Is Drawing Dead?

Hand drawing by Amaury Neto

It’s an exciting time to be a designer or developer, and a growing number of new touch-screen tools to make the work more fun are being released every day. It’s like being a kid in a candy store! Given the rapid pace of technological change, individuals with careers deeply immersed in the visualization of design concepts increasingly have the freedom and necessary tools to explore all the new possibilities that tablets, software, and apps have to offer. Which is why we’re asking the question “Is Drawing Dead?” what will become of the hand skills that have formed the basis of our profession, with everything and everybody geared to towards fast and accurate results. Digital Graphics Pros: 1) Accuracy Needless to say, software programs can translate practical measurements to high visual accuracy without having to fuss with the time-consuming act of measuring with a ruler! 2) New Technology-New Possibilities These days, new software such as AutoCAD WS enables you to view, edit, and share AutoCAD drawings with anyone, anywhere using your mobile device. Tablets are also becoming increasingly popular. For example, Wacom’s drawing tablets try to mimic the experience of drawing on paper. Some students say this kind of mimicry allows their ideas and drawings to be more “visionable”.

3D rendering; credit:

3D rendering; credit:

3) Forget Paper! No more fumbling with awkward paper plans and laptops; the onslaught of so many planning and drawing apps and tools expedites the process of creating perfect structures. Cons: 1) New Technology is Seductive We can easily become bedazzled by what a program can do and forget to insert our own individuality. This is a trap for producing robotic, similar designs. 2) Lack of Spontaneity Every program requires us to learn the technical “how-to” processes before being able to execute our ideas visually. This can be a time-consuming and frustrating process. So, where does hand graphics fit in this process? The ability to express yourself as a designer using a pen on paper is an essential emotion of thought — from your brain to the paper. The key word that I’m hanging on is process; that hand drawing is an essential expression of the design process. Hand Graphics: Pros: 1) Control As you use your hand, you gain great control over your own movements, which in turn benefits your vision. Creativity becomes a process that is not inhibited by the boundaries of software programmers but by your own self-expression. 2) Preserving the Human Touch A great drawing has many layers that go beyond technical skill and captures the unique touch of the designer. That in itself is special and should not be lost as we advance toward a more technological age.
Hand drawing by Amaury Neto

Hand drawing by Amaury Neto as featured in Sketchy Saturday

3) Increase in Observational Skills What is the depth of the object? How is it standing, moving? What kinds of details are there? What you observe as you draw and the thoughts that conjure from the process can make you appreciate the life within your designs and help you see the relationships between different features in the physical environment. Cons: 1) Unpredictability Let’s face it — your hand is not a mechanically trained tool. Your drawings may not always turn out the way you envisioned in your head. You have to be prepared to go with the flow; this unpredictability can be an exciting thing. However, your unpredicted outcome requires flexible adaptation. 2)     No Undo Button There’s no undo button if you mess up, especially when drawing in other mediums besides pencil. This might become problematic in larger, important drawings. Hand Graphics vs. Digital? I find that a balance and understanding of both is necessary to be a competent designer in our fields of practice. Ultimately, where we work, what our company culture is, how we execute, are all factors that will determine how we create and what is appropriate for our space. Drawing isn’t dead. It’s evolving. There are certainly differences in how you interact with a watercolor brush or a charcoal pencil or a computer. All I’m saying is those differences are essentially negligible when looking at what designers do for a living. So, if you are a young designer who aspires to be a principal designer someday, I strongly recommend that you develop your sketching ability at the same time you’re playing around with computer visualization. Both of those skills should be fully integrated, with a strong conceptualization and three-dimensional visualization ability. For a great book on hand drawing check out our review of Freehand Drawing & Discovery by James Richards Article written by Win Phyo

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