Keeping A Sketchbook


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‘Pencils and Pixels’ is a learning resource aimed at helping you to improve your communication skills through drawing. An important part of the design process is to develop ideas from the imagination and share those ideas in the wider world. Whether you are having a conversation with yourself or with others, improving your drawing skills will help you to explain that most important of questions, ‘but what will it look like?

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Keeping A Sketchbook

  1. 1. Keeping a sketchbook 29.07.05 1 Keeping a Sketchbook Why should designers draw? Drawing is about seeing. It is an analytical process that helps us to gain a better understanding of the world in which we live, often down to quite fine detail. Through drawing we begin to see how objects relate to each other, what they are made from and how they were built. When we design we work out ideas in our imagination and often form mental images of what our design will be like. Whilst in our imagination these images are only of value to us. We may be able to describe in words what we can see in our ‘minds eye’ but until we can create a picture, we cannot clearly communicate to others our intension. Despite huge advances in technology, drawing remains the quickest and most effective means of communicating ideas from our imagination. Designers need to learn how to draw. As with learning a musical instrument, learning to draw can be a frustrating and long process that takes practice and determination. However it can also be enormously rewarding and great fun. A common misconception among design students is that to be a good designer you have to able to create highly realistic ‘artistic’ images equivalent to works of art. This is simply not true. We do however have to make ‘communicative marks’ that enable us to explain to another person our ideas. As children we learn how to draw in an almost stereotypical way, trees look like lollypops, people are made from matchsticks and elephants look like Dumbo. We have had a lifetime of influence that makes us perceive our world in a particular way. Learning how to draw from life requires us to stop looking with our brains and established understanding of what things should look like and to SEE with our EYES. We have to replace our in built belief of what we ‘think’ the world looks like with copies analysed by our own eyes from real life. Just as reading and writing helps us to build a mental dictionary of words and language, drawing the world around us helps us to build mental images that enhance our visual dictionary. The more we enrich this visual dictionary through practice, the better informed our visual memory becomes. We can then call on this stored resource when we need to draw from our imagination, which makes this process much easier as we are better able to anticipate how the world fits together. As with any skill, learning to draw requires the mastery of several key principles most notably an understanding of how perspective works. Drawing is also helped by using the correct materials for appropriate jobs but most important of all is to practice drawing through copying.
  2. 2. Keeping a sketchbook 29.07.05 2 Why keep a sketchbook? ALL designers should keep a sketchbook! By keeping a sketchbook that can easily fit into a bag or pocket, designers can practice drawing wherever they are, whenever they wish. The sketchbook can become a hand drawn version of a camera. However, sketchbooks are not just for drawing practice but can be used for writing down inspirational ideas when they arise, filing snippets of useful information, organization and a myriad of other functions that are purely for personal use. The sketchbook becomes a series of private conversations with oneself enabling ideas to develop as information passes between hand and eye and back again. As time passes you will end up with a collection of sketchbooks that act a record of your design life, a diary of design experience. As well as charting how your drawing improves over time, a sketchbook is a record of ideas that you may wish to return to for future projects. What type of sketchbook? This is mainly personal preference, but A5 is a good size for slipping into a bag or large pocket. Some designers prefer A6. Always choose a hardback sketchbook so that you have a stiff surface on which to draw. Choose cartridge paper that is not too heavy but has enough of a key to receive pencil. Who is a sketchbook for? Whilst tutors will constantly remind you to keep a sketchbook, it is only of any use to YOU. Never worry about the mistakes; enjoy the sketches you are please with. Include written notes, diagrams and anything else that will help you to remember experiences. Do not take yourself too seriously and to not try to keep each page of your sketchbook in perfect condition. A sketchbook is a working document a set of visual notes. A sketchbook is a profoundly personal document that is a learning and recording tool that if you so choose should only be seen by you. Pencils and Pixels by The University of Lincoln is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non- Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License. For more information, see