Drawing In Today’s Digital World

One of the first elementary tendencies kids acquire is to pick up whatever we find and use it to draw. Unfortunately, what we choose to draw on might end up being the wall or furniture, yet there’s a fortunate possibility that our illustration might make it onto paper. Now here’s where I’m going with this. There’s something to think about for a moment…we’re drawing before most of us can compose a sentence or spell correctly. Somewhere between infancy and maturity many of us lose the passion and/or inclination to draw when in actuality, our job (as designers), communication, and creative output is dependant upon it more so than ever.

I have seen many people asking other designers of the importance of drawing in today’s world. While I don’t think you need to draw perfection each time you put lead to paper, I believe it is important to be able to capture your thoughts on paper. Drawing is seeing and the most fundamental way of engaging/understanding the world. I recognize that “technology happens”, and with it, the computer is such a forgiving tool. Lets recognize that it is in fact a tool, not the solution or sole property to creativity and production. Don’t get me wrong, I think the computer is/has been a great and welcomed addition to the design world, but always be mindful of what you’re communicating and how it’s produced. Milton Glaser says drawing is thinking. Drawing is looking and noticing. I couldn’t agree more. .

Credit: Frank Chimero

I think you’ll find that design and drawing go hand-in-hand (pun intended). This might seem like such an evident statement but my instructors repeatedly tell us less and less young designers are sketching. Reflect on that last sentence I just wrote. Think of how drawing can work to your advantage and make you a more desirable and successful asset whether you’re working for yourself or with a company. In this market you should be doing anything to fight your way towards the top and be noticeable. You could be the missing piece to a puzzle everyone is looking for. Drawing is the fundamental instrument for understanding form and through this, I believe, our design and conceptual level only strengthens.


Here are a few tips for getting into the artistic rhythm:

1. Carry around a sketchbook – A sketchbook is really an accessory no different than a wallet, purse, or backpack. Each object indicates a distinct trait about your style and personality. It’s best to carry one that can easily be stowed away in your pocket so you can take it on any of your adventure. You never know when inspiration will strike.

2. Look for inspiration to get you drawing – I’ve always admired people who had the ability to draw naturalistic figures and create unique characters, but drawing wasn’t something I pictured myself doing on a daily basis. I found artists (through magazines, online, etc.) that motivated me to pick up a pencil and create. There are just too many intelligent and imaginative artists out there to stay stagnant.

3. Draw for the fun of it – Drawing is a great way to relieve stress and get away from working on projects. There are no limits, no rules, and best of all, you’re only improving your dexterity.

Now go pick up that pencil and create!

Josh Medrano is a San Antonio based designer who will be graduating this spring from the University of The Incarnate Word with a BFA in Graphic Design. He is also currently working for Wickley Interactive - an interactive and marketing agency. Josh also runs his own blog and portfolio website to help inspire and educate others about the design community.

  1. Reply Jacques van Heerden February 17, 2010 at 1:20 PM

    Really down to the point here Josh, I do agree however that we have to keep drawing and doodling in our sketch books to keep our inspiration alive.

    We can’t rely solely on the internet as designers.

    Thanks for the article.

  2. Reply t00nfish February 17, 2010 at 2:10 PM

    “Drawing is seeing and the most fundamental way of engaging/understanding the world.”

    quote of the day :D thx for writing down your opinion to this :)
    .-= t00nfish´s last blog ..Danger Mouse – Roboterraudis =-.

    • Reply Josh February 17, 2010 at 7:17 PM

      Hi t00nfish,

      I’m glad you enjoyed reading my article. Thanks for the kind words.

      – Josh

  3. Reply Codesquid February 17, 2010 at 3:44 PM

    Paper and pencil allow you to express yourself without any restrictions, unlike in photoshop or illustrator. I think it’s the best way to come up with ideas. You can always transfer those ideas to the computer later!

    • Reply Jacques van Heerden February 17, 2010 at 4:29 PM

      I totally agree with you on that one. Drawing is limitless. Like our Header says (The Sky is the limit).

    • Reply Josh Medrano February 17, 2010 at 7:25 PM

      I couldn’t agree with you more. Drawing really frees up a lot of negative potential that a computer can bring when starting up or trying to push a project. There are so many different levels of “noise” on the computer as well. I.e. twitter feed, email notifications, IM’s etc. while the alternative is a your sketchbook, a warm bench, and infinite possibilities.

  4. Reply alone February 17, 2010 at 4:23 PM

    I think drawing skills are very helpfull for a designer. I know some designer that are a bit limitated for this missing capacity. A designer that is able to draw or also only sketching has more advantage and can do a bigger variety of works. This is my opinion. Thank for the good port. Cheers.

    • Reply Jacques van Heerden February 17, 2010 at 4:30 PM

      I do agree with you, a designer that is able to draw has a advantage over other designers, not only is he able to illustrate characters and objects he can combine the two.

    • Reply Josh Medrano February 17, 2010 at 7:28 PM

      Right on track. Drawing is a release of self expression and creativity.

  5. Reply Liina Lundin February 17, 2010 at 6:35 PM

    It’s so refreshing to hear someone write about the importance of drawing. I’ve begun to tap into my love of drawing again, and it’s taken my work to a new level. Every time I’ve jumped on the computer without drawing (thinking) first, I waste more time. Thanks for the inspiration.

    • Reply Josh Medrano February 17, 2010 at 7:32 PM

      Hi Liina,

      You and I are on the same boat here. I hadn’t always been drawing, as I stated in my article, but I noticed a significant improvement in my level of thinking, designing, and doing when I began to think on paper. I think it’s so much more applicable to be able to put a few ideas down on paper comparatively to staring at a blank screen and deciding upon which tool to use.

      Glad you enjoyed my article.

  6. Reply Ben February 17, 2010 at 7:36 PM

    definetly a good read – I still think being able to draw is a massive plus when it comes to graphic design –

    ( stumbled and bumped etc)

    : ) cheers – ben
    .-= Ben´s last blog ..7 Proven Ways to Boost Your Creativity =-.

  7. Reply The Landman February 17, 2010 at 7:51 PM

    Short and straight to the point. Nice article. I think that traditional methods of drawing/painting is still prominent but it’ll certainly become less popular in years to come.
    .-= The Landman´s last blog ..12 Inspirational Big Header Websites =-.

  8. Reply Richie February 17, 2010 at 9:05 PM

    Great read, Josh. I definitely agree with you. Sketching is a vital part in creating any design. It creates a framework for a successful artwork. A great artist, always puts his mind and thoughts on paper first. Computers are just a tool to bring it to reality.

  9. Reply ManuelN February 17, 2010 at 9:23 PM

    Nice article, this is the first time i read this blog and i enjoy it, now on im going to follow :D

  10. Reply Eric February 17, 2010 at 11:07 PM

    Feel like you left tablet drawing out of your article. As an industrial designer, I definitely draw everyday. Over the years tech has taken my drawings from paper to a Wacom tablet display. Drawing in Alias sketch has replaced all drawings I do these days and quickened my process from the get go, letting me edit easier for design changes and quickly get sketches out to clients. Thumbnails in my sketch pad will always happen, but drawing and thinking through ideas is happening on the computer once you spend the time to get comfortable with a tablet like you are with paper.

  11. Reply Morgan Finley February 18, 2010 at 3:23 AM

    Right on!

    I’ve always felt that drawing is my most intuitive and immediate skill as a designer. Drawing is visual thinking. I don’t know where I would be as a designer if I didn’t have a sketchbook to draw, conceptualize and think in.

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