Creating Process

A Blank Sketchbook

Ever since I read through Infographic Designers’ Sketchbooks, I decided I wanted to challenge myself to start using a sketchbook. I have never really been one to use a sketchbook or to practice drawing. Never really knowing what to draw, I would end up with a blank sketchbook and a few pages of random doodles. There are only two times I have had more successful attempts at filling up a sketchbook – a high school drawing class and my first year in undergrad when I was studying architecture. I have since then switched majors, graduated from college, decided to tackle the challenge of obtaining a master’s degree in public health, and began doing design work.

A dear friend of mine recently gave me a sketchbook as a gift, which became the tool for this personal challenge. To be honest, the blank pages intimidate me. Both potential and uncertainty lie in those empty spaces. But after reading Infographic Designers’ Sketchbooks, I felt inspired by the way different designers’ plan and process information for their projects. A sketchbook was a tool for their creating and I saw the possibility for a sketchbook to help me too.

Sketchbook spread for an infographic fact sheet project

When I decided to start using a sketchbook again, the last two years of classes in undergrad came to mind. I had found a large sketchbook for sale and decided to use it to take notes in all of my classes. As time went by, I discovered my note taking became less about writing lines of text and more about diagramming and mind mapping. This change in note taking came naturally, as I worked to process information presented in lectures. Both concrete and abstract ideas became visual in this sketchbook, which for me was a benefit during studying since I am a visual learner.

This method of note taking worked for me and has influenced how I started using this new sketchbook. In the past couple of months since I started, I’ve slowly discovered how to make a sketchbook work best for me. Rather than trying to fit a specific formula or using a certain method for working in a sketchbook, I followed suite with what I concluded from reading Infographic Designers’ Sketchbooks.

There isn’t a number one way to use a sketchbook, because they are tailored to each individual.

This means figuring out what works best for you, not trying to make it look like someone else’s.

Sketchbook spread for writing project

My sketchbook is fairly minimal. I primarily use it to help me problem solve. The projects I work on have a focus on figuring out how to effectively and accurately communicate information in a more visual format. Often I will start with large bodies of text. I need to determine what is the overall message and purpose of the information. From there, I use the sketchbook to outline and sketch the layout of concepts and ideas presented in the information. Rarely do I use anything other than a black gel ink pen. At this early stage, using color can be distracting for me. I switch to digital shortly after.

My sketchbook is not a masterpiece, but it never was meant to be. This is the beauty of a sketchbook. It is a tool to help us grow as designers, artists, and planners. The blank pages provide space to be ourselves, to be messy or neat, colorful or monochromatic, detailed or minimal. The empty spaces still feel overwhelming, but I’m excited to see how the sketchbook will look in the end.


So how do you use a sketchbook in the work you do? I would leave to hear your thoughts below.

Until next time,


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