ARE DESIGNERS DEFINED BY THEIR DRAWING AND SKETCHING SKILLS?
I want to explore a different approach to this question. Is what you see and how you see it an influence on your drawings and your drawing skills? The theme of looking and seeing is a common one throughout most of the reading list for this module. I first encountered the concept of seeing when reading ‘Ways of Seeing’ by John Berger. His book opens with the line “Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognises before it can speak.” This is almost exactly what I was discussing in the first part of this submission, except in terms of drawings instead of words. You need to see things in order to interpret the world and develop your own ideas. And what you see influences how and what you draw.
This then potentially poses an alternative answer to the question. One person can look at your drawing and take away a completely different conclusion than you had when you were drawing it. Berger describes this concept in terms of your experiences and surroundings influencing the meaning of an image or drawing. “…a painting is shown on a television screen. The painting enters each viewer’s house. There it is surrounded by his wallpaper, his furniture, his mementoes. It enters the atmosphere of his family. It becomes their talking point. It lends its meaning to their meaning. At the same time, it enters a million other houses and in each of them is seen in a different context.” Trying to get my head around this in relation to the question (Are designers defined by their drawing and sketching skills?) is proving quite difficult. Does this mean that yes, they are defined by their skills because what they draw is being seen by millions of people as something that has been created by you? Or does this mean that because everyone takes a different meaning away from the sketch, you can’t be defined by your skills because there is no single definition?
Another of the texts which tackles the subject of seeing is “The Back of the Napkin” by Dan Roam. Instead of talking about seeing in terms of art like Berger, Roam discusses seeing and the importance of sketching in the business world when pitching your ideas and solving problems. He says “Seeing is the flip side of looking: Looking is the open process of collecting visual information, seeing is the narrowing process of putting visual pieces together in order to make sense of them.” Reading so much on the subject of seeing has really influenced the way I have been working in all three modules. It’s reminded me that to be a good designer or artist you have to see beyond the surface, you need to be perceptive and see what most people don’t. The way you see also influences your work. The entire class have received this brief and are probably at this very moment forming their own answers and reflections on the subject that are influenced by what they’ve read, their experiences as designers and their lives so far. None of us will have the same answer. Just as no designer can ever come up with the same design as another.
But how much of what we see do we really see? Alexandra Horowitz has discussed this question extensively in her books, On Looking: About Everything There is to See, and On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes. I’ve always thought I was quite perceptive, always noticing things that other people didn’t. I’d mention things I’d noticed and people would give me funny looks, “How on earth did you notice that?”. Alexandra Horowitz puts my perception to shame. “You missed that. You are missing the vast majority of what is happening around you. You are missing the events unfolding in your body, in the distance and right in front of you.” The thought that we live in this world without even really seeing it, the thought that we miss the majority of what happens in our life because we only focus on the obvious, we never look past what we can see when we think we’re seeing everything; it’s kind of scary. I think a designer’s job is to do this looking. Give people what they want, what they never knew they wanted, by looking deeper and really seeing. And once a designer has really seen, the way they sketch their idea isn’t important. It’s the way they pitch these ideas that will blow the client away, not the quality of the sketch. I think at this stage in the design process, a simple line drawing of what you’re coming up with says the same as a perfect sketch of it. So no, I still think that a designer cannot be defined by their drawing and sketching skills. It’s about the ideas they have, their enthusiasm for their job and how they let their clients and peers know about it that makes them a good designer. If their idea is good and is pitched well, you can look past how well they’ve drawn it and be transported into the visualisation of the design. A sketch is only a visual aid, it is there to help others visualise your idea, to imagine what it would look like if it already existed. The later design stages are for accuracy, renders and scale drawings are often done digitally, they don’t necessarily involve sketching or require skills in sketching. But in that stage where you’ve been given a brief, you need to sketch, you need to get your ideas out onto paper. And it doesn’t matter how you do this, or how pretty it looks, what matters is the ideas you come up with.