Paulette Rich Long Illustrator and Graphic Designer
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It Starts with a Pencil

I was chatting with a client/designer the other day. I commented that I almost always start a design the old fashioned way using a pencil on paper. She was surprised! In fact she said that was something she might try. I didn’t think it was something so unusual. I guess for some designers it is.

I started as an illustrator/designer before Bill Gates or Steve Jobs got their machines out to the public. We only had our Ticonderoga pencils (with extra erasers) and paper to start with. There were stat machines and type galleys, rubber cement, paste ups and mechanicals, and marker comps. The “technology” of the good old days was not so good. I’m glad those days are gone. I love my computer (most of the time). I also still love my Ticonderoga pencil with extra erasers!

This is going to sound new age weird but when I pick up that pencil it frees my mind! I scribble and erase and do shorthand versions of ideas in no time. It’s like my ideas flow right from my brain through the pencil. Here’s what I think-it’s a right brain thing. Computers are left brain things …sometimes. I get caught up in the technique if I don’t have that free idea to start with. A pencil gives my work soul; the computer gives it substance…a perfect combination.

If you’re a designer that works totally in the digital world I suggest an experiment. Find a pencil and paper and give it a whirl. If you’re intimidated because you’re not an illustrator don’t worry. Think of it as shorthand. This is for your eyes only. Then take that scribble and translate it digitally. It may surprise you.


  1. As an artist I was not thinking about how this applies to writers. Thanks for the insight.

  2. I remember those days too. Can’t say I miss the type galleys, Exacto knives and trying to line stuff up with a T square! Can’t beat the computer in that case. For graphic design and layout it’s the best thing ever.
    I still like to start illustration and design with a rough pencil sketch though. Then I use the computer to do the actual design and illustration.
    Thanks for your comment!

  3. I remember learning to design with rubber cement, scissors, pencils, paper, light tables… the list goes on… but it is not near often enough that I implement these tools today… Thanks for the reminder

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