Drawing Has a Future (an evolutionary one)

Drawing Has a Future (an evolutionary one)

Drawing has a future, not just a future in the sense that it will remain useful, but a future in the sense that drawing is going to continue to evolve. It’s form will evolve, and so will its location, its place where it is expressed.

Both Models and Drawings are on their own evolutionary paths.

I write more about this here: Inexorable Progress . Both models and drawings are on their own evolutionary paths. And, these two things, drawing and modeling, are intertwined. They always have been. They always will be. But now there is a new possibility, to amplify their interplay. This new possibility did not exist before. I’ll come to that. First, look at the evolution of Modeling.

The evolution of Modeling

The most significant transition in the evolution of modeling is the transition from mental model to digital model. Before computers, models were either imaginary (held in the mind), or physical. Now they are both of these, plus also they are digital. In the evolution of modeling, this is the main transition, from imaginary (and physical) space, to digital space.

Models and Drawings are Always Intertwined

The function of drawing is to provide narrowed focus that supports understanding. Understanding of what? Of wider, expansive modeled environments (whether imaginary, physical, or digital). Clearly then, wide and narrow, world and focus, model and drawing, are intertwined. But let’s dig into that a little further.

In order to understand any reality, we do something. We act. We undertake “a process of interplay” between wide and narrow, between world and focus, between model and and drawing. As evidence for this interplay, consider any drawing that you have made. Consider for a minute that your drawing has no meaning whatsoever, other than the meaning that comes from its interplay with models (imaginary, physical, or digital).

The reverse is true too, equally true. The meaning we can gather from any model, follows, first of all, from answers to very basic kinds of questions about the model, like:

  • Can I make sense of it? What kind of sense, where?
  • Where is it “good enough”, and not good enough?

These are questions that are answered by narrowing, focusing techniques that are otherwise known as “drawings”. It is through the development and articulation of narrowing focusing “events” (“drawings”) about (and in) models that we develop and flesh out our understanding of the wider whole environment, the model. Without these narrower understandings we simply don’t understand, in any substantial sense, the model. Without this narrowed focus, understanding slips away like water between fingers.

We can generalize this beyond AEC, certainly. The interplay between wide and narrow, world and focus, lies at the root of human cognition, at the root of understanding.

Amplifying the Intertwining

There is a new possibility now, that wasn’t possible before. We can amplify the interplay between wide and narrow, between world and focus. We can do this because of two things:

  • models have transitioned from imaginary (and physical) to digital
  • drawings have a future, an evolutionary one; their form wil change along with the location of their expression. They will be expressed IN digital models.

Narrowing, focusing, will be expressed through new kinds of techniques and these will be expressed IN, inside, within models, within digital environments. Some baby steps have been taken in this direction already, by some software developers (Bentley and Graphisoft for example). Drawings are now shown inside models, literally instantiated in-situ within models. The following videos show examples of this: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLAiyamA5WoZbdfVlrOFLbrgF8AEyi2Fma

But thats just a beginning. Once you recognize what is the actual, and essential, function of drawing, that it’s a technique of narrowing that supports understanding, then you notice that the natural habitat for the expression of this function is IN models. If you make it that far, then of course the door is kicked wide open for new innovation that matters yet to come.

New kinds of techniques for narrowing, for sense-making articulation that supports focused understanding, will be uncovered, developed, and invented. These future techniques will be well and truly supported by new kinds of software the purpose of which is to provide these expressive functions within whatever modeling environments one prefers. When this happens, and it cannot happen soon enough, the interplay between wide and narrow, between world and focus, between model and drawing, will be amplified, made more tangible, more effective, more powerful. We’ll understand more, more thoroughly, more easily. We’ll be more expressive, more communicative. We’ll understand, do, communicate, and think better.

Can you see that possibilty?


The existence of both of wide and narrow, world and focus, model and drawing, and the interplay between them, is at the root of understanding. The interplay is permanent, and necessary. Neither the wide nor the narrow, neither the world nor the focus, neither the model nor the drawing, can exist in any meaningful way, without the presence of the other.

Someone I met said:

“A bird, requires its surrounding. It has to have it. The surrounding is necessary. The bird exists in its forest and in its biome, in its world, necessarily. It cannot fly away from its world. Here’s why, If a bird flies away from its world (say, into outer-space), then it’s no longer be a bird and cannot be a bird (a bird is something that IS in the biome). And, likewise the converse: a world without birds (and such things like birds), is not a world (see Mars).”

Markus Unsöld

More thoughts on this here:


…putting one’s finger on what matters (narrowing focus), within what otherwise is an overwhelming environment of information, is more general than that. To pick out what matters, to narrow focus in support of action, is the characteristic function of the brain.

about rob snyder: I conceived of and brought the idea of displaying construction drawings in-situ, automatically, within models (using drawings as a focusing, sense-making device/technique within digital modeling environments), to a CAD development company (Bentley Systems), and participated in the design of the concept’s development and implementation in commercial software (MicroStation). This was introduced, as the so-called “hypermodeling” concept, in the CAD software, MicroStation, in 2012.

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  1. Pingback: words | dagsljus

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