SKiP: Drawing = Thinking

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I had the pleasure recently to attend and present at the first-and-hopefully-now-annual Sketching in Practice Symposium (#SKiP16).

There was much to love!IMG_3687

A big theme that kept coming up was drawing as a way to think/see/ideate/generate/figure stuff out.  i.e., not drawing as a way to record/illustrate/demonstrate a thing (or idea) that already exists.

This really landed when Nick Sousanis explained that he didn’t write his thesis and then go back and illustrate it after.  The thesis came from drawing.  So we can think of drawing as a full and legit peer of writing, not a decorative or optional add-on to writing.

Alright then, what useful invitations can we design to draw out thinking?  In my work/world, we create lots of invitations for people to think and talk (e.g., in meetings, workshops etc, we always aim for activities and juicy discussion questions).  What invitations can we design for people to draw instead of talk?  How can we offer a useful amount of constraint/freedom, direction/choice, instruction/exploration?

Nancy White is experimenting with these things.  In her SKiP session, groups were given different drawing materials (including chocolate!) , different drawing surfaces (table, floor…), and different permissions (talking, no talking, singing only…).  Results varied wildly!  Some groups had fun and were successful, others were uncomfortable, unable or unsure if they were  “successful” in their tasks. I’m not sure where Nancy will go next with this, but I’ll be watching!

The other big theme for me was the VIBE of this event. Organizers did such a great job of attending to important details, and not OVER doing anything. For example:

  • The schedule was simple and easy to understand.  One day. Two concurrent sessions running at all times. Sessions were either 30 or 60 min, so each time slot asked you to chose from two 30-min sessions or one hour-long session.  Also, keynote started around 9 which just felt so civilized!
  • Catering was simple – there was coffee, tea, and water provided. No food. No lineups, no mess in the event space. We all went out and grabbed our own lunch and it worked. There was enough time and everyone came back.
  • Thoughtful swag! Sketchbook for everyone and a name badge that’s a cool button/pin to keep rather than a lanyard
  • as a presenter, I felt SO well supported. They covered registration fee, gave lots of information (but not too much or too often), checked in, provided supplies for my session…
  • above all, the theme and presenters meant we found ourselves in a unique, creative space that felt special. Every session I attended included an invitation to draw. Many presenters were generous and fearless about sharing their process, sketchbooks, drafts, etc. It was refreshing and inspiring to share space with so many incredibly smart and creative people. Looking forward to next year!


1 thought on “SKiP: Drawing = Thinking

  1. Clint Lalonde

    I love to doodle and I really like the idea of drawing as a cognitive process. I doodle, but find I am self-concious about sharing my scribbles. It’s liberating to approach my doodling and drawing from the perspective that I am drawing to learn and not necessarily drawing to make something beautiful. Or (as is often the case for me) even legible or meaningful to anyone but me.


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