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.
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.
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.
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.
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.