Why don’t design students make rough sketches or thumbnails anymore?
The demise of the rough sketch has been ascribed to technological changes, the easy availability of cheap online resources, client expectation and reduced deadlines and budgets. However, research confirms that sketching, or indeed any form of hand-eye co-ordination aids concentration and memory. The ambiguous nature of a freehand drawing allows for creative interpretation, encourages ‘fluency’ and provides a ‘thinking trail’.
My thesis will explore the value of a rough sketch or ‘process drawing’, in the visual conceptualisation or ‘ideation’ stage of the design process of undergraduate design students.
Despite the inclusion of process drawing in the Visual Communication Design course at the Western Sydney University, many students are reluctant drawers, preferring to rely on mental imaging, found ready-made solutions and written explanations. Unless they perceive themselves as an illustrator they fear drawing while others believe it is a waste of time. Are these ideation methods and attitudes to drawing reflected within the graphic design industry? Do professional designers still use process drawing as part of their design thinking process?
In 1984, Pam Schenk conducted a 5-year study at Manchester Polytechnic, UK, investigating the role of sketching in the design thinking practices of both novice and professional designers. This study was continued over a 20-year period recording the shift in design procedures, use of technology and changing priorities within the design industry and design education.
During a similar time frame, I held a number of roles within the graphic design industry and experienced similar developments and changes to my own design thinking practices. In this paper, I reflect on the methods and findings of Pam Schenk’s longitudinal study and map these to my own experiences as a practitioner.
This research may add to the critical discourse in drawing research, which argues that process drawing should continue to be clarified, demonstrated and encouraged in design schools.
Process drawing, sketching, conceptualisation, ideation, design process, design thinking, design practice
Schenk, P. (2012). Creativity and control: drawing for ideation and specification in the design process. 222-234. Paper presented at Drawing Research Network Conference, Loughborough, United Kingdom.
Schenk, Pam. Before and After the Computer: The Role of Drawing in Graphic Design.” Visual:Design:scholarship, Vol 1, No.2, pp.11-20, online at: >http://www.agda.com.au/vds/vds010202.pdf <
Schenk P. (1991) The role of drawing in the graphic design process, Design Studies 12, 168–181
Finding a Gateway to Drawing
Why don’t design students make rough sketches and thumbnails anymore? The demise of the rough sketch has been ascribed to the easy availability of cheap online resources, client expectation and reduced deadlines and budgets. However sketching, or indeed any form of hand-eye co-ordination, can aid concentration. It helps designers think, visualise and create; encourages ‘fluency’ and leaves a ‘thinking trail’, providing insights into students’ creative processes and encouraging originality.
Despite the focus on the creative thinking process in the Visual Communications course at UWS, the benefits of process drawing do not resonate with many students. Some rely on repurposing existing images and templates. The distinction between ‘process drawing’ and ‘illustration’ is misunderstood and some students fear ‘exposure’ of deficient skills.
How can we build drawing confidence and model what is still considered by professional designers as ‘best practice’?
I set out to find a fun, non-threatening ‘gateway’ to sketching for non-drawers through my own visual arts practice, using improvisational drawing techniques like doodling and projection drawing. This has led to the development of a ‘squiggling’ activity.
I sketch ‘in the field’ at music events and on stage, using the ipad and Sketch apps to record my process for analysis. Using insights and techniques developed in my practice, I hope to offer strategies which promote the use of drawing as a creative thinking tool and add to the critical discourse in drawing research (Garner, 2012), which argues that process drawing should continue to be clarified, demonstrated and encouraged in design schools.
Process drawing, sketching, improvisation, squiggling, design thinking, conceptualisation, ideation, creativity.
Garner, S.Writing on Drawing, The University of Chicago Press, 1427 E. 60th Street , Chicago, IL 60637, USA, 2012. Book.