You’ve just met with a newly engaged couple and hit it off immediately, what fun! They book you to help design their wedding and off you all go on this adventure together. You have the Pantone book out and colors are selected, fabric swatches are lined up with ribbons to match and Pinterest boards are aglow. You have big ideas and things are starting to come together…now, how do you depict your concept so that the couple, their parents, the vendors and your team can bring your vision to life?
Cue Mary Phan, creator of The Sketchbook Series. Mary is a true artist and a big believer in the power of sketching for creatives. With sketching, you could take your great unique idea, put it on paper and convey it in a way much more impactful than words.
We’ve attended The Sketchbook Series ourselves and were so impressed with how Mary makes sketching feel so approachable and simple (and trust us when we cannot draw a thing!) while also making it a so much fun! We were curious to see a bit further into the sketching process so we sat down with Mary to pick her brain and play around with some mood boards to see how they would translate to sketches. Needless to say, the sketches were amazing and we’re ready to sign up for The Sketchbook Series again!
Read on to find out more and get inspired to start sketching!
Nuage Designs: How did The Sketchbook Series come to be?
Mary Phan: Before launching The Sketchbook Series, I had been running Very Merry Events wedding planning and design (since 2008). I had always offered sketches to help design clients bring their visions to life through art before actually bringing them to life. My background included a degree in design with retail merchandising and interior design experience prior to rebranding to Very Merry Inspired. Sketching was always part of the planning process and soon people started asking if I could teach them. Due to increasing demand, I launched my first class in Sonoma in 2013. It was small but it was a hit!
ND: Where did you learn the magic of sketching? What’s your background prior to The Sketchbook Series?
MP: I have to say that it runs in the family. My dad was very much into drawing and my brother was an architect. I always thought I’d grow up to become a fine artist but I ended up doing more rendering in school for interior design.
ND: How does your experience in interior design influence your sketching when put in an event or wedding context?
MP: In interior design, one has to visualize a space, which is similar to designing an event. It is critical to visually communicate effectively with partners in order to create a clear concept to share with a client. Following the client approval, the sketches would be showcased to the vendors and creative partners.
ND: What is the biggest reason clients come to you for sketches?
MP: There is a market for leveraging sketching as part of your process in executing creative projects. I was always known for sketching out my ideas and I offered a unique style as part of the planning/design service.
Since I started offering classes, naturally other event planners and designers started asking if I could create sketches for their clients. We also have an in-house hand-renderist who can create whole scale room concepts and he is quite amazing!
ND: What makes the ability to sketch for a wedding and event clients such an asset as an event professional?
MP: With sketching you are able to create unique ideas without just pulling together Pinterest images, which often leaves loopholes when communicating the overall end vision. Clients are interested in custom looks that haven’t been recycled from other peoples’ designs. As for the administrative work behind every project, big or small, sketching improves communication by helping to cut down on back-and- forth emails. Words, by themselves, cannot convey what visuals can.
ND: Do you find it’s a skill that event professionals can charge for in their services? Does it give them an edge over their competition?
MP: Definitely! I feel that it’s an asset and service to add to their packages once they’ve put in at least 100 hours in practice. In order to get really confident and good at something you have to put in the time to practice. When I used to offer wedding planning and design, I offered sketching as part of the planning process. In fact, it elevated my business. I’d fold it into my cost, not as a line item that was optional but instead as an upcharge in the cost. To accommodate this, you could charge more for your service package as a whole. Taking my Level 1 or Level 2 courses will get you basics, but I would want you to become great at what you do before you start charging. Practice makes perfect!
ND: Do you think that this is a skill limited to event designers? Or can other event professionals benefit too?
MP: Not at all! Any creative discipline that’s selling a creative idea can benefit, from tech to jewelry, and interiors to fashion designers.
ND: What’s your favorite part of the sketching process with your clients? Is there a special collaboration that comes to life in the process?
MP: Sometimes I get people asking, “Do you sketch in front of clients?” The answer is if it’s quick then yes. Otherwise, mostly no because for me, the process is about being able to take their ideas and treat it like a survey to figure out what their tastes are. Afterwards, you do the research and pull images as necessary to create a sketch. It’s not really a collaborative process for me since I think of the sketches as my art. My favorite part of sketching is that being able to make ideas come to life feels fulfilling and therapeutic to me. I don’t think clients usually visualize what their ideas are going to look like in real life either, which makes it exciting when the event comes to life.
ND: How do you feel watching the event come together, from mood board to sketch to conception? Can you see elements of your sketches in the final event?
MP: I love it! I’m so used to seeing the things I sketch turn into reality, and often so closely, that I’m not surprised by the outcome. I also love the element of surprise for my clients, but don’t like surprises myself.
Eliminating surprise factors takes away anxiety for me. If you can’t visualize what an event you’re designing looks like, how can your clients visualize it? Once I have a clear picture in my head, I put it down on paper, and then my clients, who have invested lots of money for their big day, relinquish control. Ultimately, as a planner all you want and need is your client’s trust – once you have that budgets can be stretched much farther than before. For me, the sketches are the blue print. If we solely used mood boards, they could convey feelings but you’d still have no idea what the event was going to look like. That just leaves a little too much interpretation for a client to have the potential to be disappointed.
ND: What’s the secret to sketching? Can anyone really do it?
MP: I think it’s about patience and trusting that it’s a process. I’m amazed at the improvements some of my attendees have in just the two days they are with me. My style is simple and quick techniques, but impactful. During the class, I break techniques down step-by- step that are really fun! I give you the tools necessary in a low-pressure environment. I do believe that we all have the ability to sketch!
ND: What’s on the horizon for The Sketchbook Series?
MP: We have a lot coming up soon! This year’s workshops will include Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Tulum, Mexico, Vancouver, San Francisco, an exclusive class with Pantone and Italy Inspires in Milan. We are starting our enrollment process, something new this year but we really wanted to create a unique experience for each of our cities so make sure to sign up to our newsletter! Other activities include the opening and closing of our e-course as well as international expansion into Mexico and Canada.
ND: Any advice you want to leave us for sketching, designing, etc?
MP: Every designer or anyone selling creative or design work should know how to do this. It’s something they need to invest their time in to learn how to do it or have someone on their team do in order to make project processes seamless from start to finish. Plus, who doesn’t love seeing a sketch of their design? It’s just cool!
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