Studio Skills


Creating & Submitting Your Thumbnail Sketches

Design Process: Creating Effective Thumbnail Sketches… (“Thumbnails”)

  1. Creating Thumbnail Sketches: In the Digital Design program, whenever creating an original design/project from scratch (as opposed to following already-in-progress textbook tutorials), thumbnail sketches are required as a gradable part of nearly every project. In the early stages of the discovery/exploration/design process disciplined designers always sketch out a quantity (sometimes dozens) of thumbnails. Thumbnail sketches serve as efficient, non-overly-detailed spatial blueprints of how a layout might work… in a variety of ways. This preliminary “thinking-doodling-sketching” step happens before any type of “computer production” occurs. Pen/pencil/marker style thumbnail sketches will suffice. Headlines, subheads, body copy blocks/lines and main imagery should be recognizable at least in rough form. Learn about how, when, and why we use thumbnails, below.
  2. Read/Notes/Study: (Research & Learn)
  3. Record/Organize Your Thought Process. Explore Options Faster: Remember, you’ll be saving your thumbnails for your physical portfolio. They serve as a visual shorthand and can help show potential employers how your conception skills work (how you brainstorm your ideas). And, brainstorming is still a hugely important part of design. The most valuable designers can generate many ideas, quickly!
  4. Submitting Thumbnail Sketches: Yes, quality thumbnails are a percentage of the project grade. Always number your picks to indicate your (top 3) favorites to facilitate good communication.
    • Thumbnail Submission (In-Class Students): PRE-production/Approval stage:
      Once your thumbnail sketches are ready, physically present them so that your instructor can: see where your concepts are headed, offer guidance if necessary and help determine that part of your project grade (at that point there may, or may not, be concept/sketch revisions required).
    • Thumbnail Submission (Online Students): PRE-production/Approval stage:
      Once your thumbnail sketches are ready, scan, or photograph them, save the file(s) as LoRes 150 ppi JPEG, or PDF, and place in your “businesswebsite/images” folder. Provide working link(s) to that/those file(s) (in thumbnail-specific Blackboard Dropboxes) for instructor approval/discussion. Note: Learn how to prevent, control and/or correct any sloppy, amateurish, misoriented/rotated/skewed photos. Fix your images before submitting them, so that they display/orient correctly (for better grades and professional practice).
    • Thumbnail Submission (All Students): For Graphic Design and Media Design 1 Projects (POST-production stage):
      Assemble concept thumbnails and production sketches that were used to build the project. Scan, or photograph them, save the file(s) as LoRes 150 ppi JPEG, or PDF, and place in your “businesswebsite/images” folder. Note: Learn how to prevent, control and/or correct any sloppy, amateurish, misoriented/rotated/skewed photos. Fix your images before submitting them, so that they display/orient correctly (for better grades and professional practice). Build and provide properly labeled, easy-to-find link(s) to that/those file(s) into your website (alongside the other project-specific submissions). Your instructor will use the links provided in your website to grade your thumbnails.

Building & Submitting Your Comps

Design Process: Creating Professional Presentation Comprehensives… (“Comps”)

  1. Building Comps:
    Comprehensive mock-ups are required as a gradable part of nearly every foldable, or 3-D, project.

    The physical “color comp,” or mock-up, is indeed a (laser-) printed, finished product. To create a comp, the job is output (depending on specs: 150 ppi, 300 ppi, scaled to fit page, or @100% size) and then glued, folded and trimmed as needed. For printed pieces, this step is ALWAYS done (or should always be done) to verify that the chosen concept is sound and the physical piece will actually work before sending it off to a “real” printer (that would otherwise charge heavily for delays/repairs/revisions of a print job if glitches were found). Comps are also often used early in a sales cycle (i.e. pre-production) to convince a client to consider a specific design solution, or move forward with approval for production.

    So, to recap: You’ll print out each side of your design, glue them together (back-to-back) and check/test your work for production accuracy. Then run through a production checklist to identify any fixes that should be corrected. Do folds break where planned? Do the bleeds work for trimming? Are the font sizes large enough? Is the piece functional and logically constructed? Does the hierarchy of information flow and communicate correctly? Larger projects with larger pages, like a newsletter, may require an extra sheet of paper sandwiched between the others to accommodate (support) the fold(s). The overall goal is to affordably simulate, as accurately as possible, the actual finished printed piece.

    Usually, in a studio environment you’d use the famously messy, toxic-but-effective, “spray mount” (a spray adhesive) to adhere sheets of paper together. Look in to it for your home studio, it’s costly but a typical studio tool and worth learning how to use properly (it’s an art). If you buy your first can, do not: breathe fumes, spray inside, go wild with overspray… or spray anything you wanted to keep uncoated with permanent glue (carpet, eyeglasses, walls, countertops, desks, dogs, etc.). Old pieces of cardboard, newspaper sheets, etc. work for a spray area. To keep things simple in our school setting (in-class) we use glue sticks (water-soluble, non-toxic, easy clean-up, decent adhesion).

  2. Submitting Comps: Yes, quality comps are a percentage of the project grade.
    • Comp Submission (In-Class Students):
      Once your comp is successfully built physically present it so that your instructor can see the quality of work and determine that part of your grade (it may, or may not, involve several physical/digital adjustments/fixes and do-overs).
    • Comp Submission (Online Students): Additional Steps Required:
      Once your comp is successfully built (it may, or may not, involve several physical/digital adjustments/fixes and do-overs) you’ll need to digitally photograph (i.e. photoshoot) a handful of staged, clear views of the piece (including: folded, open, front, back, 3/4 view, etc.). You’ll provide these so that your instructor can see the quality of your work and determine that part of your grade. Note: Learn how to prevent, control and/or correct any sloppy, amateurish, misoriented/rotated/skewed photos. Fix your images before submitting them, so that they display/orient correctly (for better grades and professional practice). As with the other related project files, upload your chosen, quality photos to your project/server folder and build properly labeled, easy-to-find links to those project comp photos into your website (alongside the other project-specific submissions). Your instructor will use the links provided in your website to grade your comps.