Is drawing dead?


Oh, and I just missed your lunch invite, I happened to be in KC over lunch yesterday. Next time. But since this thread started with a link to slow design which is a name borrowed from the slow food movement, I find it curious that you mentioned BBQ instead of the fast food I mentioned (to attempt to connect the two ideas, I didn't really want to meet for Big Macs.) See what I mean?

This discussion seems to hint at how the human-technological interface (in the creative act of design) are tied to the nature of being. Good stuff.

Slow Design, the name of my next firm.
Better than the name of my last firm ...


there is no there, drawing with CAD is nothing like passively watching a video, especially when drawing in 3D. Perhaps one could say that drawing with CAD is like being able to go into a video and manipulate things. And, I wonder, what part of the brain is used when drawing in 3D? I mean, do you think it might have something to do with things spatial? Plus, to say "when I use CAD, I feel that my designs are effected by the software" isn't saying anything of relevance. To actually figure out and explain what the effect is might be something relevant though.

i clicked the original slow design link and it was so slow to load i gave up. pretty sure the site is somehow down.
tint, it sounds like your process is to think about the design while working in a pencil and paper medium, then use whatever software package to produce drawings, then go back to paper to design. that's fine, there isn't anything wrong with doing that.
just to clarify where i think the fMRI comments may be confused- i am suggesting (quondam too i think) there are people who actually design and think about design in the same manner utilizing a computer as people who use paper. if you were to measure the brains of these people, theoretically there should be similar activity. it's not passive v. active, nor is it design v. production. it's the same thing, just a different tool.
the original question is "is drawing dead?" the answer is no. the thread moved in a way that suggests it isn't possible to think about design if a computer is involved, which of course means people who do use a computer as part of the actual design process and especially anyone who may use it exclusively is going to be denied employment and opportunity for growth in the design field based on a false assumption.
lunch invitation stands if you find yourself back here. because i use design software to design does not mean i want to quickly throw something together. i often prefer quality over speed, and i think slowing down often helps one refocus and create higher quality design. our bbq in kansas city is very good and if you're not in the area often it is definitely worth stopping for.

curtkram, you just wrote something that uncannily relates to how I see my designing via CAD as different from how architects are generally taught to design. From virtually the very beginning, now 30 years ago, CAD has indeed made me want to "design by quickly throwing something together," and it's not to be fast and done, but to be that confident and actually good.

Hey, curt, is a lunch invitation also extended to me if I'm in your neck of the woods? I'll pay my own way. Ha.

sure observant, if you really want to i'll meet your for lunch sometime.

(Preface: this is a personal lament.) Forgive me if this is an old topic, as I searched and could not find it in the archives.
Did anyone attend this?
Have new technologies (i.e. parametric modeling) colored your view of the creative process?
For some, the current moment is one of crisis. The proliferation of digital tools has radically changed the historic role of drawing, once the signature skill of the architectural profession. Drawing, and consequently, the entire architectural profession is withering while architects surrender creative agency to digital processes. Designers are demoted to information managers, and the seductive verisimilitude of digital rendering supplants critical reflection. (my italics) This rapid transformation has led many, such as the Finnish architect and educator Juhani Pallasmaa, to call for “slowness” in face of the digitization of design.
Others see the moment as one of unparalleled opportunity. Digital design has matured through what Nicholas Negroponte, the founder of the MIT Media Lab, has called the “accommodative” and “adaptive” phases of integration into conventional design processes. It is now on the brink of the “evolutionary” phase in which digital processes assist designers to advance the formal possibilities of building design while also altering conventional understanding of the process of design and construction through previously unimagined paradigms of conception, representation, and distribution.

Happily old-school

imho, much ado about nothing. the world changes. always has, always will, and if you're trying to live in the past, well i hope you get there one day.
i would say the crisis moment in architecture should be when we switched to sealed buildings with fixed windows that can't properly breathe/vent and all of a sudden the side of the wall you put a vapor barrier really matters because when moisture collects it can't evaporate and carbon monoxide from cars and cooking surfaces suddenly starts killing people. but then i think architecture still has something to do with buildings and if you want to critically think about your rendering there is nothing preventing you from doing that.

I think hand-drawing will always be relevant, but hand-drafting doesn't have much of a future. Check out this article about the art of architectural drawing here:

The result of unparalleled opportunity is Gehry, whose crumpled paper garbage buildings would have been significantly more difficult to construct without digital technology. The question that arises is should something be done simply because it can be?
In any case, the lack of experience and knowledge behind the tablet - or the pencil - is the lament of architecture today.
That being said, I have yet to see a set of CAD construction documents that rival a set of hand-drafted working drawings. Of course the only hand-drafted documents done today are by old school guys who have vastly different education and a wealth of experience.

i draw by hand more now than i did in the several years prior. go figure.

I suppose he might not have much credibility on here, but Frank Gehry says that computer models leave less to the imagination--when building plans are sent to the contractor there is less room for interpretation and so you get more of what was designed. I would say that a computer program limits what can be done moreso than a pencil. But then the run into the problem of interpretation. Has anyone here ever had a building that, when sent to the contractors, didn't look at all like you had designed? I'm wondering about this because USC, the school I want, doesn't seem to have a mandatory technology course. This would lead to hand drawing I'd assume. And that could lead to buildings that don't look a lot like their blueprints. This is all quite frightening for someone about to enter in architecture. Thanks for reading!

Coming from a place of nothing (little prior experience, on a M.Arch path starting next year), I would have to say that hand-drawn renderings naturally have the aesthetic that we are drawn to because they are hand-drawn. We've grown up in a world that celebrates (albeit among the minority) art that was created by humans, not by machines. I would imagine that if the opposite were true -- where technology always created masterpieces and the works completed by hand were 'trending' as the wave of the future, perhaps we would be having the same discussion.
I don't know. There's something to be said for the time and effort, the meticulous and precise line work, and the minute detail of graphite on paper that just makes it beautiful. Even if it's some deconstructionist vision/nightmare.

I think another argument one will here when talking about this would be the ways through which the so called small fish now have a chance to work on the scale that the big fish have been for a long time now. That said, our profession has gone through major change every time we experience major economic downturns like this. I think that collectively, some of us, are just hanging on. Whatever gives someone / a design collective / an office that advantage, will seem like a big light somewhere along that long dark tunnel.
If you can find ways to blend hand drawing into your digital platform, and you can benefit from that, you are better off that some of the plastic-y productions we see from time to time. If you can invest in the digital infrastructure needed for quality digital productions, and you are that much faster and profitable, there's no looking back. It's tough. How can you put value on the hours of linework (digital or hand) invested in work, enough ppl are questioning our value. If we don't want the profession to fade like an old hand drawing, we need to help the public to understand our value much more.

Like Steven Ward, I do far more hand drawing now than I did ten years ago. My design process has always involved a lot of sketching, but became more heavily computer-model dominant from 1996 through 2006. Now, I go back and forth from hand sketch to computer model regularly, often working with both at the same time.
In fact, though we use computer modeling and parametric form generating tools extensively, most of our essential design work is done by hand on tracing paper. Through experience, we've learned that a good way to pick senior design talent is to look at who can draw by hand and how well they incorporate hand drawing into their design process and three-dimensional thinking.
So, if you are a young architect who aspires to be a principal designer someday, I strongly recommend that you develop your sketching ability at the same time you're playing around with computer visualization. Both of those skills should be fully integrated with a strong conceptualization and three-dimensional visualization ability.

I am far more comfortable with a pen/pencil than I am with a computer. Drawing by hand I have a direct feedback loop that stimulates my brain. If I have to think about how to draw something (using a mouse or tablet, remembering a specific command sequence, etc.) it takes away from thinking about what I am drawing. Thus I find computers good for visualization but poor for designing.

yep. no matter what your facility with a computer, there's still a completely other language between your brain and your drawing. hand drawing - as a physical act with no intervening language - is more direct.

Drawing is never dead but hand drawing is not much used because advance technology and software make the drawing very easy with the help of computer so hand drawing is old way but used in some fields.

i only use the computer to draft or model what has already been designed. Like many in here, I draw on trace a lot.. infact I draw everything on trace and only go into the computer when I need to finialize the drawings or model. Some would argue that a 3D program allows you to experiment and find new forms/ideas. I think if your drawing skills are good, you can draw almost anything on paper what a 3D program would allow you to.
I really despise 3D when I'm in the design stages.. 10 quick concepts and varations that would take me a minute to draw out on paper, would take me frustrating hours on a computer. After drawing on paper, a physical sketch model is second. A computer is extremely flat and no matter what angle you view it in, it is always distorted and never an accurate perspective of what you'd see in reality.

I see fellow young architects who jump straight to 3D program, or nominally sketching before eagerly jumping to a 3D program, in order to "get the job done" tend to have average design work that is often confined by the lack of spontaneity that can be done with pen and paper.

"A computer is extremely flat and no matter what angle you view it in, it is always distorted and never an accurate perspective of what you'd see in reality."

That's a very interesting statement. I would say that, in fact, the literal truth is quite the opposite, but the writer is correct in effect. No one draws a perspective with curved lines where straight ones are intended -- despite the fact that this is indeed what the eye sees. Instead, the drafter does something analogous to what the view camera does, making parallel the lines which are in fact parallel in space, and correcting those curving ones to conform with the physical reality, not the optical one. Thus, traditional perspective drawing reproduces the designer's ideal vision -- while the computer recreates the optical effects we actually see -- like it or not.

there seems to be this impression that a pencil or a certain manner of hand movement is intrinsically human or hard wired to the human brain and thought process. this is not true.
a lot of people can't draw well. that provides strong evidence that there is no instinct or id or natural human thing about drawing with a pencil. you can draw well with a pencil because you learned it. the relationship between your brain and your drawing is not natural - it's learned.
for many of you, you can point with certainty at your own life and experiences as proof that the relationship between the brain and pencil is stronger than the relationship between the brain and mouse or any other human interface device. you can even point to peers in your environment to confirm your belief. this is not adequate evidence to suggest the way you do things is the absolute only way that things can be done. your population sample is limited and insufficient. to suggest your way is the only possible way is narrow-minded and far to limiting. it's not about you. it was never about you. the world doesn't revolve around the way you want things to work.
the point is, other people can be different than you. that's not to say the way you do things is wrong. it works for you, and that's great. i just think it is mean for you to tell other people they are inferior because they might think different or have a different way of doing things. other people are not wrong for being different than you. especially with neglectful parents sitting their kids in front of a computer game instead of in front of the tv. using a keyboard and screen instead of pencil and paper is natural to people now. using a pencil and paper is less natural.
people now learn computers instead of hand drawing from a very young age and that's ok. that doesn't mean their brain is inferior to yours, or that their process is inferior to yours. for you to discriminate based on confirmation bias or belief polarization or other psychological weakness is harmful to growing a stronger profession.

I'm not sure anyone is offering discriminatory feedback. It's clear that hand drawing will always be different from a digital drawing, will always be different from how one's brain is wired.
Ultimately, where we work, what our company culture is, how we execute are all factors that will determine how we create and what is appropriate for our space. Drawing isn't dead. It's evolving.

The fact remains that there are fundamental differences between the acts of drawing and inputting data.
A great deal of research has been done on the effect of physical activity on brain development, exemplified by the difference between children who are physically active in sports, crafts, cooking and other activities that involve hand to eye coordination and those who spend a the majority of time playing video games with very limited physical motion. So no matter how adept one becomes at inputting data, without training and practice in drawing they will always be missing this kind of development.
Not that one can't become extremely adept at data input (hopefully without developing carpal tunnel syndrome form limited repetitive movement and static body positioning). But even if they do, without training in traditional drawing the fact remains that they are essentially crippled in fundamental ways, not the least of which is reliance on a machine to "draw", similar in a way that Stephen Hawking is dependent on a computer to communicate.
One of the most important lessons of learning to draw is not learning how to draw but learning how to see, as accurate drawing requires a very high level of observation. This too is a learned skill, not necessarily reflected in the ability to produce a drawing but rather in the ability to understand what one is looking at. Every student of life drawing has shared this transformative experience to some degree.

I know I've said this many times here on Architectage but it's pretty fundamental to me: architecture is material. Hand drawing is a material act. There is, for me, a poetic resonance between pressing harder on the paper to make a darker line and stacking one brick on another to make a wall. And there are material decisions - cheap trace or expensive cotton rag? ink or lead? freehand or drafted? - that relate, to me, to the way architects relate to building materials.
But every mode of drawing, from watercolors to BIM, are just tools for communication, with good and poor applications.

i'm suggesting that this is a discriminatory statement:
will always be different from how one's brain is wired
you're implying people who do things different than you have some sort of malfunctioning brain.
you guys are specifically suggesting that holding a pencil as a human interface device causes fundamental differences in brain activity when compared to holding some other form of human interface device. (obviously, there are options outside of the 3 button mouse). it would seem to me miles is suggesting there is scientific data published with enough merit and testing and transparent repeatable methodology to suggest your idea isn't based on bias or empty ideology. i would appreciate links to said studies so i can understand your perspective better. as it is, i think your assumptions regarding brain activity might be wrong. your talking about preferences, not anything scientific or factual or objective.
i would say drawing a detail with a pencil or any other medium is far different than stacking bricks. when i draw a brick detail, regardless of medium, i use my brain to think about how it would be built and how it would work in a real life application. when bob ross draws a brick detail he's thinking about other things. when you actually stack bricks you have weight and mass and gravity and other physical characteristics not applicable to any drawing medium.

Curt, I'm looking for some research for you...

Here is what I am thinking, for those looking for a brain based answer. When one draws by hand, the brain engages in visualization. When drawing is done through visualization software, the visualization is not done by the brain.
I am of the mindset that designing is best done by hand, but computers are good for production work and presentation work.

In other words, Each one of our brains is more powerful than all of the world's computers combined. Then in top of that, an architect's brain is specifically trained to use that brain for visualization. When you outsource the visualization to your mac or PC, you are using an inferior visualization tool. (presentation is another thing, a computer model is a good communication tool.)

the core of my argument is that our brains our trained in visualization. it's not natural. not with a pencil and not with cad or bim or sketchup. for most of us 'of a certain age,' we did not have digital tools during our formative years and because of that they are less familiar to us. because it's right for you or us or me, that does not mean it's right for everyone and it does not mean it will always be right.
the brain can be taught the same sort of visualization regardless of the tool. perhaps for many or most of us, our environments have taught us that the computer is a crutch to do our thinking for us. don't use the tool a crutch.
i know there a few people on these forums entrenched in academia, who probably have to publish or perish. one of you should become friends with someone in your university psychology department and your sociology department. get together to create some reasonable experiment to work this out. i would suggest to not do it yourself because architects don't deal with the brain or with developing testing methodologies. in the mean time, let's not be judgmental against people different than what we're used to. it's a big complicated world and none of us are capable of understanding all of it.

This is thereisnother's husband. I have a background in research psychology and keep up on neuropsych studies that explore brain regions and activation during language and visuo-spatial tasks. There are fMRI studies indicating differences in activation between imagined environments versus concrete, physical ones. One example is a 2004 study by Ganis, Thompson and Kosslyn titled Brain Areas Underlying Visual Mental Imagery and Visual Perception: an fMRI study. I know its old, and there have been many studies since that use this one as foundation. For this current discussion, it supplies evidence that different tasks are engaged in differently by the brain. Hence, the difference between seeing on a screen and seeing in your mind. The use of hand drawing requires a constant holding of that visual space in the visual-spatial memory processing center, wheras computer drawing detatches one from that process by allowing the holding of information externally. One might say that's a good thing, because the mind is allowed to focus on more things at once. And that might be true. But the depth of processing is much less. Intimacy with the design is reduced when it becomes about responding to external stimuli(the image on the screen) versus the complex mental holding and manipulating of many aspects of a project at once (using the the often more tedious and time consuming hand-drawing process). In my profession, we recognize that there are big differences in processing images on screens versus having to generate them on your own. It is the reason why watching too much tv and reading too few books can actually diminish one's capacity to see multiple perspectives and to think critically and holistically about things.

Geneated on my own and processed all at the same time.

Roughly 1.7 square miles.
Even though I've spent about 10 hours getting to this, I still feel like I'm killin' it.

thanks for your input team there is no there :)
we learned to visualize our designs in our minds. it takes practice and discipline to do this well. whether you're transferring that thought to a screen or a piece of paper, or whether you're using a pencil or mouse as an intermediary device, shouldn't limit your ability to hold that visual space in your visual-spatial memory processing center. just practice the same discipline you used to learn how to visualize a plan on paper and apply it to the screen. if i understand correctly, the study you reference is the difference between mind and screen, but i think this discussion is the difference between paper and screen.
i think your point is appropriate if you let your computer think for you, and use it as a crutch to lean on instead of a tool to help you. that doesn't have to be the case though.
i suppose if you're an intern or the bim-wit or however you want to say it, and you're just inputting information from someone else, your statement would also hold true. the person who has no input on the design may not be thinking it through the same way someone actually designing the project would think it through. I believe the same would hold true to someone drafting another person's sketches on a pencil-paper drafting table. it isn't the drawing media that's causing them to release their visual-spatial processing center, it's their job.
if i was to design something myself using the computer to flush it out instead of paper, i don't think it would be right to say i'm responding to the images my computer is creating. i'm still the one generating the content. the computer does what i say, not the other way around. that is not negotiable and any machine that i lose control of will be irreparably harmed with a golf club and possibly fire. the difference isn't thinking about the design, it's more about the computer's ability to erase things easier, move stuff around without having to erase easier, save and file easier, undo button (that's a big one), etc. i'm still the one generating the content and i'm still thinking spatially of what it is i'm designing.

i think your point is appropriate if you let your computer think for you, and use it as a crutch to lean on instead of a tool to help you.
Computers don't think.

And now on to developing another section of New Not There City.


Imagine that, the Great Pyramids and the World Trade Center Towers in the same neighborhood. Can anyone guess the Principal-in-charge of the group towers furthest north of the WTC towers? Hint: Pritzker, how dare you deem me not there!

Curt, I'm talking design, not production.

right, so if you're designing you can think about visual space in the visual-spatial memory processing center whether it's on a computer or sketchpad. the computer screen isn't any more external than the sketchpad. it's pretty much the same design process, just different media.

“It’s only when they are drawing that architects have those Proustian moments – those instants in which they accidentally trip against the uneven stones of mind, triggering memories that magically unlock sorts of visions that underlie all great art.” -
Daniel Libeskind, Breaking Ground: Adventures in Life and Architecture.

"I'm not talking about architectural drawing as art or craft. I'm talking about architectural drawing as a means of figuring out and communicating design."
For the most part, architects design via the 'production' of drawings. All types of (architectural) drawings are productions. Architects also design via the production of models. Interestingly, CAD facilitates drawing and modeling all in one.


A two minute sketch from 26.5 years ago brought to new ComputerAidedDesign life last night.

the same design process, just different media.
curtkram, you refuse to understand or even acknowledge that differences in the media effect the process.
Look at the difference between writing by hand with a traditional implement and writing with a word processor. Hand drafting a letter was a slow process. One had to have a properly prepared nib or quill to write with, as well as a supply of ink, paper and possibly a blotter. The relative speed of the process, as well as the impossibility of correcting mistakes, made one consider carefully exactly what was to be committed to paper.
With word processors one is able to "produce" text at a far greater speed. One of the byproducts of this is that there is often less consideration given to exactly what is produced. It doesn't matter if you can type 120 error-free words a minute if your brain can only produce a dozen that are thoughtfully considered.
The process has changed and that effects what is produced. Which in all fairness can be good or bad. Or to be more accurate IS both good and bad. It is our understanding of the various strengths and weaknesses of technology that allows us to (hopefully) utilize it effectively.

I don't think curtkram is among the ones refusing "to understand or even acknowledge" here.

"With word processors one is able to "produce" text at a far greater speed. One of the byproducts of this is that there is often less consideration given to exactly what is produced." Miles, to use your own words, this is bullshit. Word processing doesn't make me less considerate of what I write, in fact, it gives my words alacrity. The same can be said for what CAD gives my designing.

so you're saying media effects the process. i will acknowledge that. when you use a computer you get undo buttons and such. it's different. when you use a pencil you can erase, whereas a pen on most drawing surfaces doesn't allow you to do that, so that's different. drawing with markers and color pencils is a different process than drawing with a pen too. would you suggest that these other tools also limit the brain's ability to conceive spatially?
it was suggested that by using a different media a person's brain must work different. i am saying that is a flawed assumption. drawing with a pencil is a valid design tool; i am not excluding anyone. to clarify, i am taking an inclusive view and saying that because you are unfamiliar with a certain set of tools is no reason to assume everyone is unfamiliar with that set of tools. to assume the world has to work within the limited confines of your personal experience is naive. don't shun other people or assume they're inferior because they do things different. that's wrong.

you don't think spatially when you write. a comparison of typing and handwriting is not relevant. you are refusing the acknowledge the similarities in design across different media and the similarity between different designers based on what is an insignificant difference.

Curt, study the fMRI's of brain processing a bit. Typing and writing by hand use different parts of the brain too. They both come from the brain, but differences do exist, sorry. Perhaps some day we can RUMENate this over some fast food sometime? ;)

if you're ever in kansas city i'll get you some decent barbeque.
i saw studies on typing v. handwriting while trying to find evidence more closely related to the current discussion. as far as i can tell, neither of those are related to the design/spatial imagination sort of thing. there is a computer v. hand argument to be made, but to be fair i don't think that argument relates to architectural design.

Hand drawing comes in handy during the Pre-Design and SD (Schematic Design) phase. It is much easier to get an idea out with a writing utensil and paper than to confine and refine your idea into your skillset with a modeling program - because their is potential for a lot to be lost in transition.

Thanks, Miles, handwriting is an art form. So is good printing. Regardless of whether one is an architect or an engineer. Sure, doctors are busy and have to write a quick Rx, so it's sloppy. That's understandable. Now, they send them via computer. However, my parents raised me to value good penmanship. All of my college notes were neat and easy to study from. It's also cultural. Anglo-centric America views good penmanship as a negative thing, in some cases. In other cultures, it's a sign of good education and manners, regardless of the writer. Or, if these people didn't have access to good education and breeding, it means they valued it or aspired to it nonetheless. I've seen letters penned by my ancestors who didn't have good access to education and who are now deceased and they looked good enough to be formal invitation grade. Something to be admired.

it was suggested that by using a different media a person's brain must work different
I think it must, maybe not on a measurable or significant scale, but in *some* way different neurons must be firing. When I use watercolor, gravity and fluid dynamics actually physically matter; there is a skill to applying watercolor that is very different from the skill required for charcoal.

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