The Power of Sketching
When was the last time you picked up a pencil to draw? That question, and my own love of sketching, recently led me to read Paolo Belardi’s excellent book, Why Architects Still Draw. In it, he points out that: “Sketching is a quick, readily available, dense, self-generative, and, above all, extraordinarily communicative notational system” that’s “a precious tool for all human activities that deal with creativity.” That’s an idea that I can get behind 100%.
Since we began adopting CAD in the 80s and 90s, we designers have been using an endless series of digital tools to create, compose, and ultimately produce our deliverables. And now more than ever our emerging designers are often doing their design thinking through mice and software. But hand-drawn sketches can work so much more powerfully than other methods of communication. Sketching is human and tactile; it opens doors to ideas that you might not have come up with otherwise; and it lends itself to connection and memory.
I remember a day twenty-something years ago when my daughter demonstrated the power of sketching. After washing the family Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser, and putting away the bucket and hose, I came back to the car to discover a sticky note attached to the otherwise spotless bumper: a simple sketch of an unhappy face (below), drawn by my four-year-old daughter as a performance review of dad in the wake of some unfair fatherly action I’d taken earlier. I don’t remember what I’d said or done to earn the demerit. But I’ve always remembered that sketch. In that way, it was more powerful than any tantrum she might have thrown or any frustrated words she might have said at that time. And sketching allowed my daughter to express herself clearly, more quickly, and in what’s turned out to be a lasting way (and perhaps I should clarify that this is a good memory, a cherished one)