Putting Pen to Paper

When I talk to new people about what I do, I often get asked "So...how do you actually do this? Do you really just, like...make these things?". The answer is yes and no. I do actually make them, but they don't just pop out of my head as a fully executed design. There is a lot of planning even just to get from an idea to a pattern. 

Like many creatives out there, I have a process. It changes every time, with every client and every order but there are some basic steps. The step I'm going to talk about today is how I actually get the idea out of my head or my client's and onto paper. 

If I'm working with a client, it starts with a chat and likely some heavy use of Google or Pinterest as we talk about inspiration and what elements the design should have. If it's me working on something new, I generally already have an idea bouncing around and I start putting pen to paper. 

Occasionally I'm struck with an idea that needs to get out on paper before I lose it and it might look like this... 

Generally that's when I'm in the middle of something else and all I have to quickly sketch on is a bright yellow post-it, a crumpled receipt or the back of an envelope (naturally). I also like to snap a quick photo with my phone in case I lose the drawing itself.

Other times I'm able to put in some quality time with my sketchbook and really work out the idea. I tend to start with small, 2-3 inch croquis. Croquis (pronounced "crow-key") literally means "sketch" in French, and in the fashion world it refers to the sketch and the template used to make the sketch of a design. Many designers, myself included, have a pile of templates that we throw under a page to quickly and proportionally draw a design. 

I start with my small croquis and make as many versions of a design as I can think of, making whatever modifications come to me as I draw, and jotting down notes to myself. Sometimes the design I'm thinking of has certain seams or silhouette, but once I see it on paper it just doesn't work. This part feels like where I get all the bad ideas out so the good ideas have space to grow (very technical and important, you see). This part usually goes quickly since each design is a basic line drawing with no details or fancy elements. 

From those, I'll choose whichever designs merit a larger, more detailed drawing and use a larger posed croquis to illustrate them. I use templates I've made here as well, I have a folder of figures in various poses in proportion that I've made over the years and start sketching on top of them. This allows me to add details like fabric texture, buttons, beading, seaming, volume etc, and really helps to start mentally planning the design. I might also illustrate the same design in different views to capture any unique details in the side or back of the design. 

Once those are complete, I'll have another meeting with the client (if it's for a custom order) where we discuss the sketches, make any necessary tweaks and choose a design. Some designers prefer to do this digitally, but I prefer pen and paper. I might digitize a drawing later to play with new colors or textures without having to spend hours recreating a sketch, so it is hugely helpful to be able to do both. 

Another benefit of hand drawn sketches is being able to flip through them later when I'm looking for inspiration. Something about having physical books filled with drawings to look through beats out a hard drive of design files every time, even if some pages are full of a lot of bad ideas!

Creators: what does your design process look like? 

Clients: What parts of the process are you most curious about?

I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!