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The Importance of Thumbnail Designs

Sketching thumbnails is the pathway to creativity, solving design problems

Last night my boyfriends’ son came home from school excited to show us an assignment he completed for his Media class. He designed a help wanted ad for a pizza joint – it was pretty impressive! The ad was A-OK (meaning a big hip-hip horray) for a kid in Grade 5. I gave him a bit of feedback and some advice on design, and explained the process of creating an effective advertisement. I said kid, “the creative process starts with brainstorming ideas and sketching up concepts, aka thumbnail designs. It’s also important to start off with thumbnails designs instead of hoping on the computer and going with the first concept that comes to mind.

And so here I am, featuring this weeks blog article on The Importance of Thumbnail Designs. Mike’s son just wanted to hop on the computer and start designing straight away, and I could’ve let him do that, but I wanted to explain the importance of involving thumbnail designs into the creative design process for any marketing piece – even a help wanted ad.

The Importance of Thumbnail Designs

Why are thumbnail designs so important? They’re important because it’s a beginning place for brainstorming ideas that will branch off the initial concept into something brilliant. I remember designing thumbnails while I was studying Graphic Design at Cambrian College and at first, I dreaded having to sketch a thing. I’m not the strongest illustrator but it was a course requirement to create thumbnail designs (and I mean many thumbnail designs) in order to progress to the next design stage of the project. I came to realize the value of thumbnails – they provide direction for creating the message we’re communicating with our audience. If the message doesn’t work in a sketch then how could it work in a final design? Well, likely it won’t work and you’ve wasted all that time designing an ineffective piece. You don’t have to be an amazing illustrator to create thumbnails; you won’t be judged on your illustrations, you’ll be judged on your creative message.

Sketch it!

If you have an idea and don’t have your sketchbook don’t be afraid to grab a napkin (or scrap paper) and sketch on it. Sometimes our best ideas come out of nowhere because we’re not being pressured or consumed by the daily grind and our minds are free to be creative. It’s better to have that concept on a napkin, scrap paper or paper bag to remind us of the idea that came to us on a whim. It’s a lousy feeling coming up with a great idea only to forget it a day or so later, because you foolishly didn’t jot it down. The CN logo is a great example of how a sketch on a napkin turned into an Iconic Identity. The designer, Allan Robb Fleming sketched out the famous logo concept on an airplane napkin. Without that napkin sketch, would the iconic CN identity be the same one it is today?

While researching the importance of sketching thumbnails, I came across a blog article at the Creative Beacon, The Importance of Including Sketches in your Portfolio. The blog article outlines many important factors as to why sketches are important. Check it out!

What are some of your thumbnail sketching experiences? Give us your tips on how long you should spend brainstorming ideas before hopping to a digital canvas. Leave your comments below.

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