Anna Minzhulina

Sketch—A Line On A Move

In a time where multi-functional software applications such as Photoshop and SketchUp are considered common tools for graphic artists to express with, can a hand-drawn sketch become the ultimate method of invention which revitalizes creativity in editorial and communication design?

What are the qualities of a hand-drawn sketch that contribute to the reinvigoration of creativity? (possible answers may include non-intrusive, non-imposing, open to interpretation, emotional, evolving; open-ended invitation to collaboration rather than finalized presentation)

How can sketching — during the preliminary brainstorming process — enhance the quality of final editorial and communication design? (With a focus on cover designs for publications) What are the long-term advantages accomplished during the use of the sketch method upon the final editorial design?

Starting as far back as 2007, print media was proclaimed ‘DEAD’. The spread of bad news about good news started when a number of influential Canadian magazines — titles such as Toro, Naked Eye and Poetry Toronto — ceased publication because they could not garner enough advertising revenue and/or donor money to continue publishing.

The power of the internet caused these publications to adapt or die and many could not compete with the rapid exchange that URLs were promising, and sometimes delivering on. And, so, as the worldwide web’s appeal began to spread across the globe, so did the demand for online content. Wrought by dubious quality, information started getting distributed at record speeds. Soon, the idea that communication could be completely uncensored, and instantaneously accessed gradually became commonplace and this caused a shift in thinking and consuming content, which gradually pushed print out of the competition… R.I.P. print!

During this crisis, as an art director and designer, I pondered the following questions with an equal degree of anxiety and excitement: How can print re-assert the functionality that is equal to the web? How can print become relevant once again as a medium in its own right? Is it even possible? Where do traditional methods fit within our brave new high tech world?

The path to a magazine’s success is not fixed. In spite of numerous contributing factors and unique nuances, the production process can make or break a publication’s lifespan. Yielding new results means changing the approach to yesterday’s process and methods. Often, the rediscovery of old methods leads to the emergence of new ideas for the future. Reflecting on my personal experience, one such method is the hand-drawn sketch.

Methodologically, this research, is grounded in the Donald Schön’s concept of the “reflective practitioner”—the idea that a professional, during active practice, develops a unique set of skills in reaction to constantly arisen new challenges.

“Sketch—A Line On A Move”, is a reflective work based on my decade-plus experience as the art director and designer for the non-profit publication—Maisonneuve magazine. Through the detailed analysis of over 450 scanned sketches for more than 30 original covers, I am tracing the process backwards from the final image to the original doodle…all the way back to those first inklings within the creative mind.

My findings are shared with and compared to other creators within the editorial and communication design fields, who use and interact with the sketch in their professional careers regularly. From the artistic perspective the field is represented by the legendary Art Director of Esquire magazine, George Lois; an award-winning illustrator Suharu Ogawa and acclaimed photographer Ian Patterson. The editorial side of the process is represented by some of Canada’s most prominent editors, a list which includes Derek Webster (The New Quarterly), Drew Nelles (Maisonneuve) and Daniel Viola (The Walrus).

Perhaps, the aforementioned questions and the sketch method itself are more relevant today than ever. At the time when the whole world is on the stand still and forced into social isolation, artists of all mediums are going back to using their hands to express ideas and image making with a physicality that doesn’t use the computer as a middle-man. A dire need to find the new and reinvent the old ways is emerging and we are communicating our thoughts to the outside world with a newfound sense of purpose and connection that goes beyond technology. Therefore, sketch is about making our expressions as open minded as possible. It is about creating images that are not distracted by filters of any sort. Instead, it is an opportunity to produce art in a non-imposing, emotional way that while still strives to be inventive.

Sketch, as a method, has all the qualities to do just that.