The unimportance of drawing in design
Eric Goodwin

I get this comment every now and then:

“Oh you’re a designer? You must be great at drawing!”

To which my response is usually - “No not really”

After which usually comes a quizzical look, how can you be a designer but not a good drawer?

It’s true that drawing and sketching can be really important in design, but drawing is just a tool in your toolbox of design skills. I think about it this way:

“Oh you’re an athlete? You must be a really fast runner!”

Sure this is true for a lot of sports - some sports only consist of running (sprinting, marathons, etc.) just like some designers only sketch. Some sports don’t feature any running though (rock climbing, skiing, etc.) But many sports feature some running along with other skills (racquet sports, soccer, etc.)

Being a designer is the same, there are a lot of great designers who are great at drawing, but you don’t necessarily need to be good at drawing to be a great designer. It’s just a tool to have in your arsenal. And just like any other skill, it’s a tool that can be sharpened with practice.

Most of the time when you are drawing, you are just doing it for yourself. You are trying to flesh out an idea, and quickly sketch out concepts and ideas for future reference. I find the vast majority of my sketching (probably 90%) is never seen by anyone but myself, so who cares if it’s not very good? Essentially I’m just jotting down notes for myself but in a more visual way. Sure if I’m trying to explain an idea to someone else I’ll try to kick it up and do a bit nicer drawing, but it’s still not as important as you might think.

I say all this because I know a lot of people that feel they can’t be a designer because they are not good at drawing, but that’s just not true. Think of design as carpentry and drawing as a hammer. It’s just a tool to help you make what you’re trying to make. Sure most carpenters are probably good with a hammer, and it’s definitely handy, but carpentry is a lot more than just using a hammer.

So don’t think of designing as drawing, you can be an amazing designer and a mediocre drawer at the same time. Just practice, and if you can get your point across to yourself and others, that’s all you need.