You know you've got a decent idea if it can survive a bad sketch.
Awful sketches aren't for your clients. They're for you to prove that your idea can be transmitted without a design execution. Good advertising ideas should transcend
I think the worst thing we can do as designers is mystify the design process for our clients. Sure, intuition and creativity are crucial parts of the concepting process -- but if you get seduced by a nice sketch, there may not be a strong idea underneath all that chiaroscuro shading.
Awful concept sketches help bring you down to earth and provide the added benefit of removing the shiny gloss a computer provides. It's a document that you can share with everyone in your place of work to get buy-in. Plus, when the project is over, those sketches makes great kindling for your wood-burning stove.
I gave a lecture at Seattle Central Community College today on the life of a creative campaign for their New Media class. (Thanks Jill!) The room was full of 2nd-quarter design and photography students, and they really seemed to latch onto the above statement, which I followed with a showcase of some of my really bad sketches. I talked through the concept behind each sketch, then showed them concept illustrations, layout, the bad (and good) photos from photo shoots, and the final printed elements as well as any web or video elements that were part of the project.
One student asked what I looked for when interviewing a designer, and I said something like this:
The designer comes in, opens up their book, and starts showing me their work. I listen to what they're saying, and if they communicate their ideas to me in a compelling manner, I look at their designs. If the designs aren't completely tight, I'll still consider hiring them, because they know how to communicate good ideas, and that's what we do in advertising.
But what I should have added was this as well:
If they show me really bad sketches, rough layouts, and decent final designs... then really I know they're business.