The Art of Doodling & Sketching (by hand)

Every new year, I start off with a new sketchbook, feeling determined and resolute to fill in every page by the end of year. Saying hello to August already, I see my sketchbook looking rather empty and lonely, even pathetic. Put all excuses aside, I questioned what’s happened to my habit of doodling and sketching.


We often encounter with articles titled “5 must-have mobile apps for designers” or “Best technical Apps for architects”. Our creative life has gradually emerged with technology. Instead of handwriting notes, we pull out cellphone or laptop to fill in the white box. Instead of sketching our idea with pencil on a piece of paper, we use stylus pens and tablet readily equipped with colourful palettes. Have we forgotten the beauty of creating by hand?

Image-Disney_Concert_Hall_by_Carol_Highsmith_editI used to sketch – that’s the way I thought out loud (…) I’ve got to do that more” – Frank Gehry
(Image Source: Arcscape & Wikipedia)



I still recall my high school chemistry lab notes that was full of doodles. My teacher would walk past and say “You need to stop daydreaming and focus on class”. Research in fact shows that doodling reinforces the brain to increase attention and concentration, and thus prevents daydreaming. It stimulates thoughts to come together, forming one solid idea by gathering multiple information.


Source: Architizer / Royal Ontario Museum by Daniel Libeskind




Doodling and hand-drawing not only increases concentration, but it also amplifies creativity. By exploring multiple thoughts, we are able to connect nodes and build one sound idea. When it comes to design, a good idea is never born without variations and iterations. Hand-drawing allows this iterative process to happen by visualising the initial, raw idea and building upon it. Compare above: Daniel Libeskind’s initial sketch and the built structure of Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. Spot the differences!


Personal Sketch / 2015



In the era of technology, craftsmanship seems underrated. Knowledge of computer-aided design and graphic editing software have replaced our technical skills and become the requirements for designers. Yet, there is beauty and uniqueness in one’s hand-drawing that cannot be easily articulated by computer. For instance, the stroke of pen or line thickness that comes with natural movement of hands is hardly something that can be imitated.


When it comes to the idea of productivity though, we do have to re-consider hand-sketching and drawing. We live in a fast-paced world where we constantly face new technology and ideas to create something new again, which possibly answers why my sketchbook seems lonely. Has hand-sketching and doodling already become a nostalgic past? What will be the future of sketching and doodling?