putting ink to paper

With the much anticipated arrival of Tom Skeehan’s Sketching Process book, an independent publication for designers of all disciplines, practicemakes asks the Canberra-based furniture designer what it was like to conceive an idea that ultimately puts ink on paper.


Tom Skeehan’s Kickstarter video for Kickstarter.

What drove you to the idea of self-publishing a book – and one for a such a specific audience?

I have always used drawing as communication and as a result have fallen in love with the process of sketching. For the past few years I have been involved in teaching design drawing through my studio and universities around the world. It has been through these experiences that I identified a gap in the market for a design drawing book that shows the value of sketching in a professional studio environment.

It is a core skill for many creatives and one that can actually be taught – so the objective was to create a book that showcases leading Australian designers and their unique sketching process – encouraging you to find your own style and giving you some tips along the way.

You used KickStarter to get the ball rolling, can you describe how that worked for you and how hard you had to work for it?

I haven’t used any crowd funding platforms before and I was interested in exploring this avenue to get a product to market. Kickstarter is a great platform to reach a specific audience and really target the early adopters of a project. This core group of people are the ones you want to win over as they push you product to the bigger audience. It is also a ‘test-of-concept’ approach – if the campaign is successful it not only identifies a market for the product but helps contribute to the capital needed to get the idea of the ground.

Clearly you received overwhelming support through the KS Campaign, did that change the vision or outcome for the book?

We had an amazing response to the Kickstarter. The book has been in development for the past 2 years and I have personally invested over AUD$60k into the project – this figure doesn’t include the printing. For the Kickstarter we deliberately started low with our goal of 13k – this figure was to cover the base printing costs for the first edition. My aim was to hit at least 30k so that we could upgrade to a hard cover and a higher quality paper stock – we reached that point within 3 weeks.

How many copies have been pre-purchased through pledges?

We have pre sold 780 units through Kickstarter with the Australian audience complimented by people from the USA, Singapore, Japan, Canada, Europe and so on. The first edition is of 1,000 copies.

Building a brand identity and story that reflects the audience, the overall business model and brief were an eye-opener. Like anything new, you need to be prepared to put it on the line and take the gamble.

Having never published a book before, was there any time you considered stopping the process?

It has been an incredibly rewarding and challenging process. There where many times through the early development stages before the Kickstarter that I was pouring money and time into an idea that was so different from my studio’s core business. Once the content started to come in from the contributing designers and I had a draft that could be critiqued and shared with industry it became easier to justify some of the risks. Because of my background in furniture design / distribution I was confident the production / fulfilment part of the process could be managed – however the creation of the book, the editorial copy, design and templating, not to mention the overall layout and story was the hardest. I decided to invest in some amazing creatives that specialise in these areas to help guide me through the project and keep the book on track, inline with the original vision.

How steep has the learning curve been for you and what personal sacrifices have you had to make to see it through?

Like any new project or product in development you have to make many sacrifices to see it through to completion. This book has pushed me into another area of the design industry and I have had to expand my understanding of business / logistics and design. Because I’m running this project in parallel to my studios core business I have had to push myself to stay focused and learn new was of running my company. I have had incredible support from mentors and the industry and this has been crucial to get through this project.

What is the biggest thing you have learnt through the process?

This project really showed me how to design a product for a very specific market. So much of the time and money invested into this project was in the early development stages, focusing on our segment of the market and what kind of product they would want. Building a brand identity and story that reflects the audience, the overall business model and brief were an eye-opener. Like anything new, you need to be prepared to put it on the line and take the gamble.

If you could give an aspiring self-publisher one word of advice…?



‘take the risk’

‘always forward never backwards’

Would you do it again?

Yes. Like anything it becomes easier the more you experience. The research, concept and process we have worked through will follow-on, not only into another book but all aspects of my studio.


For more on Sketching Process visit the projects Kickstarter page.

To see Skeehan’s work check his site.

Sketching Process is due for release in April 2017, check back for a full review of the title in the coming weeks.