I was intrigued by an example of a scenario presented to us by Martin in his introduction to the Ways of Making module which demonstrated how in some few cases, sketching failed designers.  Martin told us of a meeting between designers and medical professionals in an attempt to create a new hand-held laser gun type piece of technology. The medical visual-literacyprofessions and designers were struggling to communicate with hand drawn sketches so one designer gathered a marker pen, clothes peg and old film canister and created a gun shaped object which then allowed the team to start discussing the finer details of the design. This may be an example of where sketching was not sufficient for communication (be this because the sketches were not very good or because hand drawings were just not the best way to communicate in that situation), but visual literacy was still vital. It’s near impossible to effectively convey an idea about an image through verbal or written explanation i.e. without an image.

As referenced on ejite.isu.edu/Volume1No1/Stokes.html, “Kellner (1998) proposes that multiple literacies are necessary to meet the challenges of today’s society, literacies that include print literacy, visual literacy, aural literacy, media literacy, computer literacy, cultural literacy, social literacy and eco literacy.”2000px-i_love_new_york-svg

Often, designers communicate through a vast dictionary of pre-existing and understood symbols. Hanno Ehses supports this idea in ‘Speaking of the Heart’ (2002) with the example of the simple heart symbol that actually looks very little like what it is supposed to represent and yet it is instantly recognisable as the symbol love. The heart is an excellent example of how simplistic symbols can be used to communicate complex ideas.

Despite the indisputability of designers needing a wide visual language – designers need to be able to use basic drawing to convey their ideas, they are not defined by the quality of such communication sketches. A portrait artist may spend 200 hours on a photo realistic painting but does the finished piece ‘say’ much more than a sketch created in 2 minutes or even 20 seconds? Probably not. In short, a designer must have good enough drawing skills to communicate an idea but each sketch does not have to be a work of art.



  1. I love NY Source
  2. Visual Literacy Source
  3. Portrait – own image
  4. Sketch – own image