Why sketchbooks are important when applying for design jobs

If you’re a design student or currently looking for your first design job,  sketchbooks can make all the difference at an interview.

As designers, we all have portfolios of what we consider to be our best work – we should also have sketchbooks full of our ideas.

We know to put the best bits at the front and the end, as these are often the pieces of work that are most recalled.

We also know that we need to show a range of talent and experience within our portfolios – from artwork to web design.

To be perfectly honest, your portfolio isn’t going to be that different from anyone else’s (if you’re a good designer in the first place).

So how do you show your interviewer that you are the best person for the job when they’ve seen 10 portfolios all full of equally great work?

You need something extra that elevates you out of the beauty parade and demonstrates your creative thinking and problem-solving capabilities.

Talk to us today about your next project



Branding sketch concepts

This is where sketchbooks come into play

If you’ve graduated in graphic design you’ll have a good portfolio, and so will everyone else that is applying for the same job as you – sounds harsh, but it’s a fact.

What everyone won’t have is a small library of sketchbooks where they keep all their ideas.

Sketchbooks will give an interviewer insight into your thought process, ideas and your ability to draw (yes, that is still important).

They’ll also demonstrate your grasp of the creative process and your ability to generate lots of ideas and communicate them well through sketching.

Sketchbooks also allow you to demonstrate a wide range of interests and projects – it’s also a good idea to annotate your sketchbooks so your thinking is explained.

Another good use for sketchbooks is to use them to store found design work that you really like – almost like a scrapbook of your own ideas and other design work that influences and inspires you.

It's crucial that applicants for a design job can demonstrate their ability to draw. Sketchbooks are the perfect way to show these skills at interview. They also give us insight into the applicants thought process and ability to generate ideas.

Chris Tymon
Creative Director

Why we love sketchbooks so much

Here at Toast, when we advertise a new Junior designer position, we can receive over 200 applications, from all over the world. Somehow we narrow that down to 10 or so people (this is usually done by having to be brutal in the initial selection process as we can’t interview 200+ people).

We may then reduce this list further to four or five people to invite to interview.

The candidates then come in and we review their portfolios and talk about the work, their skills and the sort of work they like to work on.

We also ask to see sketchbooks because we know that they will tell us a range of things including:

  • A real interest in design and ideas
  • The ability to explore creative directions quickly without needing to be in front of a Mac
  • A passion for various stuff (be it Typography or illustration and so on)
  • The ability of the candidate to draw (we consider that very important)
  • The fact they go over and above what they ‘have’ to do and do what they ‘want’ to do as well

Taking a sketchbook to an interview can also give you some insights

A good sketchbook can make a real difference when you attend a design interview. They can also tell you quite a lot about the person interviewing you.

If you offer-up a sketchbook in an interview and the interviewer isn’t interested in looking at it – what does that tell you about them?

Ultimately you might end up working with these people, and if they’re not interested in your thinking, sketching and ideas – what will they want you to do as part of the job (if you get it).

Are you going to end up as a Mac-monkey or are you applying to join an agency that thrives on ‘the idea’, the creative process and creating exciting and diverse work?


Sketched brochure design concepts

Initial sketch concepts for the National Archives project

Start making it a habit

If you don’t have a sketchbook, go out and buy one tomorrow. 

Try and get into the habit of using it to jot down all your ideas and doodles. As a creative, you’ll have ideas about things all the time – your sketchbook should become the place where you store them.

About Toast

Toast is a branding, print and web design agency based in Oxfordshire

We’re an agency that’s big on ideas, so all our design projects start on paper. This saves project budget when we’re working on the initial concept stages of a project – working loosely on paper enables us to cover a lot of creative ground.

It also means we’re able to add value to projects by suggesting things our clients hadn’t even considered.

Working this way means that all our design team need to have strong drawing skills and the ability to communicate effectively through sketches and drawing.

If you’d like to know more about our process, send us an email or call us on 01295 266644.


Daves Sketchbooks

This is an actual pile of Dave’s sketchbooks all at various stages being filled. There’s some right weird shit in these. And yes, he does steal his kids half-empty sketch pads.

Can we help you with your next project?

Toast is a full-service design agency, we work with clients on everything from business card design to WordPress websites. If you need a quote for an upcoming project, call us on 01295 266644 or complete the form and we'll get in touch.

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