Editor’s blog

Generations of creative directors have bemoaned the lack of drawing skills among younger designers. Over the years, some of the best have instituted life-drawing classes and other creative ventures to encourage studio teams to, literally, keep their hand (and eye) in.

But the situation is now acute in colleges, with the coalition Government drastically cutting funds to arts and humanities courses in particular. Drawing is decidely off the curriculum for many of them now as they strive to save a buck.

The same is true of making. There is nothing like moulding materials to give your ideas form. That’s the general view of leading architects and product designers, despite the onset of amazing computer-modelling techniques, and we’ve seen making increasingly enter typography and even illustration over the past couple of years as creatives revert to hand-crafting in their work.

Alan Fletcher's Animals
Alan Fletcher’s Animals

Great work often combines hand-drawing or making with computer technology, but we know that some of the best results come from hand-crafting – and even incorporating found objects in design work.

The late graphics hero Alan Fletcher was a past master of it, as is Sir Peter Blake, subject of a new book by Mel Gooding – Peter Blake: Alphabets – which features a collection of typographic artefacts he has been collecting for years. With celebrated typographer Erik Spiekermann, it’s house numbers that turn him on.

Erik Spiekermann
Erik Spiekermann

These guys never go out of fashion.

The evidence is there, so what are we doing about it?

The Sorrell Foundation’s National Art & Design Saturday Club, for example,  seeks to provide Saturday drawing and making classes for teenagers of all backgrounds in local colleges. To date, 14 colleges are signed up for this year’s programme and the aim is to extend its reach. The show of work by the pilot cache of schoolkids at London’s Somerset last summer revealed the huge talents that might otherwise have been missed in a schools system short on art and design training.

GC Leeds looking at their work
GC Leeds looking at their work at The Sorrell Foundation’s National Art & Design Saturday Club

Elsewhere, publisher Prestel is set to release the book of London’s Design Museum‘s current show, Drawing Fashion. Meanwhile, on 3 December Sheffield Hallam University is staging a conference entitled Working Drawings to explore the use of drawings in all its forms.

The interest is clearly there – and the need pressing in design if we are to boost the quality of creative work going forward. But the Government patently doesn’t get it that drawing and making are fundamental skills, and, sadly it appears, nor do college heads strapped for cash and trying to prioritise.

Artwork from The Sorrell Foundation’s National Art Design Saturday Club
Artwork from The Sorrell Foundation’s National Ar &t Design Saturday Club

We in design owe it to ourselves to persuade colleges otherwise, even if it means  offering our services to help them. Or we might have to take on skills  teaching ourselves, by way of ‘apprenticeships’ for junior designers. Initiatives launched by the likes of The Sorrell Foundation and Sheffield Hallam meanwhile deserve our wholehearted support. 

It’s not as though it involves goading students and designers into doing something unpleasant. Drawing and making can be hugely inspiring – and are invariably fun.

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Comments
  • Andi Rusyn November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I couldn’t agree more. Drawing and making are essential to the initial stages of any design project.

    There is no better way to quickly generate ideas than by using a pencil and paper.The speed and freedom of the process quickly generates new ideas that would never otherwise see the light of day. Ideas beget ideas beget ideas. I couldn’t imagine starting a project any other way.

    Just as there is no way to know how a dps will look until it’s printed out and lying before you, there simply is no other way to get an accurate feel for the form and proportions of an object than to actually hold it and move it and use it. The ultimate destiny of the object is to exist in the real world where it will interact with other real objects.

    We all need to draw and some of us also need to make. And it is good fun. So, hats off to the Sorrell Foundation – The National Art & Design Saturday school is a superb idea which will benefit both British design and designers for decades to come.

    In David Cameron’s Big Society it seems we’ll even have to learn to draw ourselves.

  • Andi Rusyn November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I couldn’t agree more. Drawing and making are essential to the initial stages of any design project.

    There is no better way to quickly generate ideas than by using a pencil and paper.The speed and freedom of the process quickly generates new ideas that would never otherwise see the light of day. Ideas beget ideas beget ideas. I couldn’t imagine starting a project any other way.

    Just as there is no way to know how a dps will look until it’s printed out and lying before you, there simply is no other way to get an accurate feel for the form and proportions of an object than to actually hold it and move it and use it. The ultimate destiny of the object is to exist in the real world where it will interact with other real objects.

    We all need to draw and some of us also need to make. And it is good fun. So, hats off to the Sorrell Foundation – The National Art & Design Saturday school is a superb idea which will benefit both British design and designers for decades to come.

    In David Cameron’s Big Society it seems we’ll even have to learn to draw ourselves.

  • Pat November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Being one of the many designers whose drawing skills are not quite as polished as when I was an A level art student – and its great that this is being encouraged.

    However even though I do wish I’d kept up drawing it doesn’t affect my job as a designer – I always have (and will) start off with doodles and sketches (I still use a sketchbook) they’re probably just not quite as nice as they were.

    Its the idea that these marks generate that is important – I’ll leave the polishing up to the artists and illustrators to deliver.

  • Simon Sedgwick November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I can’t imagine ever not drawing and making stuff. If you only use the mac you miss half the fun!

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