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How to best communicate design ideas (even if you can’t draw)

The fashion industry is a highly visual marketplace. Most designers communicate design ideas through many different mediums. These include drawing, toiling and sampling.

What if you are given the gift of the imagination but not that of creation on paper?

Or worse, you cannot explain your design methodology to anyone?

A lightning sketch made on a scrap of paper, in felt-tip pen, can be the starting point of an impressive first collection. However, while your designs are viable in your head, they may not translate so easily to your team.

Your pattern cutter will need more than a rough rendering and your manufacturer will demand even more.

It should be reassuring to know that not all designers are able to articulate their vision through the medium of drawing. They choose to select existing images and to create collages of their unique ideas. These are then shown to an illustrator or pattern cutter, who transforms them into technical drawings.

So, what is required of the designer who wants their product to come to life exactly the way they imagined?

What does it take to communicate design ideas in the best possible way?

Ask questions

As a start-up, you will no doubt be seeking partnerships and meeting up with potential investors. When sharing your ideas with them, enquire as to whether they have any experience in the design arena. If they don’t, you will need to present them with more than a rough sketch with a few notes attached.

Master the art of presentation

Communicate design ideas with full-colour illustrations along with fabric swatches and any trims you’re considering using. If at all possible, well-finished toiles or first samples could also be included.

Quality over quantity (every time!)

When sharing your work with buyers they will expect to see professionally finished samples. The quality of these is paramount as they will reflect the items that will be delivered should an order be placed.

Some designers omit this step so as to save on further expenses and rely on the final call from the buyer. If you’re just starting out, then you might have the tendency to skip certain things to have better control over expenses, but having a thorough quality check at each step of sampling can save you from major expenses afterwards.

Make use of sales tools

In addition to samples, a Line sheet and lookbook should also be made available to the buyer.

A Line Sheet is a sales tool designed to visually communicate all of the information necessary for a buyer to make a decision about purchasing your collection. It will contain images of your products shot in colour, without a model and against a plain background.

The lookbook is simply a collection of your best fashion “looks” that present a definitive and cohesive vision of your brand. It should contain photographs of your garments on models as well as stills shots. These can be shot on location or in a studio depending on your brand’s core ethos.

Use flat drawings

A technical drawing is a linear rendition of a garment or product. It should not be drawn on a figure (hence the name “flat,” as if it was laid flat on a flat surface).

The front and back, and on occasion the side view if it’s a complicated design, will be drawn and should include details such as pocket placement and button details. Any design flourishes and trim details need to be included too.

If technical drawing isn’t a skill you currently possess, fear not. You don’t need to be a master of this skill.  If interested, there are many educational facilities that teach technical drawing and fashion flat drawing. Other options for creating technical drawings include using the Adobe Suite Illustrator. If you don’t have access to Adobe, they have provided a list of third-party plugins designed to aid you in the creation of all types of technical drawings. Downloadable templates are also available online.

If you would prefer to employ an illustrator to create your flat drawings you could consider finding one on People Per Hour. This is a great online service where people bid for your job offer, or you can hire a pre-agreed type of job service. Another alternative is to contact colleges and ask students to help you communicate design ideas better.

Speak the universal language of factories

When dealing with factories you really need to communicate design ideas clearly and professionally via the help of Specification Sheets and Spec Packs.

A Spec Sheet is essentially a blueprint for your product. It enables designers to collate and keep all the necessary information that’s required to create a Spec Sheet, in one place. This can be updated when required and shared with your factory. They can then follow the information it contains.

The use of a Spec Pack can address so many issues including:

Insurance policy against potential mistakes

If your Specification Sheets are accurate but the factory makes an expensive mistake, this puts you in a better position to litigate.

Better communication with factories

With all of your information in one place, communicating with the factory will be a smoother experience. Ensure that systems are regularly updated.

Faster sampling and production time

Liaising with the factory through Spec should speed up the sampling process and production. The factory can make better progress if they can focus on the job and not on the phone chasing you for information.

Brings clarity to an idea

Some of the most intricate designs will look relatively simple providing that your specification sheets are clear, concise and easy to decipher.

Makes you look more professional to factories

I can only imagine how impressed a factory would be if you should turn up with all of your paperwork in order.

Better quality sampling and production

Your product is only as good as the information you send to the factory who will produce it. Regard your Specification Sheets as the blueprints for your designs. Professional Specification Sheets equate to professionally executed products.

Throughout your journey as a designer you will encounter many different professionals – some will be more creative, some more hands-on, and others will be more academic. They will all have various visualisation abilities and they’ll expect designers to communicate design ideas in different ways. To communicate your designs effectively means being able to tailor and translate your idea in various ways.  Only then will you ensure your idea will be correctly made at the factory, understood by a buyer and bought by the customer.