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A Key Design Tool: Hand-drawn Sketches 

Hand drawing/sketching is an invaluable skill not only for architects but also for designers of all kinds, especially nowadays, when we are surrounded and most likely dominated by many digital tools and software. As designers, generally speaking, our profession is literally about understanding our environment, expressing our ideas, exploring concepts, and communicating through visualisations. In practice, hand drawing is an essential design tool for our projects that helps us picture the framework by visualising our design thoughts, especially in the initial design stages where we discuss the conceptual ideas, lining details, and solving problems.

Let’s identify the unique benefits of hand drawing.

As a starting point, sketching helps us analyse and understand the environment we are in. The environment we are discussing is neither just a natural nor a physical environment but “a sum total of all the living and non-living elements and their effects that influence human life” (definition source: So, understanding the nature of our environment includes cultural codes, everyday routines, and people’s interactions with each other and their surroundings: buildings and architecture. Sketching places with all the living components of that space triggers the process of understanding while highlighting the details of the architectural elements as well as how they are used and perceived.

Hand drawing enhances creativity and the generation of ideas. It is the tool we use to explore conceptual ideas freely and spontaneously, as only a pen and paper are enough to express our thoughts, unlike digital tools. With the limitless possibilities that hand drawing offers, we can sketch anywhere, anytime, if we feel like it, and we are free of any constraining predefined structures and tools we use in digital drawing. 

Another benefit of hand drawing is that it is actually a universal language in design. It enables clear and immediate communication of ideas, such as expressing thoughts in a brainstorming session, presenting to clients and explaining either complex concepts or significant details quickly and effectively. 

We can also add its improving cognitive and motor skills nature to the list of unique benefits of hand drawing. As a physical act, hand drawing does engage the brain differently than using a digital tool. It elevates hand-eye coordination, improves fine motor skills and develops spatial awareness, such as understanding the scale and proportions, all of which are vital for explicit and intricate design work. 

When we consider all these unique benefits of hand drawing and its irreplaceable value not only in the design process but also in exploring the environment, it is understandable why many architects continue to rely on this fundamental skill. By simply sketching, they can capture the essence of their ideas intuitively and communicate effectively. 

In conclusion, it is important to underline that hand drawing is a fundamental skill for architects, interior designers, urban planners as well as all other kinds of designers. With all the benefits which cannot be replicated digitally, it enhances the unique way of being a designer. 

For those aspiring to become architects or designers, or for anyone interested in improving their drawing skills, stay tuned for our upcoming posts. We will cover practical tips, exercises, and resources to help you enhance your hand-drawing abilities and integrate them effectively into your design process.

Further Reading

A History of Drawing in Four Paragraphs.

Budiman, H., Numan, I., & Idham, N. C. (2021). Freehand drawing and architectural expression. Journal of Architectural Research and Design Studies, 5(1).

Charitonidou, M. (2022). Drawing and experiencing architecture. In Architekturen.

Goldschmidt, G. (1991). The dialectics of sketching. Creativity Research Journal, 4(2), 123–143.

Li, Y., & Ning, W. (2017). The role of sketch in architecture design. IOP Conference Series. Materials Science and Engineering, 216, 012060.

Pilsitz, M. (2017). Drawing and drafting in Architecture Architectural history as a part of future studies. Periodica Polytechnica. Architecture, 48(1), 72–78.


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