Sketchbooks can be a vital tool in any design process – whatever pupils are designing. Sketchbooks can encourage children to externalise their thoughts, which results in thinking and output which is deeper, broader and more creative. This resource introduces the concept of sketchbooks for designers to children.
Many schools run into problems when encouraging children to “design”.
Whilst the notion of “designing” offers pupils the opportunity to think around a subject area, and ideally come up with an original outcome, the actual act of designing on paper often fails to empower the children with an understanding of the actual properties of the materials and processes which may be involved in realizing their design, which turns the actual design process the pupils undertook into a “dream-led” rather than design-led process.
Even if there is no intention of actual building or realizing the design, the whole process can be made more empowering and enlightening for the pupil by a simple acknowledgement that different media require different considerations and will equal different outcomes. In practice this means that designing on paper with felt tip pen will lead to certain outcomes, building with straws in 3d will lead to other outcomes. Only once someone has an understanding of what a certain material can do or withstand, can a design on paper take into account these properties.
The sketchbook is the perfect place for this acknowledgement that different media facilitate different explorations/expressions. Through working in a sketchbook, pupils can explore all aspects of the design process, and these “parts” then become part of the design. The final version (if it is to be realised) is then informed by, rather than challenged by, the paper design.
The Sketchbooks for Design and Thinking pupils module encourages pupils to think widely about the different aspects of their design work, before exploring their ideas and thinking in their sketchbook.
“Whenever you are asked to design something, or to think about a particular subject, you might want to reach for your sketchbook.
The first thing to do, when you are given your task, is to write it down in your sketchbook. Why? Because right from the start, we need to get into the habit of recording your thoughts on paper. Why? Because you’ll find that the more you get your thoughts out of your head, and make them real so others can see them, the more you’ll think about your task, and the more ideas you’ll have (externalise). The sketchbooks will keep all your ideas in one place, and give you a space which you can use to share or show your ideas, and a place which you can keep going back to to remind yourself what you were thinking, and where your ideas came from.
So, when you are given a task, grab your sketchbook and write the task down in the middle of a clean page. If you want to, instead or as well of writing your task, you could draw a quick picture to remind you of what it is.
Next start jotting down all the different things you might want to think about. Write them down, around your task, or draw doodles to remind you if you prefer. You might need to think about things like: colour, shape, size, scale, texture, form, material, process, the way something looks, the way something acts, how things make you feel, things you like or dislike, things you have seen or experienced, even how you are feeling… Now your page might look something like this (or it might not!)
Then, look again at your page, and see which of the areas you’d like to think about more… It might be a day when you want to think about colour – so spend your time thinking about colour, or it might be a day when you want to think about things you’d like and how you want to bring them to your design – so do that – make the choice yours.
So say you think about colour – start working with different colours in different ways – you might paint, or collage, or collect, or stick, or photocopy, or search… Find them, choose them, get them in your sketchbook. Make one page or make ten pages – it’s up to you. Keep looking at what you are doing, and so that you can respond to it on the next page. And don’t forget that even if you are working with colour, you can still write notes about your thoughts, or draw, on those pages too.
If a thought occurs to you, then it’s really fine to go off and follow that thought. Say you are using lots of red, and you are enjoying red, but want more pattern, then go off and explore pattern. And get that in your sketchbook too.
Or say you want to explore materials, go off and look for the materials you might use – look on the internet, look in a making cupboard or art store, look on a nature table, look on your way to lunch – just look around – and get your ideas into your sketchbook.
So keep going back to that first page, where you write all the different ways in which you would like to explore or think about your task. Keep picking the areas that appeal, and fill up your sketchbook!
Remember the great thing about a sketchbook is that you can just put your ideas into it everyday, without always knowing where your ideas are going…. Your teacher will help you with understanding how you can pull your ideas together in the next stage.”