I used to draw a lot when I was younger, but as I grew up and started working as a designer, the wonderful world of digital art drew me away from the more traditional methods of artistic expression.
Sometimes, picking up a pencil again and try to draw a portrait, like back in the old days, is still exciting but can also feel daunting. This digital age conditioned me to put my pencils aside. It’s no wonder that more and more designers today usually start designing directly in Photoshop or Illustrator.
Is there anything wrong with that?
Is traditional design better than digital design?
Is scratching your pencil better than pressing your mouse?
To answer the question, I have collected some truths, but not limited, about the advantages (and disadvantages) of both traditional and digital design based both on my own and others’ experience as designers.
Sketching will help you explore and explain design concepts. You are not required to be an artist to be able to sketch. You can use sketches to explore multiple or complex ideas quickly without the distractions and complications of software. All you need is your mind to design with the objective of flair and creativity.
On the other hand, digital design enables you to show lots and lots of variations of the same idea quickly – say a logo with different colour or type combinations.
I can’t do anything intuitive quickly on my computer, maybe others can. Often I need to deliberately decide what steps I will take. But when I am painting or drawing, my hand makes at least half the decisions.
Although you can erase quickly on paper, correcting is way easier digitally and with a nicer, cleaner result. You can even go back and forth with multiple undos and redos. It’s like time travel in a click.
Sketching may seem like doodling, but it is the tool that we use to define the hardest of our interaction problems, until we have a solution that is elegant, usable and delightful. Illustrator and Photoshop are great production tools, but they are far less efficient at problem-solving.
SCALE TO THE MAX
Being able to move and scale anything so easily in whatever sizes or orientation is definitely a positive for digital design. You can even draw directly on pressure sensitive screens, which saves time (and paper.)
Ideas come and go. When you make something too polished, it sends a signal to others that you are already emotionally invested in the solution you’re pitching. When you present a sketch, it allows for freer dialogue and shows a willingness to pivot – or just toss the whole idea in the bin.
Digitally, you can zoom in way too much onto your design and nitpick details of your design digitally. You can’t do this on paper.
The possibility of going digital also offers more speed and momentum to a designer’s work. Used efficiently, going digital can save you a ton of time. Colourization is also way faster to apply with lots of amazing adjustments options.
I could keep comparing traditional and digital design if I could, but I don’t think that this battle won’t end soon!
Remember, the nature of industry will determine if a digital design will work to your advantage and if a traditional design is better for you. Just remember that in this fast-changing world, computer and digital design has become an integral part of almost all of businesses and learning the skills will always work to any designer’s advantage.
To varying extents, both methods played an important role in the field, and the key is to find the right balance.
The right balance of charm and awe.
PS: What’s my opinion? Pencil all the way.