Graphic Design Sketchbook Ideas – 19 Inspirational Examples

Last Updated on November 28, 2021

Many high school Graphic Design students are unsure what to include within their sketchbook or how to present their assignments in an innovative and appealing way. This collection of student sketchbooks has been shared to motivate and inspire those who study qualifications such as IGCSE / GCSE Art and Design, A Level Graphics and NCEA Level 3 Design (Scholarship). It is for those who are working in areas such as illustration, publication design (pamphlets, brochures, websites, magazine and book design, CD / DVD covers), corporate identity, advertising and marketing (logo and branding, promotional merchandise, posters, internet and television advertising), packaging design and/or symbol design.

You may be interested in our new book: Outstanding High School Sketchbooks. This book has high-resolution images so that fine details and annotation are clear, making it an excellent resource for students and schools. Learn more!

Graphic Design experimentation
This sketchbook is part of an A Level Art project entitled ‘Menace of the Everyday Object’ by Harriet James-Weed. She creates an ominous and eerie effect, similar to that of an old flickering television, by moving a toothbrush along a photocopier. This is a refreshing and intriguing example of sketchbook exploration. Using a wide range of techniques – especially untraditional, outside-of-the-box methods, such as this – can result in exciting and unique work. The second page experiments with graphics using different type faces and fonts.
Logo development sketches
These sketchbook pages are by graphic designer Claire Coullon. Sometimes students make the mistake of going straight to the computer to generate their work. These sketchbook pages demonstrate how much can be done with a pen. These various logo trials are all beautifully hand drawn, using only typography. Accompanied by thoughtful evaluation, each new concept develops from the previous attempt. In-depth experimentation with typography allows students to really understand letterforms, their different elements and how far they can be pushed and manipulated.
NCEA Design scholarship workbook
This NCEA Design Scholarship workbook page sourced from NZQA includes playful experimentation with typography, imagery, symbols and shapes. The Year 13 student generates a creative sketchbook page that clearly communicates their thought processes and development of ideas.
Using Collage: AS Graphic Design
These AS Graphic Design sketchbook pages document the design process for a child safety campaign. They were completed by Jenny Ha while studying at ACG Parnell College. The black pen drawings play with the classic shapes and forms of a sans serif font, creating a simple and easily recognizable logo. Unobtrusive annotation evaluates each logo concept, helping Jenny to develop and improve her ideas. On the right-hand page, Jenny depicts a fragmented and broken child using torn paper and color blocking. The ordered composition of these images prevents the page from being too cluttered and allows each image to be seen without distraction.
Design Sketchbook experimentation ideas
These vibrant sketchbook pages by graphic designer Susanna Foppoli were completed while she studied a post graduate degree at the London College of Communication. Foppoli’s sketchbook is a perfect example of what a graphic design sketchbook should be: a space to explore, play and experiment with different ideas, media and techniques. The typographic exploration (manipulating, tearing, cutting, scanning) rework classic typefaces to produce modern and exciting outcomes.
Camille Rose Garcia study
This is an artist research page by Jack Stevenson, completed as part of a Foundation Diploma course at West Thames College, London, England. This page is part of a character design project and analyzes work by the artist Camille Rose Garcia. Careful annotation and assessment of the work helps Jack develop his own drawings, which are influenced by the style of Camille’s work.
digital sketchbook graphic design
With Graphic Design work often largely computer-based, it may be appropriate for some students to produce digital sketchbooks rather than the traditional, hand-drawn books. This allows students to become familiar with digital presentation and a range of technical processes that can prove useful later on in the design process. Shown here is a ‘Outstanding Scholarship’ NCEA Design sketchbook page by a Year 13 student in New Zealand (sourced from NZQA).
symbol design
Symbol design by Kendall Walston, a student of Kate LaMere, Assistant Professor of Graphic Design at East Carolina University. These hand-drawn concepts transform an apricot into a myriad of simplified forms. Using different line drawing techniques (gestural, continuous, etc.) Kendall creates various unique and refined symbols, all of which would be suitable for a logo. Images have been placed in an ordered and linear fashion, clearly demonstrating how each concept has progressed from one to the next. Although annotation can sometimes be helpful in sketchbooks, here Kendall’s work speaks for itself without the need for explanation.
Logo design sketches
These logo design sketches by film and animation student Enikő Tóth provide an insight into the design process. Tóth sketches simple shapes, forming the image of a shark. Ideas are refined, with more detail and definition added with black pen. Concept trials such as this are a valuable addition to a graphic design sketchbook, providing examiners with a clear understanding of a student’s thinking.
graphic illustration design sketches
These sketchbook pages show final logo developments in an Animal Care project, developed from first-hand observation of a household dog by Bhavisha Ramji of ACG Parnell College. The logo designs have been meticulously drawn, colored and shaded with pencil, revealing an eye for detail and excellent observational drawing ability.
graphic design sketchbook pages
Incorporating traditional sketching methods within your sketchbook is an opportunity to impress examiners and show your drawing skill. In this sketchbook page exploring bats, product designer Chris Armstrong uses only pencil and ink. The illusion of space is achieved through varied line-weight and white pencil. The large ink splatter bleeds onto the next page, creating movement and bringing life to the drawings.
Logo design process
At the most fundamental level, sketchbooks should document thought processes and progression of work. These lively sketchbook pages show logo development by Lucas Quijada, completed as part of a Masters Thesis exploring ‘dual functionality within packaging’, while studying at London Metropolitan University. Lucas begins with complex concepts, hand-drawn with a ballpoint pen, continuously refining his ideas until he is left with elegant, polished logos.
Logo design process
A blank, new sketchbook page can often be intimidating for students. Here, John Langdon uses scrap pieces of paper to do his early sketching, which reduces the pressure to create something ‘good’ straight away. He uses all sides of the page, turning it at different angles. This allows his ideas to flow naturally, growing and developing from previous attempts. Removing all pressure and expectation in this way can provide the freedom to create an outstanding result. These images are logo concepts for Typedia (images sourced from an article containing the back-and-forth between designer and client – a wonderful, insightful exchange). 
NCEA Design folio
This is an NCEA Level 3 Design Scholarship exemplar, completed by a Year 13 student in New Zealand, sourced from NZQA. This sketchbook page contains exploration and research into relevant artist models for a web design project, informing original works that utilize bold colors and individually crafted typefaces. Graphic processes, such as manipulation of opacity, have also been explored to achieve bold areas of light, shape, and pattern. The vibrancy of the work is balanced with quiet annotation – both typed and hand-written analysis and evaluation. (Students considering designing a website as part of a high school project may be interested in reading our article about ePortfolios and web design options for students).
Manipulating text
This typographic investigation by Max Kerly was completed while studying Art and Design at Kingston Art College. In this sketchbook page, Kerly manipulates classic typefaces to create images of skulls and bones. Each letter has been carefully cut out, positioned and collaged, with varying font sizes creating areas of space and tone. Each of these elements has been placed on the page to create a fluid and harmonious composition.
Typography research
An A Level Graphic Design sketchbook project by Jess Young. Typographic research and experimentation helps familiarize students with typeface ‘personality’ and meaning, encouraging students to understand what is appropriate for their design. Here Young explores the effects of multiple typefaces and experiments with stencil work, helping her develop an original, hand-drawn font. Logo graphics have been hand-drawn and scanned, rather than computer-generated, allowing her to quickly experiment with detailed patterns, colors and shapes.
A Level Graphics research pages
Graphic Design students sometimes forget about the wide range of mixed mediums that can be used to extend and develop their projects. These A Level Graphics research pages by Callum Copley analyze the designs of David Carson and KesselsKramer. The bottom page contains stitching and collaged materials alongside topographical map drawings.
Graphics sketchbook layout
These A Level Graphics sketchbook by Stefan Abrahams contain evidence of experimentation with a wide range of techniques – folded up paper, cut-outs, drawing and photography. Pages are flawlessly composed: an inviting record of design research, development and exploration.

Finally, here is an excellent discussion of a sketchbook by Henrietta Ross, provided by Tony Pritchard, leader of Postgraduate Design for Visual Communication courses at the London College of Communication. This video walks viewers through examples of completed sketchbooks, giving invaluable insight into the design process. It stresses the importance of research, which helps to build an understanding of the subject matter and can inspire new and original thinking. The artist’s typographic exploration involves the deconstruction and reconstruction of letters and the observation of shapes and forms. Each page is composed beautifully with a balance of creative pieces and annotation of work.

Need more sketchbook ideas?

This article is part of a series showcasing and celebrating outstanding sketchbooks by students, artists and designers. You may also be interested in viewing our other sketchbook resources:

This sketchbook collection is continually updated. Please bookmark this page so that you can return to it when needed! If you would like to submit your own sketchbook page for inclusion, please contact us. 🙂

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