Introducing the Thumbnail

General Info on Thumnail Sketches for All Del’s Digital Classroom Students

thumbnail

Hello, my name is Thumb Nail, and I enjoy prying stuff open and collecting random dirt.

Thumbnails (or simply “thumbs” to those in the know) are sketches completed in the early stages of a project with the goal of helping you work through a new layout or design. They are one of the keys to ideation, which is the process of generating ideas.

Why are thumbnails key? Several reasons, but first and foremost, they are quick and relatively intuitive, meaning your creative mind has free reign to explore, make connections and piggyback concepts.

thumbnails

Examples of thumbnail sketches for a design layout.

Most artists and designers make at least a couple dozen thumbnails before settling on a direction for a project. This may seem like a lot, but each typically takes less than five minutes (and definitely less than 10). By the way, if you find yourself laboring longer, you’re in the wrong mindset. easily_impressedThumbs are all about a free and open association, man! This is NOT the right time to be locking down detail.

Wondering why they’re called thumbs? The term references their size. Thumbnails sketches are typically small like the human thumbnail… which is also… uh… small. Yeah…. I was hoping for a more gory etymology too: something with zombies and the heroic sacrifice of limbs. What can I say? The term came into common use 150-odd years ago, and I think they might have been more easily impressed back in the day.

Thumbnails Save Time, Money, the Cheerleader and the World.

Wait, why do thumbnails save time? It’s another step, right? Yes, but it’s a step that can quickly sort good ideas from bad ones. Sometimes what seems great in our head does not translate to the real world. If you jump straight to the full-on-finished-product stage, you may fail to realize something isn’t working until you’ve sunk a lot of can’t-get-them-back hours. D’oh!

kitty-facepalm

Whatever, I Do What I Want!

But what if you have an amazing idea and you’re ready to lock it down NOW? Nope, you should still make thumbnails. The reason is that we often get what seems like an epiphany level idea (“Eureka, I have found it!”), but it’s really not the best solution to our creative problem. These flashes-of-inspiration sometimes flash precisely because they’re UNoriginal… our subconscious mind has picked up vibes from the ether or letters from the sky or something, but our conscious mind doesn’t realize that fact. Thus, the concept seems fresher than it is.

fresh

inspiration_exists

Doing thumbnails usually leads you to better stuff. In fact, most artists and designers end up picking a concept for their work that got generated relatively late in their ideation process. This is because each idea naturally builds on the last while simultaneously sparking new brainstorms. Remember what ol’ P. Picasso says, “Inspiration exists, but it must find you working.” (Well… said. It would be a little creepy if he were still saying it).

Of course, sometimes the first thought does turn out to be the best one after all. Hey, it really WAS a glorious decree from on high! If that’s true for your initial idea, cool… and no hard feelings. After all, it only took a few extra minutes to do thumbnails, PLUS you ended up not only right but proven right. There’s nothing finer than that!

worth_it

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