Thought Starters

Analog vs Digital and the Art of Sketching Words

Do you start your day with a coffee?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We will get to that. But first.

There was some recent discussion on a few of the blogs I visit regularly that revolved around the relationship of using analog tools versus digital tools from a few different perspectives; creativity, generating ideas and keeping track of your life. While each writer took a different approach each seemed to ask similar questions and generated discussion on how we interact with technical and creative hands-on ideas generation. Below are the relevant links for reference.

Pencils, pens and writing from the heart: the beauty of low tech blogging.

The dirty little secret.

Technology vs paper for your task list

It got us thinking about sketching and writing and how good it feels to put pen to paper. In our technology driven lives it is easy to forgo the analog and focus too much on the digital. As a design professional, I started out with pens and paper way back in the 80’s and because of my vintage I have s strong affinity to scribble, doodle and scratch away in a book.

Somehow it just feels right.

As Architects and Designers we SHOULD love the feel of a pencil or pen in our hand. The sketch is becoming a lost art (at least for me) and I rarely see it anymore where I work. There are a few individuals who maintain their skills but it seems fewer and fewer do as the workforce shifts to younger generations. It makes me wonder if that **new workforce** sees handwriting and drawing as valuable? If you grow up with technology in your hand it seems logical that it feels natural that using technology is where you are most comfortable.

We all seem to be adapting that way.

Some argue that it is a left brain/right brain thing. Right brain activity is much stronger with analog tools (pens, pencils, paintbrushes) and left brain analytical activity (typing, organization, figuring out technology) thrives in the digital realm. I am not convinced entirely that it is that literal but the premise makes sense to me.

For me, at least, it seems to be a mixture of both.

While I have embraced both mediums, the analog and the digital, I tend toward the digital primarily because tools are easily accessible, ready for use and are the primary business tools available where I work. I am a right brain individual so I still have a strong affinity to the idea of sketching and doodling, which as I mentioned, I really don’t do enough of. How about you?

So, today we did something a little different.

Here’s our post for today. Have a look at the page. This is just one way to brainstorm an idea for an article using the love of handwriting and the art of “sketching words”. We hope to communicate our thoughts on the direction in service a small coffee shop takes versus a large scale coffee shop and relate the correlation back to the similar scale and structure of a design firm.

 

What do you think? Did it work to help you understand what the idea is here? Did the image leave you with a feeling? Were we able to articulate the idea through the form and structure of “sketching words”?

 

Leave your thoughts in the comments and look out for the piece next week based on the sketch above.

 

 

 

 

 

About this Author: Ralph Dopping (198 Posts)

A quirky sense-o-humour coupled with an indelible sense of stylish sarcasm makes it difficult to take the world too seriously doesn't it? My faves: fun, passion and hard work. I work here everyday: www.designdialog.ca


24 comments
Jens-Petter Berget
Jens-Petter Berget

It looks great. And I've tried to do this many times, but my handwriting and drawing isn't something I like to look at :)

 

I've even tried to do it on my iPad with a stylus and it didn't work well. So, I'm mostly using a keyboard. That works for me. Even though I'm doing the napkin or notebook sketching from time to time, when that's all I have to write on :)

Latest blog post: Intervju med Isabel Vika

Mark_Harai
Mark_Harai

Hey Ralph, actually this post brought me back to the good ole' pen & paper days... I've sketched out many business deals on a napkin  : )

 

 

 

 

CrossBetsy
CrossBetsy

When I work with people on their family history I ALWAYS start them off with pencil and forms to fill in even though most of their searching is done online.

I make them keep paper files where they have forms to update even though there are duplicate ones on a few of their sites. It's essential to their slowing down and retaining the information that they're gathering.

When they are forced to write something out they notice details that they would have otherwise missed. I insist that they take notes on the front of their files. It's amazing how much more engaged they become with the people they are researching when they put pencil to paper.

They resist at first because it seems so archaic to them. But it works, so they know if they're working with me that's what we're doing!

bdorman264
bdorman264

Juan Valdez and I are on a first name basis btw.......

 

I'm old school in many ways, but trying to stay current and relevant in the technical age. However, I do like my pen and pencils. I keep a paper desk calendar on the top of my desk primarily to doodle on or take notes.  I'm ok living in both worlds, but due to convenience and efficiencies, it sure is becoming very easy to rely on technology. 

 

I found this in my Reader in case you were wondering.......

Hajra
Hajra

I love that we can write with a pen and not just use a key board! Writing it does make more sense when it comes to brainstorming, at least for me it does! When we talk to clients who are dealing with stress and need help sorting things out; we do suggest the mapping out technique; wherein an individual actually inks out the "map of plan of action" they might need to follow. And they often tell us that once they "see it" they find it more doable! 

Lori
Lori

Hi Ralph! This is very interesting! You use the sketched out words to brainstorm your post in advance! I've used the concept but for a different purpose. When giving a presentation, a short one, I wanted to do it all without looking at my notes so I used sketches to remind me of my thoughts and the segues between one thought and the next. I'm a visual person - I think I have a bit of a photographic memory - so I'd remember things visually anyway. Having sketches to represent the path I was taking in my speech made it much easier to recall and follow the path.

I'm looking forward to your next post too!

Lori

JudyDunn
JudyDunn

Hey Ralph,

 

You know what I love about the blogosphere? People can read about ideas on other blogs and then create an entirely new piece that extends the thinking and brings new, rich perspectives to the discussion. I absolutely love this post (and what you plan to do in Part 2). 

 

On the right brain/left brain thing, when I studied brain research getting my Master's in Education (and later, when I taught gifted students), I found it fascinating. And the Wall Street Journal article talked about studies where writing by longhand generated more ideas and brain scans actually showed activation of the  regions of the brain for thinking, language and memory. For me, with a strong visual thinking style (I remember things I see way better than things I hear), the sketching and visual representation of ideas helps me process content and ideas better. (Could that be why I always include a photo or two in my blog posts?)

 

Your sketch above is wonderful. As Kaarina said, it reminds me of mind mapping, except that this is more linear and mind maps extend ideas outward, from general to specific. I can guarantee you, that having seen this sketch, I will remember your ideas longer. Can't wait for Part 2. 

KDillabough
KDillabough

Ralph, you know how much I love cursive writing, sketching, doodling, painting and mind mapping. Although there are many digital tools for lots of that, I will always love having pen/pencil/paintbrush in hand (or if you're Gini, a Sharpie). Your "sketching words" looks very much like the type of mindmap I co-create with clients. A great way to brainstorm, connect ideas and create a picture of a plan. And you know what they say: a picture's worth a thousand words.Thanks for the lovely tip of the hat to my blog post too! Cheers! Kaarina

rdopping
rdopping moderator

 @Jens Thanks a lot for coming by our house. It's great to see you.

 

You know, I have a Samsung Note and the draw was the stylus for drawing. I'm sure it will take some practice to get used to it but it's not really the same as traditional writing as you may imagine.

 

Some folks are just prone to digital Jens and you may be one of them. That's fantastic! To be honest, I love to sketch but as i admitted technology makes it very easy to avoid writing this way. Now, drawing, that's a different story. Still totally old school that way.

 

Keep those napkins handy, my man, just in case you have an inspirational idea and your IPad is out of juice. ;-)

rdopping
rdopping moderator

 @Mark_Harai Yeah, I can imagine.

 

It's like the old school architects, my wife's father one, who often talk about the infamous napkin sketch to describe the "idea" central to a building design. But really, when you see an old set of drawings for a building the beauty and art behind the work is amazing. Like @CrossBetsy said and was apparent  back then, it forces you to slow down, think and thereby potentially offering a better thought out solution.

 

How's it work these day? Still napkins over a beer? Sometimes it's probably the best way.

 

Thanks for dropping in. You are my 8th commenter here today so you win the big prize (via my Facebook campaign). So, here you go.

 

A smile.

 

:-)

 

Don't use it all in one place......

rdopping
rdopping moderator

 @CrossBetsy Slowing down and retaining information! That's a great way to see this thing. It actually helps to move your hands in the shapes and styles of letters and it certainly helps to retain the ideas because it takes longer to form thoughts with hand writing. Like I mentioned to @Hajra  you can actually express feeling that is enhanced by the visual, inflections of the strokes and the tone of hand. Pretty awesome, huh?

 

I think these feeling are strong because of the reliance we have on technology. Just imagining the feel of the texture of paper and the feeling of the words or images forming in front of you is so different than typing them on a keyboard.

 

Recording information manually may seem archaic but you have made it essential to your process which i respect and i am sure your clients do too. As always, thanks for your comments.

rdopping
rdopping moderator

 @bdorman264 Love it! You found it in your reader. You do know that I get an email from you twice a week that I always have to explore.  I do remember you mentioning a similar approach elsewhere and am glad that you find a relationship in a similar way to the digital and analog. It's important, no matter how easy it is to go fully digital to keep a little analog in your life. Imagine how hard it would be to doodle on a computer or smartphone.

 

Thanks, as always, for your comments. Good to see you here mister.

rdopping
rdopping moderator

 @Hajra  Very cool. Yet another way to use the "work sketch" to see a way or path. It is really awesome that there are so many ways and so many people who see the value in mapping out a story or process this way. I know that technology will eventually permeate everything that we do but hanging on to the art of sketching and mapping out our thoughts will hopefully be here to stay.

 

Like I suggested to @bdorman264 how can you actually doodle on a computer? Yeah, yeah, I know the IPad is making it exceedingly more easy but there will never be a substitute for the inflection that can be expressed by a stroke of the hand. Seeing that gives the piece feeling and feeling is something that is difficult for technology to emulate.

 

Thank you for your thoughts here Hajra. Always makes me think and I love that.

rdopping
rdopping moderator

 @ginidietrich What I was going to say that is somewhat less scientific is "From what I can see we are in big trouble!"

 

BTW, I relearned "writing" in post-secondary while in design school. NOBODY even attempted to use cursive writing. Printing only and stylized at that. That was great until we started using PC to do our work. Us old-school architects and design recognize each other by our writing styles. Very, very specific.....

JudyDunn
JudyDunn

 @ginidietrich In Washington, the state I taught in for several years, teaching cursive is now "optional." And they actually have parents questioning this part of the curriculum. "Is there really a need for teaching cursive writing? Wouldn't your time be better spent on other things?" 

 

I know how powerful, not just mind mapping, but writing in longhand can be. It's crazy. It shouldn't be an either/or thing. There is room for both!

rdopping
rdopping moderator

 @Lori Thanks Lori. Interesting approach to follow a presentation. Haven't thought of that one before. We have a guy in our office who has "sketched" the story of a journey we took with a client over the past year which we used to discuss the future of the work we do and discover the past successes. It worked like a charm.

 

There is a ton of value in this form of communication and it is fun too. Thanks for dropping in.

rdopping
rdopping moderator

 @JudyDunn I am interested in this mind mapping you guys are talking about. I will have to Google it but if there are some references you can pass along I would love to see that. I use this method of sketching words quite often as I too remember things much, much better if I write them down. 

 

Personally, I love to write in this style (changing the size and shape of words to express emphasis and add little doodles for reference). I do it quite often in my logbooks i keep for work. most of it is dry business stuff (schedule and records of conversations, etc) but the fun is in finding different ways to articulate emphasis.

 

Thanks for your comments and appreciate you dropping in.

rdopping
rdopping moderator

 @KDillabough You are most welcome. If it weren't for you, @JudyDunn and @ginidietrich this post may not have been born so thanks for that.

 

As I mentioned to Judy some reference on what you refer to as mind mapping would be awesome. I have a feeling it is used in our firm but may be called something else. We have used Mind Jet so I think I get it. If so, it's a very cool way to capture ideas but the analog version, drawing by hand, just seems so much more organic. A great tool for charettes or brainstorming sessions. I think there are even some professional facilitators out there that use their artistic skills to mind map brainstorming sessions.

 

Thanks for your contribution here. Much appreciated.

KDillabough
KDillabough

 @rdopping  @JudyDunn  @ginidietrich Delighted to have provided some of the inspiration:) I'll get back to you with info on mind mapping, but this will give you a good head-start idea. Check out anything by Tony Buzan (the "father" of mindmapping). There's now an online version of his, as well as other online mindmapping tools, which might be of interest for the digital junkie.

 

For me, I prefer old school crayons, coloured pencils, big huge pieces of paper, hand drawn mindmapping (but I guess you'd know that right? ;)Check this out for a good little overview llitemind.com/what-is-mind-mapping/

 

Cheers! Kaarina

Trackbacks

  1. [...] How can Big vs Boutique and the Art of Service affect your choice in coffee? By Ralph Dopping ⋅ July 20, 2012 ⋅ Post a comment Filed Under  architecture, art, coffee, culture, influence, inspiration, passion, personal interaction, service Earlier this week we posted a piece on our thoughts about the art of sketching words and the relationships we forge between the analog and digital tools we use to do our work. To emphasise our point we shared a sketch that outlined our ideas for a future (today’s) entry. A few friends dropped by to offer their thoughts on the sketch and some great ideas were shared about the notion of putting pen to paper in this digital age. If you missed that piece you can check it out here. [...]

  2. [...] Ralph Dopping said he’d never want to be referred to as a Xenon. Now since Xenon is 54 on the Periodic Table, one of the noble gases – tasteless, odorless, and colourless, I’m not sure I get Ralph’s drift. But I do know that the name comes from the Greek word ‘xenos’, meaning stranger. And Ralph…you’re no longer a stranger here:) [...]