University of Miami infographics students that we don't think just with our brains. We think with our brains, our hands, and the tools that our brains and hands manipulate. Therefore, I encourage them to sketch their ideas out before they even switch the computer on, particularly if their project involves any sort of visual explanation or narrative.*
Of course, some of them don't listen to me. They are students, after all! What does the old fart in front of the projector know? They rush to the software and they end up running into structural and conceptual problems that could have been solved in the early planning stages. When you think, plan, and draw stuff beforehand, ideas can be easily discarded; you don't feel committed to them, as you would if you had spent hours writing code or tracing lines in Illustrator.
But sometimes students do listen. Qin Chen (Twitter) is a former student of mine at UM who was hired by the San Jose Mercury News last year, right after graduation. In her Tumblr, she says that she's been playing with After Effects, a tool that I didn't teach in 2013, but that I plan to include in a new 3D design/infographics class this coming Fall. Qin doesn't illustrate the post with the experimental animation she made, which you can see below, but with the nice hand-drawn sketch that opens this post. I feel proud!
* If the project is a data-driven interactive graphic, I'm fine with sketches done with tools like Google Charts, Datawrapper, or Tableau., though.