Is Drawing Dead? An Inquiry

October 27, 2014

Is Drawing Dead -02“Drawing” – The word conjures images from our early grade school days, of simple crayon and chalk drawings. It was an activity we all shared, and yet experienced individually, creating simple drawings to accompany our own stories and illustrate our personal ideas and experiences.

Drawing, and its sibling “Sketching” are still magical words to ASAI members. The word “Drawing” is rich with connotations of the creative process. To illustrators and designers, the terms are synonymous with the early stages of investigation, exploring problems, depicting concepts, and presenting visual solutions.

Is Drawing Dead? This is a worrisome comment posited by a member recently as a challenge to examine what we do, how we do it, and further to better understand ASAI’s mission and its future. What is meant by the statement?     Does it mean that the education and practice of “drawing” is fading into history…like the typewriter, or cursive writing? What is at issue and why do we care? We wish to pose this to our membership, to elicit a broad range of opinions, and insights.

Personally, I don’t think that drawing is dead. I think it is simply lost and presumed dead. If we organize a proper search party, we will eventually find it alive and well. I’m just not sure where”

Gordon Grice,
Delegate to Canada

Bias or blindness? Drawing and Sketching have historically been done by hand, that is, executed with our hands, using traditional media, paper, pencil, pens, even crayon (oh the smell) and the like. But, we’re in the “Digital Age”, and have been for some years now. Behind the scenes at ASAI members have been discussing the transition, and trends in illustration, from “hand and traditional” methods to “digital” technologies. The use of 3D illustration and design programs have made “visualization” by hand methods seem primitive and laborious, if not obsolete at this point in time. With greater emphasis on digital tools and demand for digital production and presentation, an apparent result has been a decreased interest and emphasis on teaching and practice of drawing and sketching in today’s curricula.

The implications, if true, are not certain, but do concern some – enough to ask the question: Is Drawing Dead?

Is Drawing Dead -01Your Insights?

In short, we would like to get ASAI member impressions on the topic of “Drawing and Sketching, its value and usefulness in learning, recording, communicating and presenting ideas to colleagues and clients. Of course, by this is meant the traditional “hand- drawing” mode, whatever the media. Some of the following thoughts may prompt the discussion.




In School: Is freehand drawing training important to improving visual acuity or problem solving abilities? If you are an educator, do you feel it is crucial, or optional in the designer’s education? It is noteworthy that while some Architectural programs have eliminated freehand classes, even hand drawn presentations, others have resisted the trend and re-introduced the topic in early years, for educational purposes. Does hand-drawing “wire” the brain for design? Does the direct experience of observing and drawing, making the “eye to hand to brain” connection create important memories, improve perception or expand spatial awareness?




In the Office: For Architects, Designers and Illustrators, does hand-sketching play a role in your design process? Is it a skill you use to communicate with the office staff in simple ways, envisioning building concepts, or construction details? One notable Architect mentions the usefulness of his sketching and of journaling as a means of recording and thinking about design concepts. Another mentions that an early idea may likely be doodled, then taken to digital formats for development. At another point you may find yourself on a jobsite, problem solving with a carpenter. Would a hand sketch be a helpful communication tool?

With the Client: You meet, you talk and the scope of a project gets outlined. Do you as a matter of course find sketching a thumbnail “on the go” helpful? Design may not have begun, the commission may not be in hand, but clarity of language, and possibly the timing for a proposal is of the essence. Does drawing skill give you an edge?




For Preliminary Presentations: Once designs have begun to be developed generally architectural CAD drawings are “in the can”. At this point, interim and final presentations can be scheduled, and digital illustrations are not precluded by time demands. Yet at such times would a quick hand-drawn supplemental sketch, an isometric or birds eye view be helpful to clarify intent for your staff or an illustrator? Or, would a hand drawn illustration by more consistent with the problem-seeking early stages of design development?



Is Drawing Dead -03Alive or Dead?

How important is Drawing and Sketching to you? If you are an Educator, an Architect, a Designer, or an Illustrator (in-house at an Architectural Firm, or an independent) your practice will certainly color your reply. We want your opinion, and hope the feedback will start a discussion, and help ASAI to address its mission and offerings to members. Might we present more sketch examples, offer continuing education, provide lectures, blogs, and demos, or encourage academic research on the topic? Please share your thoughts on “Is Drawing Dead?”

Dan Church Architect AIA AICP ASAI
ASAI Secretary 2012-2014