Sketch? Bead Board? Wing It?
I'm mostly a wing-it'er. I look at beads, string them, take them off, try something else...sometimes I'll dump a bunch in one of my DIY lap desks (aka a shoe box lid with bead mat) and just play around until I get what I want.
I used my bead board *a lot* when I started making my beaded badge lanyards, but now I've pretty much got an eye for how the design elements need to repeat, etc., for it come out the right length. I'll may still occasionally use it, but it's been a while.
As I think about more complex and challenging ideas, though, I think I'll be getting out the graph-paper and colored pencils. I need the colored pencils, anyway, if I'm going to try experimenting with shrinky-dinks (Margot Potter has inspired a bracelet idea via a book of hers I just got, Sparkletastic: 50 Dazzling Jewelry and Fashion Projects for the Discriminating Diva (Impatient Beader)
So, once you get an idea for something, what do you do? I'll be very interested to read about it in the comments.
Now, before I wander off for the evening, and since I mentioned it above, I'll tell you what I thought of Sparkletastic. Published in 2007, it's a soft cover, full color, 8.5x11" sized book of 128 pages, 50 projects, with hundreds of great pictures. I found it on one of those racks sticking out of the beading aisles at Michael's that you have to be watchful for, or you'll whack your shoulder on it. Having read Margot's blog pretty faithfully for some time now, as well as watching her delightful videos (have you seen the one about the YuDu home screen printing system? Go. Watch. Now - I'll wait here), I decided I wanted to own one of her books, too. This one looked particularly fun.
Margot's humor is what makes her books stand out from most other beading how-to's I've read. The designs are full of fun and whimsy. I saw a number of things in the book that, while I don't know if I'd make the exact same thing, I could see how the tools, materials and techniques would lend themselves to something that suits my style, too.
Oh, and if you want a copy of this fun and fabulous how-to guide, click this link and a few pennies go to my bead fund :-)