our lives in everything we create. I guess it's not that surprising really. I don't really mind them, I suppose... It's like Kyle said, the assigned amount we have to do is a little bit discouraging. When I first get a project I sort of get this rush of ideas all at once and I try to get them down as fast I can but then I start to slow down because I still have 10 or 15 more thumbs I have to come up with, and I get frustrated because I feel like instead of spending time refining my original thumbs I was most excited about I have to use that time to force out anything I can, just so they are done so I don't get docked points off my final grade.

Personally I find inspiration and ideas from everywhere, magazines, photos, colors around me, clothing tags, clouds... Anything really, and sometimes those little tid bits just don't work out in thumbs.

I would love to have a project that we are totally free to get our ideas and inspiration in any way we want, no limitations on thumbs, nothing. I'm sure we would all do some sort of sketches and what not, but I think it would be cool to see what people collect and what they draw their creativity from. Then again, there's always a problem with laziness with this idea, but when we get out into the "real world" we won't have syllabi and professors telling us exactly what to do, so it might be good practice for self motivation.

Either way thumbs are a part of a designers life and we just have to accept that. They aren't so bad anyway, if we didn't have them we would have to be doing something else that we would all complain occasionally about.


Anonymous said...

Looking back on it, I'm glad I had to do all those thumbnails because they taught me how to visualize a concept in my mind. There's a point that we should reach in which we first visualize the content and space and then make a quick sketch to see how it works in physical space. A goal for me is to become a "picture thinker", or to have the ability to visualize a project completely without putting a pencil in my hand.

Recently I had a project for Illustration in which I drew some of the elements first and then sketched out some layouts. I did this because I was having trouble imagining a layout without know what the smaller parts would look like and how they would fit together. This is more of an illustration approach then a design approach.

Sometimes thumbnails help but if I can already see my concept, then there isn't a purpose for more than a couple of them. I suppose their major purpose would be for the client's benefit; to get in side my head.

As for the use of "Pre-Computer Involvement",
I believe "Precomptive" could be it's adjective.


Anonymous said...

I agree with Andrea's comment. I usually have a handful of ideas at the start, and a few of them spawn some more, but after that, I just fizzle out. There's nothing much more frustrating than looking at what could be the perfect solution, then remembering you have to force out another dozen or two. It is true occasionally that one of those last few you push out will be a good one, but in my experience, that's rare.

Vis Trans was really the proving ground for thumbnail development. I hated it, but even today when there's a requirement of fifteen to twenty thumbs, I see it as no big deal. I always have done sketches before starting in on something, but the thumbnail process here at KU has really stretched that.

Once I have a topic, before I even go to thumbs, I like to research first. Good old reading. Image searches. Websites and forums. I can better tackle a subject when I know more than I need to know about it. That way I'm not stretching a little bit of knowledge as far as I can; instead, I can decide what I do and don't want to include, and I'm sure I'm representing the subject the best way possible. For me, that's the most fun part (besides actually pulling together that idea that just works). I like learning everything about anything, really.


Anonymous said...

Thumbnails.....that word I have come to despise. For me thumbnails are a waste of my time and forces me to do extra work that I'm not gonna put effort into. For me thumbnails are a good idea, however when a certain amount are forced to be made when an idea can be conveyed in like 5 thumbs but the assignment is like 40, I think thats ridiculous. I know that hey generate more ideas and all but the way i generate ideas is totally different then doing hundreds of thumbs. Besides that whole waste of time in my opinion, my thumbs also end up looking sucky because I can't draw, so even if I attempt to try to make somewhat decent thumbs the always end up looking like crap anyways. For me the best way to generate ideas would be to draw out what I have in mind and then move to the computer with my best thought and then just move from there make printouts and get feedback and new ideas from what I already have. Wow did that feel good to get out how I really feel about thumbs lol. But although I feel a certain way about them doesn't mean they don't do alot of good for other people. Soooo I guess until I can have my own way I'll just suck it up and do the thumbs so at least I get a grade for development.

Anonymous said...

I must admit the first time we were told to do hundreds of thumbnails I hated it! Visual Translation was like hell. It sounds awful but at first I really did not like it. Now I CAN NOT say that I love doing thumbnails but somtimes they do help me come up with ideas. What bothers me the most is having them confined in boxes and having a set quantity. I think when I am not told to do a certain amount of thumbnails I am fine with it.. but the minute I am told to do 50 thumbs in little tiny boxes.. I get SOO frustrated. I like to rough sketch but to the point where they are legible and gets my ideas across.. Even the thumbnails I do now.. I draw the box...but you'll see words written outside , ideas i thought of or little illustrations. I like to write lists of words, look on the web, books, listen to music, collect things, make jokes, pretty much anything that sparks my attention. Somtimes I ask my mom, dad, my sisters friends, my neighbors, ect... questions and my ideas about what Im doing and see what they come up with. Another reason why thumbnails and I are friends is because I am not one that can go to the computer right away. Talk about really being frustrated..the worst is staring at a blank computer screen. I will not mind having to do thumbnails in the "real world" I think that when i can do them the way I like to do them then things will generate much smoother.


Anonymous said...

Prof. Bosler, in response to your little add-on at the bottom, I don't think that because you did so many thumbs it makes you an "incompetent designer," I don't really see how anyone can think that. I do tons and tons of little sketches like that for all of my projects, the problem with that is a lot of the time (and I'm not naming anyone in particular here) those sketches I do can't be handed in for thumbs because they aren't "tight" enough or "well thought out" enough, I find this to be a problem mostly with my other classes and not really graphics though.

It's understandable with the magazine that we need very detailed thumbs because it isn't like most of the other design work we've done, layout is something completely different from doing thumbs for a logo or an ad or something that relies on the visual more than the layout of the text and what not.

I'm sure we could all rant about this forever but my thought on them simply put is; we have to do them, right now we have to do them because it's apart of our grade, and in a year or so we will have to do them so we have something to show clients and it's just what you said, it is impossible to work on the comp. at such an early stage. Right now I think the biggest problem is we feel we can't work out our first, most exciting ideas in our own way and that's why we hate them all so much.

**I'm not sure if that makes any sense but it was my initial thought just after reading what you added.


Anonymous said...

Although thumbnails are a pain, I do agree that they are an important step in the idea generating process. However, when there is a set number of thumbnails to be done or a specific way of doing them, I think that could be just as distracting as the decisions that have to be made when going to the computer. My thumbnails are usually pretty rough and sketchy, just to get the initial idea across and move onto the next one, so when our thumbnails have to be in the Vis Trans style, it throws me off and I tend to lose my train of thought.

When I brainstorm ideas, I usually have a page full of word lists and doodles. It's pretty chaotic, but it allows me to see all my ideas together and it's easier to combine concepts that way. From there I clean up my ideas and refine them.

Although this method works for me, everyone has their own way of brainstorming. So when there is a specific method and number of thumbnails I think it can get in the way of our thought processes.


Anonymous said...

Although I hate doing thumbnails, I think thumbnails are a great way to get started. All your thoughts and ideas can be sketched out on paper quick and pain free. They help get you on your way to that one great design. Also you can def. get more ideas on paper fast than you could on the computer.

For a project there is usually a set number of thumbnails to be done. I generally have some good ideas right off the bat but by the time I am on my 30th thumbnail I am lost for ideas. I feel most of my good concepts come with in the first 20 thumbnails or so. I also think thumbnails should't have to be so neat. I hate having to make thumbnails so neat and pretty. As long as you have your idea sketched out on paper you know where to go when you hit the computer.


Anonymous said...

Take it from a fellow hater thumbnails do have there place... the trash can.

just kidding, many people do have a valid use for thumbnails. Most people wouldn't know where to start without jotting a couple ideas down first. If that is the way you are taught to generate you concepts have at it. In my own fairly limited experience I find that I don't generate my ideas very well in the thumbnail form. When we are going over our latest assignment I almost immediately start conceiving in my minds eye what my project will look like before the amount of thumbnails is even assigned.

With my idea in mind I then start the thumbnails and after about three of them(one for practice to get warmed up, one of the real thing, and one more in case I eff that real one up beyond repair) and I'm just about ready to quit drawing thumbnails. In my case and I'm sure others will agree, doing an excessive amount of thumbnails only seems to take my original idea and water it down a little by little each time.

And as a little side note I am very confident that you would in fact run circles around me if I worked on the computer and you worked on the thumbnail pad. But, what I am saying is that if me on the computer raced against me with the marker pad thumbnail me would inevitably lose in a slaughter. Thats all I'm saying.


Anonymous said...

Thumbnails, oh thumbnails. I actually don't mind doing thumbnails because they are a good way to generate your ideas and step back from the computer. I feel that with doing thumbnails you put more thought into your design because you aren't restricted to a single idea at first and you are less likely to be influenced by other designs. They force you to use your head and come up with a more original idea.

I myself put a lot of detail into my thumbnails, which really isn't necessary but i feel by putting the extra detail it helps to me visualize every aspect of my design before I bring it into the computer. At the same time thumbnails need to be quick so you are sure to get all your thoughts down on paper. Most of us hate doing thumbnails for the fact that they are tedious and the quantity that we have to do. I guess the thought that comes across everyones mind is, why do we have to do so many thumbnails if we come up with a solid idea off the bat. Really in my mind there is no point. I think that once you come up with that solid idea, you need to branch off into a separate set of thumbnails to explore the possibilities with that design.

In conclusion, we all hate doing thumbnails at some point, but in reality the really to help us out with good design. I think if anything the amount of thumbnails we do here at Kutztown is an advantage for us over other schools. We are learning at an early stage of our design careers to expand our way of thinking and visualizing design.


Anonymous said...

I truly hate doing thumbnails, mainly because of the quantity i have to do for various projects. However, it is quite obvious that they help a lot for the beginning stages of a project but the number of thumbnails often distracts me form actually doing them. i end up focusing more so on the fact that i don't have enough ideas rather than thinking of ideas. Once i come up with an idea that i really like i then cant think of anything else to top that and again am stuck on what else to do.

Personally i like to start with words work my way to images and then to thumbnails using various image searches such as google and clip art. or if i want to focus on the typography aspect of the design i will put int what ever words im using into suitcase and go through my many fonts and add all the ones that look good to a set and print out the set and go from there.


Anonymous said...

I don't enjoy doing thumbnails. I really think it's because there's always a set number that we have to do. Sometimes instead of concentrating on coming up with ideas, we're more concerned about getting the required amount done. However, I think they're needed. Even if we didn't have to do them, I think we can all agree that we still would, we'd just do them our way.
Thumbnails are important because the first idea that we come up with usually isn't going to be the best. If we jump right on the computer with that idea, our design would suffer and the impact it could have wouldn't be there. It's important to think outside of the box and your comfort zone to come up with something more interesting and hopefully an idea that is unexpected. You grab more attention that way.
I agree that making lists is a great way to get started. I also use my roommate as a way to judge if something is too expected. If one of my ideas is something that she had thought of right off the bat, I can usually put that one aside. I also go to or to come up with words that I hadn't though of that are sometimes more creative.


Anonymous said...

I might be one of the very few, but I can honestly say that I don't mind doing thumbnails, especially if I have the time. There is something kind of exciting/relaxing to sit down with a marker pad, pen, pencil, and a cup of tea and just start cranking out ideas. It really is such a great time to explore because you can erase, alter, move and try things you wouldn't think of normally. Sometimes I will accidently make a mark on the paper and it turns into an element I use in the design, anything can happen.

The only thing I hate is when I am swamped for time and have to rush through them to reach a certain number; don't get me wrong, I completely understand the point of having a set number of thumbnails that needs to be created. I think the professors are just trying to get it in our heads that sometimes if you keep pushing yourself for ideas you will hit on something really spectacular, although sometimes you do hit on the winner sooner than later.

Besides doing thumbnails, I really like creating concept pages; I'm one that tends to sketch very messily and when I just go with my chicken scratch, I can move at a faster pace then when I worry about another person's comprehension of my thumbnails.


Anonymous said...

When I don't have to show development for a project, I still draw thumbnails first, even if they are too incoherent for anyone else to understand but me. I think what students really hate about thumbnails is meeting quotas when time is pressing and ideas have run dry. When this happens I like to flip through design books, run google image searches, anything to grant some inspiration. Sometimes I find ideas in the most random places. My thumbnails for class usually have three phases: warm-ups, good ideas, and finally really lame filler ideas. I certainly don't like generating those 40-some thumbs for class, but thumbnails are necessary. And it is really neat to see ideas evolve and mature from the first to last thumbnail.


Anonymous said...

rather than sugarcoating the topic at hand, i will just flat out say that i hate our thumbnail assignments. note the magic word here: assignments. thumbnails can be very effective, for some of us. for others, hopping on adobe illustrator is the way to begin.

ultimately, our final product is what matters (correct me if i’m wrong here). nobody looks at a logo / poster / header / graphic, and wonders the exact quantity of thumbnails made, how neat they were, or if prismacolor brand markers were used on a canson marker tablet. with that said (or maybe just ignorantly implied by myself?), the time we spend on our thumbnail assignments (trust us when we say they can eat away a huge chunk of our night) could easily be spent making our final product x times better. i fully understand that there are some that completely agree with the aforementioned, and some that completely disagree with it.

truth be told, we all work differently, every single one of us. we all generate ideas differently, we all get inspired differently, and we all discover creativity differently. for some of us, pumping out 40 thumbnails to fulfill the assignment is exactly that, to fulfill the assignment. however, for others, it’s the prime route in creating a successful design. to each his own!

over spring break, i did a logo for some guy in Indiana. an idea sparked in my head from his vague list of requirements. i found the nearest thing to write on, and something to write with (a blue post-it note, and a crappy pen). it took one thumbnail to hit the nail on the head. he loved it, and i got paid. the end.


Anonymous said...

Thumbnails are necessary for the best work you can possibly create. I know that in school they seem tedious with some professors demanding that they be perfect in perfect little boxes. I think that as long as you are getting your ideas out in some form on paper before the computer, then you are just fine. There is no need to make tons of teeny masterpieces before the big finally. It’s so funny. Because most of the time, seriously, after alllllll the thumbnails I do it is always like THE LAST scribble I throw down on paper to fill the quantity requirements, that I end up going with. It’s the same as photography; you have to take rolls of film in order to get the perfect shot. Well, that’s how I see it anyway. Now don’t get me wrong, with thumbs, I don’t think you need to do so many your hand goes numb..just make an effort.
And just to be clear, I’m not saying that you can never have a good piece unless you have thumbs, because that is very possible. I have jumped right to the computer before and had better success with certain projects than others that I have spent hours on thumbs. It all really depends, but when it all comes down to it, thumbs never hurt


Anonymous said...

I also agree with some of the other comments posted that thumbnails can be both annoying at times but necessary. Back in visual translation, as we all would probably agree, was the worst experience with thumbnails ever. However, it was a good starting point to learn the basics and branch off into our individual 'thumbnail' ways that we have today. Some people spend hours and sleepless nights on thumbnails that look like completed pieces of art, but why? Are they going to hang them up on their wall? Or will they just throw them out? Or is it to show off to the class? Why not just be a fine arts major? My thumbnails are very rough. A lot of times, but not always, I feel that writing my ideas/thoughts out in words gets my point across much quicker and clearer than I would be able to in an illustration. On the number of thumbnails, I feel that an average number of maybe 5-10 should always be required, but beyond that it should be up to you. I know that if i try to sit down with all the drawn out outlines of the correct shape of my thumbnails, and then force myself to pour out creativity, it does not work very well. As I learned in psychology recently, the 'bathtub effect' happens a lot to me. That being I come up with most of my ideas when I'm not sitting at my desk trying to push out thumbnails, but at times when I'm not even trying to think of them. Whenever a thought comes to mind, I literally write it down on whatever is in front of me at the time. This way I also feels gives me a much more varied selection of ideas to look back on later because they were all developed at different times and in different situations. Researching images online and in books, magazines, and on google is most definitely my biggest source for idea generation. But I have found more and more that talking to other non-designers about a project helps me out greatly. It not only shows me what 'ordinary' people think about certain topics, but I often branch off from their ideas, thoughts, and even questions. I'm not sure if I have commented exactly on everything in this week's post, but I enjoyed writing about my thoughts on thumbnails, which actually I guess was the whole point of this blog. So overall, I always feel working on paper first is necessary, because as with you, I feel bombarbed with the white blank page of a fresh document and have no idea where to begin!

Anonymous said...

Ask anyone and I'm sure they will complain about how much they hate thumbnails. They aren't my favorite thing to do but I realize now that I'm thankful I've done them. Thumbnails are important because they help expand your ideas. I know I've tried to get right into the computer but then realized my ideas were not as wide as they would be if I started with thumbnails. I agree with a previous comment made stating that if we are required to do 30 thumbnails but come up with a good idea in the first 25 then why make the rest? I think the same way, but there have been many times that the idea I go with was one if the last ideas I just jotted down to get my thumbnails done.

Other ways to generate ideas to create better thumbnails would be research. Without research you wouldn't know who your client is and what they are about. I know a lot of people get ideas from the internet.

Even though I would rather be doing something else besides my thumbnails, I think that they are extremely helpful in designing. It's so much easier to quickly sketch something down when you suddenly come up with an idea at a random point in the day then to think of the idea and wait to go straight to the computer.


Anonymous said...

THUMBNAILS!I have learned that they are unavoidable, necessary and undeniably important to both the concept and design of any project. I tend to work in a quick style when I do thumbnails. I can understand the requirements to have a certain number of thumbnails because it is meant to force you to work quickly and effectively. Sometimes they are just annoying to deal with however. When I get sick of doing thumbnails and I am stuck for ideas I usually try to relate my topic to a art medium or graphic style. At this point I start making full-sized marker pad page designs. Even though thumbnails are great for figuring out layouts and placement of text I find that it takes working with some sort of artistic medium besides pen or pencil to get me started and inspired.
Another thing that I find very useful is talking to other people about my concept. When you say an idea outloud it solidifys it to put it in verbal terms.
The architect Louis Kahn once said something along the lines of "an idea that is not carried out is no idea at all" Its kind of depressing because he designed a lot of buildings which never got consructed. Anyway I don't think doing more thumbnails can ever hurt a design. They make your initial vision tangible.


Anonymous said...

Thumbnails to me aren't that useful. Brainstorming and getting your ideas down on paper is (not necessarily drawing out every detail, especially when you can use that time to manipulate and mess with layouts on the computer.)

They're also easier to do as you go along. When you're messing with ideas on the computer, if you wonder how certain elements can be laid out, you can draw a quick thumbnail instead of switching all of the elements. To me, thumbnails are used as an aid and not the basis of the design.

Also, it really depends on what you're designing which determines whether you need (or the amount of) thumbnails. Logo design is a good example (such as what you've shown) because of all the different possibilities of symbols.

Thumbnails shouldn't become obsolete because they are still useful (more so to some) but it's really about personal preference and how you work.


Anonymous said...

When I first saw the "Beware of PCI" discussion post my first inclination was that there was some kind of newly discovered Super-STD exclusive to Kutztown. After I realized that was not the case there was a sigh of relief until I found out it was actually about thumbnails, which have the potential to be just as painful. Any time a new project is assigned there is an undeniable sense of being overwhelmed by not only pressure, but with task of conjuring up enough ideas to complete the thumbnails. I agree with the fact that there are most times too many thumbs assigned.
Typically it may take a couple tries but the instance you get what your looking you for you know it and should not have to keep coming up with more ideas just to satisfy the demands of a specific number. I do believe that if the thumbnails are a must you may as well make them look presentable.

Anonymous said...

Thumbnails...where do I start? As much as I hate them, they're just as much help to me. A while back, I heard this designer on TLC say that, more often than not, your first five ideas are not going to be used or "second-glanced" at. And that's true. A lot of times, the first few ideas that a designer spits out, are the obvious. A lot of times it takes more in-depth thinking to get at that answer. That's is where thumbnails come in. You can have pages and pages of thumbs or just two until you get what your looking for. And a lot of times, yes, you combine a few thumbs to create your answer. Everyone knows when they have it and when they don't. That is why creative brainstorming has no limit. Thumbnails also serve as a communication tool towards expressing to other designers and clients what your thinking about and how your going to go about your ideas. Without any visuals, it's very hard trying to make someone see what your seeing.You always need a visual.

On the other hand, not everyone does thumbnails. Some designers go about them in different ways. These ways can include collecting inspirational objects, going for a ride, taking pictures for inspiration, or listening to music. After all of this is done, some designers have a good idea of what they want to do and they just go ahead with their first set of drawings - and that's okay.

But overall, I believe that every designer finds what preliminary style of work is good for them, and they go ahead and do it. Creative brainstorming is very vital and, every designer needs a process. Whether it's thumbnails or something like it, no designer should ever just hop onto the computer. Being a desginer is all about being open-minded. Ignoring the brainstorming process is ignorant and doesn't give yourself a chance to grow.


Anonymous said...

I think the idea of generating thumbnails is great. As mentioned by you and everyone else who has commented, they are great for generating ideas. Im much better and faster at getting the ideas out of my head on paper, rather than the computer.

Now, for every positive, there are negatives. There are many things that I think are terrible for thumnails. I HATE when there are set numbers of thumbnails. Sometimes I will generate my ideas within the first few thumbs, and they end up as my finished project. Other times, ill be way past the required amount. When I do generate my idea in the first few, the remaining I tend to do hastly and crappy because I find it to be a waste of my time. Why do more thumbs when I could be furthering other aspects of the project?

What I'm trying to get at is thumbnails should always be a requirement, but the individual should only do as many as they need to do until they get to the right one. If its within the first five or the last one that you did doesn't matter, its the point that you got to where you needed to get.

As important as I feel that thumbs are, I still believe there are acceptions. I'v done numerous projects now where I have the idea in my mind and go crazy, resulting in one awesome peice. Although I do not do this often, I feel that sometimes that it is something worth trying.

I would like to end this with the qualtiy of thumbnail speech. I ABSOLUTELY think that its a waste of time to do a detailed thumbnail. The point of the thumb is to get it out of my head and on paper so I do not forget it. Quality sketches are comps, and rightfully deserve some wholesome time, not thumbs. The longer you spend on a thumbnail is time wasted on thinking of new ideas. Its about the quantity of the sketch, not the quality *** not to be confused with quality of ideas, they should always be kick ass.


Anonymous said...

Thumbnails are certainly necessary to hash out your ideas. Whenever I prematurely jump on the computer I definitely find myself wasting a lot of time without a clear direction in mind.

In my case I also feel like I need to write out in words what I want to say/what I want to accomplish and thoroughly discuss it with a few people. If I don't have a very clear understanding I feel I'm setting myself up for failure. I think it's always important to question your design decisions and gain knowledge of your topic. The more you know the more it shows in your design.


Anonymous said...

Oh thumbnails, you are the bane on collegiate existence. Well, not really, I understand that they are very important, and I usually do not go with my initial ideas when working on a project; I like many of prior comments feels like the number assigned is sometimes unattainable. I understand that our professors just want us to expand our minds and think outside of the box, and I know all of us CD majors have no lives. Much of our time has been spent on creating thumbnails. I personally find myself having to pump out all my thumbnails in one night, and by #10 or #15 I start running out of creative juice and after that I am just filling space with ideas that I know I am not going to use, just to meet the requirement.

I think generating a handful of quality ideas in thumbnail form and then listing your concept in writing and making sample color palettes and other little notes is more helpful than spending so much time on ideas that aren't going to make the cut in the end anyhow. Also the "quality" issue makes me want to pull my hair out. Being a full time student and working full time, I don't always have the time so sit and make each of my 30 thumbnails look like client quality miniature versions of the final outcome, I think they should be more sketchy, as long as the concept is clear, I think it should be passable (again, this is where little notes and color swatches come into play).

OK, I'm done complaining about them. Thumbnails have really helped me, I have used old ones for inspiration for newer projects, so I can't curse them too much. I anticipate doing my own version of thumbnails for as long as I'll be able to work. Over the years in this program, and through all the "thumbnailing" I've done, I feel like the good ideas come to me with more ease now. So, in conclusion, thank you thumbnails for making me a better designer.