Drawing…By Hand or Computer?

I hear it around the office all the time…I wish I could draw like so and so. That so and so is one of the, eh-hem, old-school architects, from the days when being an architect meant being an artist as well.

I think back to design school and our one, frankly, wimpy drawing School drawingclass…entitled “Graphics for Landscape Architecture” or some such art-opposing title. We spent hours sitting outside, trying pitifully to draw natural trees and shrubs in a lifelike manner. Then, weeks were spent summarizing the real trees and shrubs into miniature symbols for use on plans and sections. Creativity was encouraged, but drawings skills were not incubated; and in my case, drawing skills were left unborn.

Perhaps in an argument to convince us that all of this was alright, we were told repeatedly, you’ll never draw in the real world anyway. Just learn Photoshop and AutoCad, because that’s all you’ll ever use. So hours and hours and hours, and months and months and months, project after project were produced using Photoshop, and in advanced cases, AutoCad. I drew quite pathetically, but I drew, and incorporated those drawings into larger Photoshop creations. I may not have been complimented on my drawing skills, but I was ALWAYS complimented on my graphic design skills.

Fast forward to today… the last few weeks have been spent bent over the drawing board. Literally. A real, live drawing board. Even has a Mayline (or generic equivalent parallel rule). In school, I searched for a Mayline for my drafting table, and was told repeatedly by art suppliers and office suppliers that no one’s making these anymore. Everyone uses AutoCad.

Kansas City Zoo Otter Concept PlanThis is typical for me. My company doesn’t really have titles and specific roles, like “You’re a designer, and you’re a drafter.” Everyone sort of does everything, but I tend to be more of a concept designer. I’ve never designed on AutoCad. The only time I even touch AutoCad is when I’m producing construction documents, or to print a base file to draw on.

What’s more interesting is most of our drawings we send out for concepts and masterplans are hand drawn. Color is added through Photoshop, sometimes with markers. I’ve had more drawings placed in front of clients drawn by hand than by AutoCad. Luckily, I’ve learned to draw. On the job training, I guess.

All that unofficial training in graphic design has gone untouched in the real world. I’ve never done a graphic layout for a presentation here. Maybe our office is different, but I suspect not. We have actual graphic designers to do any layouts.

But, I am drawing. By hand. With pencils and pens. I’m no Old School Architect, but that doesn’t matter.

Concept for Bird ExhibitThe moral of the story…design will never leave paper and pens behind. There is something immersive about the tactile process of pulling out the tracing paper and drawing and tracing and scratching out mistakes. There’s nothing better than the surprisingingly, loud, and distracting crackle of a crumpling trace paper ball (although, now I carefully fold my scraps into tight little rectangles to fit into my recycle bin).

If someone tries to tell you that you don’t need to know how to draw as a designer, just nod and smile, and go back to your sketch book.

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One thought on “Drawing…By Hand or Computer?

  1. YES!!! If you could see me right now, I’d be holding up a lighter and swaying back and forth. Professors tell us that we’ll be sketching when we get out of school, but nobody seems to believe it, and they go back to their 3D rendering programs.

    By the way, this is exactly the kind of stuff interns should hear when they are hired. You should send this post to Ned.

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