Getting Write To The Point
As a graphic designer, I spend most of my day staring at the screen of my iMac, working on one project or another. But before I ever sit down at the computer, I sketch out my ideas using my trusty pencil and good old-fashioned tracing paper. Sketching allows me to try out lots of ideas and variations, to clear out the clutter in my brain until I arrive at concepts worthy of further exploration. I always stress to my designers and interns how important the pencil is to the creative process.
An article in this week’s New York Times Magazine (January 14, 2018) spotlights this most basic of tools in an article entitled, “Inside One of America’s Last Pencil Factories.” The story presents a loving homage to this small, but essential appliance. Christopher Payne’s arty, detailed photographs of the small Jersey City factory detail the handcrafting that goes into the pencil-making process. The graphic quality of the article’s accompanying photographs play to the simple, powerful lines created by pencils, be they words, notes, doodles, sketches or full-blown framed pieces of art.
More evidence is being revealed every day about how students better retain what they are taught when they actually write it down. The research also shows that laptops and tablets can be very distracting. It’s way too easy to click over to Facebook or countless other time-wasting sites. In a recent study published in Psychological Science, Princeton University’s Pam A. Mueller and UCLA’s Daniel M. Oppenheimer compared the effectiveness of taking notes by hand as opposed to by computer.
“When people type their notes, they have this tendency to write down as much of the lecture as they can,” Mueller says. “The students who were taking longhand notes in our studies were forced to be more selective — because you can’t write as fast as you can type. And that extra processing of the material that they were doing benefited them.”
One of my graphic design heroes, Pentagram’s Paula Scher, expressed it well when she said, “It’s important for a graphic designer to be able to see. It’s also important to be able to make a sketch of what you see.”
For me, the pencil has always provided the spark, that first flash of inspiration, the launching pad that propels the project to its optimal graphic solution. And that’s the whole point.