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Have you lost touch with your artistic roots?

Or perhaps you never learned to draw in the first place? Six dedicated sketchers explain why all designers should draw and offer 7 ways to make it work for you.

Every Sunday afternoon, Ken Carbone clips The New York Times arts calendar and tucks it in his ever-present journal. Darting about Manhattan during the following week, hell check the listing whenever spare minutes pop up between appointments. Finding a nearby gallery, hell duck inside to sketch its latest exhibit. Pencil sketches force me to really look at a work of art, says Carbone, acclaimed designer and founding partner of Carbone Smolan Agency in New York City. Drawing provides a lasting memory of the work and broadens my creative references for design. Carbone is one of many designers who find sketching to be the gateway leading to stronger creativity and smarter designs. For them, drawing is, as Henri Matisse said, like putting a line around an idea. Yet scores of todays designers shun drawing. Some believe computers negate the need to draw. Others feel they lack drawing talent. And many have lifelong phobias about pressing pencil to paper. These folks forfeit remarkable ways to expand creativity, say designers who find drawing as revitalizing as breathing pure oxygen.
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Drawing is the best way for me to translate ideas from my head to the real world, says Dave Werner, creative director at Minor Studios in San Francisco. Ill sketch and also write little notes. Before long, my ideasgood and badare out in front of me rather than hidden in my head. Philadelphia-based designer and blogger Melissa Morris Ivone agrees. Ideas in my head are still a bit blurry, she says. Putting them on paper makes them real. And from there, I can edit as necessary. Of course, you dont have to draw to be a good designer. Many non-drawing designers travel through their careers without being blistered or rained upon. But die-hard drawers say these fellow designers are sort of like guitarists who never learn to read music or tennis players who never perfect their backhands. They may play some fine songs and win some big games, but theyll always be somewhat handicapped on their paths to glory. If youre a compulsive drawer, telling you this is a bit like talking to Noah about the flood. You already know sketching sparks creativity and helps you notice
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life in fresh ways. You probably already use drawing to kick-start design projects and explain ideas to clients. But if, on the other hand, youve stashed away your sketchbooksor never really bothered opening them to begin withstay tuned. Several habitual sketchers have hints on how you can begin drawing with brio.
1. STOP FRETTING AND GRAB A PENCIL The first thing is to not be precious about it, Carbone says. Just grab easily available tools and learn to love the mistakes you make. Ive seen designers buy expensive materials only to get frustrated with their early results. Theyre taking things way too seriously. Ivone is another drawer who recommends cutting yourself some slack. If a drawing isnt working out one day, no worries, she says. Theres always tomorrow. At one point, I wanted every single sketch to be good. So instead of spending an hour drawing for fun, Id spend four hours in a cloud of eraser dust. And then I would stop drawing completely just to avoid failure. I have to remember that its OK to make mistakes. Its OK to be loose and messy. To keep the momentum flowing, Kate Bingaman Burt, a Portland, OR-based designer, blogger, professor and illustrator, suggests drawing around a theme. If you want to sketch more, pick a topic and explore around that issue, she says. A blank piece of paper is scary. Having a project with structure makes it less frightening. Atlanta-based Hank Richardson, Portfolio Centers design master, agrees that moving with celerity makes drawing less intimidating. The faster you draw
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something on the page, the quicker you get into expressing yourself, he says. Before you know it, youre consumed in the creative and design process. When students tell me they cant draw, I know theres a fear they need to overcome, he continues. Ill ask them to pick a paragraph from their class notes and use drawing to communicate what theyve written. Pretty soon, they forget the fear because theyre too busy communicating their message. Richardson says fear also melts when people remember that drawing and illustration are two different activities. Some designers think their sketches have to be polished illustrations, he says. This causes fear and resistance. Just relax and keep putting lines on paper.
2. GIVE YOURSELF THE TIME AND TOOLS Creating daily cartoons for his school newspaper helped Werner overcome any early fears he had about drawing. The more you draw, he says, the easier it becomes and the better you get. Creating daily drawings also taught Werner to carry a sketchbook. Not all ideas happen sitting behind a desk, he says, so I like having something nearby whenever an idea pops in my head. I also really like Wacom tablets. At first it was like learning to draw all over again, but its now become a powerful tool. And having an undo button alone is worth the price! Carbone also advocates for daily drawing. In addition to sketching at his agency, he makes sure to draw for himself at least five hours a week. He spends some of his time drawing a model with other artists in a
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quiet Soho studio. Life drawing is such an anomaly in todays digital world, he says, and in most design circles its probably seen as uncool. But for me, its like going to the gym to stay in shape. Its a way to engage mental and physical muscles to ensure that theyre working at optimum levels. A nude may never show up in one of my designs, but the fundamentals of what I learn from drawing the nude definitely does. Proportion, structure, composition and relationships are all there. Carbone, like Werner, has added technology to his quiver of drawing tools. Ive been working with the Brushes app on my iPad, he says. I love the surprisingly natural feel and range this app allows. And, in the end, theres nothing to clean up.
3. USE DRAWING TO DRIVE YOUR DESIGNS In addition to drawing for fun, discover ways to inject sketching into your creative process and design routines. Because drawing is a basic discipline, I really pay attention to the fundamentals of lines, contours, shading and perspective, Ivone says. Designers dont have to produce fine art with a 2B pencil. But understanding basic principles helps create better work. Nicolas Maitret, creative director with Stone Yamashita Partners in New York City, calls drawing a stepping-stone between a designers imagination and the real world. Through drawing, ideas are born, formed and developed, he says. They become clearer, stronger and better. When Bingaman Burt teaches graphic design at Portland State University, she insists that her students never start projects on the computer. I tell them to begin with a piece of paper and keep the laptop closed, she says. Looking at those ideas on paper and perhaps adding or editing will make the end results smarter and richer.
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Drawing is also part of Werners design process, whether hes explaining concepts to clients or distilling complicated objects into icons for logos. Drawing is a key part of a designers voice, he says. Its like a natural extension of handwritingno one draws quite the same way as another person. Carbone says his initial sketches often set direction for the design team at his agency. A loose sketch is all I need to communicate the essence of an idea, he says. These sketches put the design process in motion, whether its a brand identity, signage system or website. Then well work as a team to develop the final solution.
4. USE DRAWING WHEN COLLABORATING As a designer, youre a visual person. You see things in your mind. But most clients arent visual people. Thats why its often so difficult to collaborate and communicate with clients on a project. Youre explaining what you see in your head, but their minds cant visualize it. Drawings help close these communication gaps. For example, Maitret works mostly with multidisciplinary teams at Stone Yamashita. And he uses drawing to provide a common language for collaboration. In one project, we assembled a team of designers, marketers, bankers and risk managers to create a financial product for a major retailer, he says. Drawing became the shared vocabulary as we sketched everything from store layouts to user scenarios to brochures and packaging. Drawing was the intuitive tool we could all use and comprehend. When collaborating with clients, we encourage them to drawnot in a realistic way, but using stick figures and such, Maitret continues. Working with bankers and risk managers, we asked them to draw user situations to help develop the teams ideas. Its a powerful exercise.
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Ken Carbones poster commemorating the art of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera began as a drawing in his sketchbook.

5. USE DRAWING WHEN PITCHING IDEAS Maitret also finds drawing to be a great way to present ideas. When you sketch in real time with your clients or encourage them to draw, you reframe your relationship with these customers, he says. Rather than pitching and selling your ideas, youre co-creating them with your clients. I used to draw for my clients. Increasingly, I draw with them. Its much harder than drawing on your own, Maitret continues, but it can transform a clientvendor dynamic into a true partnership. You create an environment where you deeply understand your clients perspective and your client implicitly trusts your input. Like Maitret, Carbone uses drawing to involve clients in the design process. This is easy to do, especially if you know your client well, he says. If well-timed, it can be powerful and surprising, even in a major presentation to a CEO. Carbone says clients are delightedand surprisedwhen he draws during a presentation. Some even remark, hey, you can draw, as if designers are no longer capable of drawing. The architect Santiago Calatrava is famous for sketching with watercolors when presenting his ideas for commissions. His archives include more than 100,000 sketches, and he often binds copies of his drawings into keepsake books for clients. I heard a story about Calatrava sketching an idea at a high-powered dinner for a board of directors, Carbone says. As legend has it, Calatrava used a brush and red wine from the chairmans glass. Werner says his clients love to see drawings. If I show a sketchbook or scans of concept sketches, the decision-makers are instantly intrigued, he says. Theres just something human and tangible about sketches that resonates with people.
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Quick Draw
Have you stopped drawing? Or did you never really start? Three drawing fanatics offer fast tips to inspire you to pick up a pencil.

Homage to Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera designed by Ken Carbone AGI/USA

Draw anything and everything.

Dont wait around looking for the right tools and the perfect subjects. Just start drawing and keep drawing. Draw anything in front of you, says Ken Carbone, creative director and co-founder of Carbone Smolan Agency. A coffee cup. Your hand. Your dog. Groups are available in most cities for life drawing, so join one. Or start your own. At our agency, we host a drawing night for team members once a month. We hire a model and have wine, cheese and music. Its lots of fun, and every designer likes getting away from using the mouse now and then.
Draw to communicate.

Stop worrying about how well you draw and focus on how you can communicate with your sketches. Writing and drawing are siblings, says Hank Richardson, head of Portfolio Centers design school. You dont necessarily need good grammar to express yourself in writing, and you dont need to be a skilled illustrator to express yourself in drawing. Try going through part of your day without speaking or writing. Instead, draw what you need to communicatea cup of coffee, a smiling face, an umbrella, whatever. Youll soon appreciate drawings true value.
Draw to have fun.

Remember the fun you had drawing as a kid? You didnt worry about how it was going to turn outyou just enjoyed doing it. Get back to that attitude. My husband and I doodle pictures of each other for fun, says freelance designer Melissa Morris Ivone. We twist reality, so he gets 10-pack abs, and my head sits atop a Dolly Parton body. Or well wind up with monkey bodies or bird wings or extra appendages. The goal is to be as random as possibleand to find new ways to make each other laugh.

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Recommended Resources
Below, our six contributors list their favorite books, blogs and other resources to help instruct and inspire you to draw.
Kate Bingaman Burt

I enjoy anything Maria Kalman touches: Lynda Barry is a genius: Sister Coritas Rules should be read by everyone: Some favorite illustration blogs:
Ken Carbone

For a look at what contemporary drawing can be, I suggest reviewing the work of William Kentridge. This monumentally important artist works in an endless variety of media, but he uses drawing as a common point of departure. I also recommend James McMullans excellent blog on drawing for The New York Times: www.opinionator.blogs.nytimes. com/category/line-by-line. Some favorite books on drawing include: Undressed Art: Why We Draw by Peter Steinhart, The Practice and Science of Drawing by Harold Speed and The Human Machine by George Bridgeman.
Melissa Morris Ivone

And sketching is a great way to pitch ideas on the fly. All you need is a napkin and pen, Ivone says. No WiFi necessary. And if the client doesnt like it, just grab another napkin and try again.
6. CONSIDER ILLUSTRATIONS FOR CLIENTS Many designers take the bold leap of including their own drawing in finished projects. And many more look for ways to incorporate the illustrations of others in their work rather than forever relying on photography. I think illustration is an alternative to photography if its the right fit and schedules permit, Carbone says. Illustration is ideal for projects that might be campaign-related or modest in scope. Werner incorporates illustrative elements into many of his designs. In the digital age, having a nonperfect element like a hand-drawn line can go a long way, he says. Werners sketches are major players in the website he created to promote himself after graduation (www. The whole concept was to not just show projects in their final pristine conditions, he says, but also to showcase the often messy ideas and creative processes behind them. Bingaman Burt also features drawings on her website, including the Daily Purchase Project, where shes posted drawings of her purchases every day since February 5, 2006 ( daily-purchase-drawings). I used to hate drawing until I created this automated project where I had to draw daily, she says. Now its the first thing I do before starting other projectsand I love it. Its a jumpstart, a way to discover things about myself and new ways of working. In addition to being a design catalyst, the project has provided Bingaman Burt with other opportunities, including Obsessive Consumption, a book featurW W W. H O W D E S I G N . C O M

I really enjoy An Illustrated Life by Danny Gregory and Street Sketchbook by Tristan Manco. Its also inspiring to see how other artists handle their sketchbooks, and thats why I love these two blogs:
Nicolas Maitret

I recommend any books on the drawings of Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Schiele, Klimt, Toulouse-Lautrec, Degas, Van Gogh, Goya and Picasso. I also recommend The Back of the Napkin by Dan Roam, and Christoph Niemanns work:
Hank Richardson

How to Draw the Human Figure by John R. Grabach was a fun little book from years ago that first taught me about form and drawing. Other favorite books: Drawing is Thinking by Milton Glaser, Illustrated Voice by Craig Frazier, The Pencil by Paul Calle, Hirschfeld On Line by Al Hirschfeld, The Principles of Uncertainty by Maira Kalman, Behind The Lines by R.O. Blechman, A Bestiary by Richard Wilbur and Alexander Calder, Underground by David MacAulay and Ways of Seeing by John Berger.
Dave Werner

I learned drawing basics as a kid through Ed Emberleys series of books: Make a World by Emberley is still my favorite drawing book of all time and probably influenced me more than any other resource. It simplifies drawing into clear, step-by-step combinations of lines and shapes. I also learned a lot from trying to emulate Calvin & Hobbes comics. Bill Watterson did an incredible job with nature and facial expressions. And lately, Ive really been enjoying Frank Chimeros work:

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ing three years of her daily-purchase drawings. An accidental freelance illustration career was also born, she says. Not only do I now enjoy drawing for myself, but I also love drawing for other people. Its win-win. Another online drawing venture is Ivones 160 Pages Project ( Overflowing with inspiration following a HOW Design Conference, she vowed to fill 160 journal pages. She has yet to reach that goal, but shes making headway and the sketches she has posted on her blog have received rave reviews. I never considered myself much of a drawer, she says, but when I posted the drawings on my blog, people really seemed to enjoy them. What I love about the project is how clearly I can see my progression. Maybe there really is something to that old clich about practice making perfect.
7. MAKE DRAWING AN OBSESSION We learn through movement, writes Milton Glaser in Drawing Is Thinking. The computer does things that people may not be able to do, but at a price. There is something about the struggle and the energy to make something that is being compromised. A teacher of mine once said that every object contains the energy of its maker. Designers who focus their energies on persistently drawing learn to love what they makeoften to the point of obsession. I am obsessed with making lines and marks, says Bingaman Burt, from sketching out rough ideas leading to larger projects to making simple line drawings. My pen is my BFF. Ivone became passionate about sketching after her very first drawing class. I love the way drawing makes me look at the world, she says. I notice shadows on the floor and reflections in my coffee mug. Those little details seem to matter so much more now.
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Portfolio Centers Richardson agrees with the seeing-eye value of drawing. Drawing forces us to look at things, he says, and to examine what we dont ordinarily stop to see. Carbone claims the hours he spends drawing are his most productive. In the graphic design world, theres a broad cast of characters involved in bringing a design to lifedesigners, clients, printers and programmers, to name a few. Not so with my drawings. When I complete a drawing, its a direct reflection of my intent, uncompromised and pure. Drawing, he says, is a beautiful obsession. Sam Harrison is a speaker, workshop leader and writer on creativity. A frequent contributor to HOW magazine, he is the author of IdeaSelling: Successfully pitch your creative ideas to bosses, clients and other decision makers, IdeaSpotting: How to find your next great idea and Zing! Five steps and 101 tips for creativity on command. Catch him at HOW Design Live, June 2227 (;

Take a step-by-step look at a set of Ken Carbones life drawings.


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