Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The drawing above is from my own sketchbook and was drawn in Burnett Park in downtown Fort Worth. Besides improving one's skill at drawing, what benefit is gained from drawing from observation? Why do architects and designers develop the practice of maintaining a sketchbook?

I can answer for myself - it helps me see more thoroughly and at a different level. By drawing, I am forced to study, not merely observe, the relationships between objects in space. The thought process required to draw is very different from what is required to take a snapshot. Drawing is an active way of thinking - and I now find it difficult sometimes to communicate an idea to someone without a pencil in my hand. I often take notes on my drawings as well. Things that I notice about other senses such as sound, smell, the feel of the wind, the warmth of the sun, etc. I once participated in a sketching exercise in which I made marks on my sketchbook page about anything except what I experienced with my eyes - a shorthand for sounds as I walked through nature. It was "eye-opening." There were so many sounds that otherwise would have escaped my attention.


Sketchbooks are a designer's way of thinking visually - with a pencil, marker, collage with scraps of paper ... on and on. It's an important 1st step in the design procees - getting ideas out of your head on their way to becoming reality. And, isn't it amazing how different ideas look once their on paper - sometimes better and sometimes they just don't live up to the image we have in our heads.

Looking at a designer's sketchbook is seeing into the creative mind. In my next few blog posts, I plan to explore the sketchbook as part of the design process.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


A great kitchen design starts with the gooey stuff - right? Absolutely if you are talking in terms of GUI - pronounced gooey! The graphic user interface (GUI) is the method we humans use to command our computers - the visual connection between what's in our head and what task we want our computer to do. But we also interface with interiors everyday. For example, when we put the kettle on to make a cup of tea we must figure out which knob to turn to make the correct burner engage.

The knob is the user interface between the user and the flame. Why do I always choose the wrong knob? I have had the same cooktop for 15 years - and I still have to examine the knob graphic carefully each time. Is it me? In this case it isn't - it's poor design. The knobs aren't arranged in same pattern as the burners - it's not obvious - and it should be!

Good design impacts not just convenience, but safety as well. It is critically important in factories, for productivity and safety, but it should be just as important in our homes. Good design can mean the difference between a soothing cup of tea or a burning tea cozy! Universal design - design for everyone of every ability level is key. Our homes shouldn't trap us but free us, by ensuring that usability is considered for individuals with varying mobility. Check out this article for more ideas.

If you are interested in more ideas about GUI - check out Will Farrell and graphic illustration of the workings of his character's mind in the introduction to the movie Stranger than Fiction. It's only 3 minutes long.