Don't forget to use your hands

When I was in elementary school I always looked forward to the days where we learned how to write the alphabet.

I didn’t see it as a lesson in language, if anything, I saw it as an art project.

Remember the Head Line, Belt Line, and Foot Line?! That shit was amazing! I vividly remember being excited when my mom bought me an ABC workbook. I finished that thing in a day.

And don’t even get me started on when I learned cursive! (Do they even teach cursive now a days?) Anyway, as I got older I was determined to perfect my penmanship.

It had to be distinct. It had to be beautiful and it had to represent me.

My handwriting eventually became so distinct in high school I used to pretend to be my classmates’ parents and write them doctor notes just so they could ditch school for the day.

Now being a professional designer, I spend so much time sitting in front of my computer. I try to find any excuse to use my hands. Whether it be by drawing, writing notes, using an Exacto knife, tracing an image, or making shadow puppets.


Because it’s important that we as graphic designers get away from the computer.

Have you ever started a project and had no idea where to even begin? It starts with you staring intently at a blank art board. Slowly your body relaxes, your eyes glaze over, your gaze shifts to a distant space behind your computer screen….And before you know it, 45 minutes passed and somehow you fell asleep at your desk!

Concepts and ideas don’t come from staring blankly at a computer screen. They come from collecting magazine clippings, walking outside, talking to people, going to actual stores and researching a client’s competition. It’s sketching, doodling and writing weird notes to yourself.

I feel designers today forget to sketch.

I am not even talking about an elaborate sketch. I am talking about drawing something as basic as squares for a wireframe.  

When you hold a pen in your hand and start moving your arm something in your head switches on. It is like you turned on a mental faucet and all these ideas start pouring out of your head.

A great example of that is from our latest branding project. We worked closely with a San Diego based organization called The Vibe Movement.

The amazing founder Tina Medina (such a rad name) is driven to help troubled youths and communities by implementing restorative practice techniques in local schools. The Vibe Movement is all about changing the frequency and making human connections. So we thought it was perfect we incorporate some kind of hand made logo and hand typography to the identity.

With any branding project, I always begin the design process with sketches.

At first I I started doodling with a Sharpie pen and marker and came across this really cool arrow/letter V/frequency idea. But there was something missing, something didn’t feel right. I eventually became unhappy with my ideas and hit a roadblock.


Coincidentally, that same week I had bought a pen and ink set so I could learn calligraphy through Skillshare. The items were still in its packaging and I figured why not try using them for my sketches. I learned quickly that as much as I steered the pen the ink decided to do it’s own thing. Please note, as a control freak I was having a difficult time dealing with this at first, but then I realized that’s what the logo needed. That was my missing piece—It needed a tactile organic vibe (no pun intended).

Like I mentioned earlier, once I started playing around with the pen and ink, that mental faucet turned on and all this random shit started pouring out! There was no stopping it.

Eventually it got so crazy, the ink ended up on me.

The final logo came out beautifully. As much as I would love to explain the full process of how the logo came to be, that explanation will have to wait for another time. Considering the fact we are currently working on The Vibe Movement’s website. There is more on the way, so stay tuned ;)

What I really wanted to focus on today was the importance of getting off the computer and using your hands. When we change our workspaces and how we do things our minds are forced to think differently.

So if you ever find yourself in a creative block try going outside. Don’t forget to bring a notebook and pen….and start doodling. You never know where your hands will take you.

Jessica Cruz
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