Picking up where we left off yesterday on sketching. We talked about cave paintings, anthibolon, and how mass production became a factor to create sketches that look like diagrams for ship building in the 18th century and artillery in the 19th century.

Today we will continue summarizing Pipes’ chapter, A brief history of designers’ drawings from his book Drawing for Designers.

Computer sketching or CAD (computer aided design) came along in 1963. According to Pipes, “Most present-day CAD systems derive from a computer program called Sketchpad…” Sketchpad was “based on the PhD thesis of Ivan Sutherland at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.”

At this point, we are familiar with the ease we can create design work or sketches on the computer; how we can store files, images, and create templates for repeated use. My field, graphic design, does not often make use of CAD, unless the designer is working in 3-D environments. Some of the advantages is that CAD software allows the designer to create 3-D drawings at full size scale. Another advantage of using CAD for designs in 3-D environments is that they do not require physical space for storage. Pipes points out though that pencil and paper will always be the starting point for a designer.

Though the computer programs such as CAD, or Adobe Creative Suite for us graphic designers, make part of the sketching process simpler, there is still a question of whether that much ease flattens, not only the process, but also our expectations what the design process should be or should look like. What I am referring to is that the availability of software to accomplish or realize a design could make us think that there may not be a need to learn to sketch or draw.

Through the chapter, it seems that Pipes uses the term drawing to refer to sketching and vice versa. He proceeds to discuss how drawing is taught. However, considering the use of of software, the question of whether or not to teach sketching and/or drawing becomes relevant. Perhaps at this point I should offer a definition of sketching for these series of posts about Piper’s book. I believe one definition of sketching could be that it is drawing to explore and communicate ideas. But if it is drawing, should we not teach it because we have software than can do half the work, if not all of it, for us?

Jonathan Fish, in his article Cognitive Catalysis: Sketches for a Time-lagged Brain, states the following:

The ability to use untidy sketches to elicit and support our mental models is a difficult skill that we all deserve to be taught.

Pipes addresses this topic by asking the following questions:

Can drawing be taught? Or is it simply a matter of unlearning? Is it a natural skill built into our genes?

I believe that drawing (sketching) is both a natural ability or disposition and it is also something that can and needs to be taught. Though contemporary education leaves drawing for visual arts students, during the Renaissance it was considered to be part of a well rounded education. Thus, we have seen Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings used to explore science, inventions, and according to Pipe “a method of inquiry.” This statement of drawing being a method of inquiry is how I see sketching; a method through which we establish a dialogue, a conversation, a back and forth, between ideas, questions, thoughts, concepts, and even a method to explore personal struggles. Pipes then offers what I considered one of the best definitions of drawing [sketching]:

A drawing is thus a a means of externalizing a concept, but it is also a very personal statement; it is something much more than just an arrangement of marks on paper. A drawing is an analog of the real thing; a stylized collection of symbols, assumptions, and learned shorthand than can be read, or misinterpreted, just like writing.

If so much is addressed and considered through drawing [sketching] should we really continue to leave its teaching to only visual arts students? Should we not learn to at least draw simple things? Or simple thoughts?

To be continued…