The Value of Drawing

Michael Graves, renowned architect and product designer, wrote about drawing in yesterday’s New York Times. I’m a constant sketcher at work, so I found his discussion especially meaningful, since he addressed the “lost art” of drawing in an age of computerized rendering in the architectural profession.

First, Graves talks about the intention and value of drawing, which is particularly valuable for those who don’t draw or don’t think they need to. I think he neatly sums it up with this statement:

“Drawings are not just end products: they are part of the thought process of architectural design. Drawings express the interaction of our minds, eyes and hands.”

What we’ve done since we were children is cast aside to easily, without considering what is lost. The literal connection that exists between our brains and hands has a much higher degree of fidelity and nuance than is possible with a mouse (pen, or tablet input as well). It takes a significant amount of time to develop and atrophies when not used.

And then Graves talks about his process, which I found particularly illuminating, since I don’t think I’ve ever given names to the drawings I do, other than calling them “iterations”. He identifies three drawing types called the  “referential sketch,” the “preparatory study” and the “definitive drawing.” The last is most appropriately done on a computer these days, but he finds the most value in the first two:

“With both of these types of drawings, there is a certain joy in their creation, which comes from the interaction between the mind and the hand. Our physical and mental interactions with drawings are formative acts. In a handmade drawing, whether on an electronic tablet or on paper, there are intonations, traces of intentions and speculation. This is not unlike the way a musician might intone a note or how a riff in jazz would be understood subliminally and put a smile on your face.”

Read the whole piece here.

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