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    Why sketchbooks?

    Patrick Beseda Feb 20 '13 9

    This is not a discussion of whether I should buy a moleskine or a Leuchtturn, or why Rhodia makes better dot grid pads than Quattro. It's also not about hand drawing vs. digital drawing (that one is for another day) (actually, bring it up if you want to).

    We will also skip the part about drawing being an invaluable skill, something that all architects should be able to do well, and something that is being lost in the education (it is all of those but the last). 

    This is about the value of a sketchbook. I'm here to ask if anyone references their sketchbooks. Do you keep them? Do you trash them when the project is over? Do you scan them and archive it? Do you ever go back and look at them?

    So far in my life and education the value of the sketchbooks I've carried is usually in the next blank page. It's something to write on, it's there. It's rarely in the other pages I've drawn. Their use is fulfilled. I needed to visualize something, I needed someone else to visualize something, I needed to remember something. Now that page is full, and it's no longer important.

    I think what I'm getting at is, does the sketchbook mean anything? I've seen people take copious notes, draw everything, keep every page, put padlocks on them, have them scanned, and archived on the bookshelf, the whole nine yards. What gives?

    Unrelated: I'm currently using a Quattro 4" x 4" grid, because they are awesome and I rip out every page once its full and usually throw it away a few days later...

     

     
    • 9 Comments

    • BulgarBlogger
      Feb 21, 13 9:50 am

      A sketchbook to me is a document of thought process... Unfortunately I have a very messy thought process. My sketches are quick and scattered. That being said, I don't like to reference my sketchbooks because they are entirely for my use alone. Some people like to organize their sketchbooks as if they will someday be their portfolio... I use a sketchbooks to test out my thoughts. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don't. If I wanted to create a portfolio in a sketchbook format, I would buy a sketchbook and organize my work in it separate from the time in which I create the content.

      homme_du_jura
      Feb 21, 13 1:14 pm

      As mentioned previously, sketchbooks are a wonderful document to one's thought process, and a more direct window into the mind of an author than the resulting built product. I'm always envious of those who have the discipline to keep all their sketches in one place, since like Bulgar Blogger, my thoughts and sketches are scattered, and they seem to emerge precisely at the moment I don't have my sketchbook nearby.  Some of my most developed sketches can be found instead as doodles at the side of a typical notepad page or on piece of buttertrace. I keep those bits around, just in case I need to scan the sketches later as part of a porftolio explaining a project. It's a messy way to organize, which is why I'm interested in being able to sketch and digitally record it- kind of like a Wacom Inkling.

      IamGray
      Feb 21, 13 8:45 pm

      I don't really look at my drawings. Once the drawing is done and I flip the page, I rarely find myself turning back. Like you wrote, the value is in the blank page.

      For me, drawing is usually a means to to test an idea. I have something in my mind, a sort of  vague and hazy concept. Intuitive but certainly not a developed whole. Drawing helps to clarify that initial idea and to give it depth. 

      Those kinds of drawings are extremely valuable to me as a process, but essentially useless as an object. For this reason, I don't put a lot of value in the sketchbook itself. It's simply a nice way to ensure that I've always got a paper to draw on with me.

      royc
      Feb 21, 13 10:45 pm

      I would imagine it completely comes down to how you use it. For me, sketchbooks have been invaluable, for two main reasons:

      - Reminding myself of ideas, concepts, ways of working, etc. that, for whatever reason, didn't prove to be relevant at the moment but come in handy later. Case in point -- a parti sketch I drew in my second studio but didn't end up using ended up being the perfect starting point for my fourth studio, and I had been totally stuck until I was flipping back through and found it.

      - Analyzing myself. I keep a separate sketchbook for studio, which after the semester it's really useful to refer back to, in order to figure out how I approached certain problems, what worked well, what snags I ran into, etc.


      But yeah, it's totally individualized - this is just what has seemed to work rather well for me. 

      legopiece
      Feb 22, 13 8:25 am

      for personal ideas I use a blank page moleskine, and if need I work on something with dimension a dot or grided pad by rhodia.  Not to sound negative or anything just an observation. its been my experience that only the select few individuals get to "sketch for work". Most architects become number crunchers so it really overrides your motivation to sketch a building when you are drawing construction documents.  Will admit that the people putting together drawings for sd, cd's, or even ca do have to utilize their creative skills very much, but unfortunately not looked at for any initial design ideas until someone thinks about "oh man how does that connect to that" just a random thought have a good one.

      Xenakis
      Feb 22, 13 5:12 pm

      even though I am production/BIM - I always sketch out issues to consult with staff - Nobody wants to come over to my table and doing a quick sketch of a detail does the trick and on weekends I am sketching buildings around SF using my Cheap Pad

      SDR
      Feb 22, 13 11:08 pm

      I can report an older designer's experience.  I began sketching in el-hi and began keeping consecutive sketchbooks before enrolling in design school.  It wasn't until a few years after graduation that I began accumulating ideas -- often sketched on scraps or random pieces of paper (diner place-mats) -- and I tipped them into the current sketchbook.  I began using Strathmore spiral-bound "Sketch" pads (9 x 12) -- and 1/8 gridded pads -- and now, at age 70, I have about two dozen of those, filled with dated HB  pencil drawings of furniture and architectural ideas (to get the result that I want requires erasure, so I've never committed to ink).  

      The most prolific and productive period was from age 45 to 65. The work is usually finished enough to display -- or photocopy and play with -- and amounts to a record of my personal output.

      So, the sketchbook for me has been an all-purpose tool, a single resource with multiple purposes.  After  a career of making things designed (mostly) by others, I'm now mining the sketchbooks to augment the  fresh ideas that arrive, as I look for things to make for new clients.

      I wasn't aware of dot-grid pads; I'll have to check those out !

      Adam ZurbrueggAdam Zurbruegg
      Feb 23, 13 10:34 am

      Many prospective clients love to see a designer's sketchbook. It simultaneously communicates the designer's skills, process, personality, and style. When you compare a sketch to a final photograph, you've told a story. I think they are worth holding onto for that reason alone.

      BulgarBlogger
      Feb 28, 13 8:54 am

      Adam- I think graphic design (you are a graphic designer) is a bit different than architecture. The precision in graphic design is much more lax than in architecture. You can sketch out a beautiful idea in a sketchbook and then when you put it in a design program you realize- oh sh*t: it doesn't work because something isn't as wide as I had imagined it to be  or something is too narrow or something isn't code compliant... Then you go back and have to correct it and play with it or abandon the idea all together.

      In my experience, clients have a preconceived notion about the architectural creative process. They think everything about the process of getting to the final product is as clean and simple. No! On the contrary- getting something to be really clean and simple is rather difficult and involved. You can't just show a sketch of something that someone like Renzo Piano shows his clients and then juxtapose it with a photo of the actual building/space and call that a narrative  What about the sketches that the project manager/architect/lead designer show each other and the production team? I think those sketches are crucial to "telling a story" and are often never showed to the client because the client doesn't care to see how the architect got to where he got as long as he delivers on the product his client invested into. 

      For that reason, I believe that sketches (in architectural design) are a very personal thing for architects and sometimes aren't well formatted enough for the type of clean cut presentation your clients for example, may want to see. As I mentioned earlier, I have no issues with showing or composing sketches in a sketchbook, but I don't agree that sketchbooks are the ultimate presentation board for a client or prospective clients. I think that to treat them as such restricts one's creative thought process because while "thinking out loud", you are simultaneously distracted by the way of composing the sketch. Sometimes the messiest sketches are the most brilliant and/or informative. 

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