Poll: Do you use pen and paper to plan your designs?

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I used to be big on pen and paper, and at many moments I still fall back on it. I write my journal in a blank journal so that I can play with pens and paint as well as pencils. But more and more I do a lot of my design plans on my computer.

drawing with pen and paper
Designing on paper is easy and quick

Some of the things I used to do only on paper were to plan out the basic layout. I would sketch the columns, put big boxes for the images, text, and other content. Then once I was happy with my sketch I’d get out my calculator (or a piece of scratch paper) and do math to see what kinds of grids I’d need to set up to create the layout that I wanted. But these days I do a lot of that on my computer.

I love my Wacom tablet. It lets me sketch my layouts just like I would on paper, but I don’t feel like I’m wasting paper when I cross something out or change the design mid-stream. For a site I’m working on now I’d have used at least ten pieces of paper, as I considered and threw out various designs.

But what I like best about prototyping on my computer is I can include dynamic elements like rollovers and flyouts directly. I don’t have to rely on my artistic abilities to represent a light box area or describe the animation effects. Instead, I can grab a library element and just slap it into my prototype. No, I almost never use the out-of-the-box library elements for my final designs (I love to tinker with things), but at least I can make my ideas clearer for the clients.

What about you? Do you still use pen(cil) and paper for your initial design work? If you do, how do you get it on the computer later? And if you don’t, what are your favorite tools or applications for doing your prototypes? Let me know in the comments below.

Do you use pen and paper to plan your designs?

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And if you have a minute or two, could you fill out the simple survey in the right column? I’d really appreciate it!

12 thoughts on “Poll: Do you use pen and paper to plan your designs?

    1. Wow. you use Word to do visual prototypes? I guess I’m not that proficient in Word. 🙂 I can barely get the spellcheck working. 🙂 Do you also generate HTML from Word?

        1. Actually it is possible to save Word documents as HTML, it just results in really ugly looking HTML. I don’t recommend it, but it can be useful to get information up on a web page quickly. In the File menu there is an option “Save as Web Page” that will take the current document and save it as HTML with the .htm extension.

          1. Paste the “code” from Word you mean? Well, I’ve found that Dreamweaver does better than most programs at cleaning up Word HTML, but it’s still pretty ugly. But sometimes that’s what you need to do. I just finished a project where I had to do exactly that (paste long Word documents into HTML) and I used Dreamweaver CC 2014 to do it. It still took a while, but most of the problems were resolved fairly quickly.

  1. I started out as a Pen and Paper artist so I fall in and out of using it for designs. But like you I also spend more time on the computer and I also like to view the dynamic elements. 🙂
    Most of my clients however are not tech savvy and they struggle to convey what they want. For them I ask that they send me a list of URL’s of what they like AND to open up word and start typing out what they want using clip art, cut and paste, whatever, to help them help me create what they want.
    It is just amazing what they create and by the end of the discovery they not only have a great concept of what I will do for them they leave feeling that they were able to communicate. 🙂

    1. It sounds like you have an awesome process, Franchesca. Helping clients figure out what they really want can be challenging, and you seem to have a great process. If you’re interested, I’d love to post a guest post from you on your process. email me if you’re interested.

      1. Hi Francesca, like you I started in the print design traditin and it’s ben interesting adapting to the new cyberenvironment! I aproach web design much like I did print in Quark, and STILL sketch out my site map designs. For me, I can’t work any oter way. I think of the web site as an online brochure or movie. It still has to be visually organized in order to be read and responded to. Just the visual devices to this end are different. Trust me, it took a loooooong time for me to embrace and adapt to all this transition as a desiger, but am getting mre and more excited as I learn more. All best forward in your business!

        1. I would have said I was totally digital but then yesterday I had to get a site up quickly from scratch and I did all my prototypes on scratch paper at my desk – it was just faster! 🙂

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