Graphic designers create logos, brochures and other business collateral. They work with typography and photos and white space. Their primary tools these days are those in the Adobe Suite. Given how tech-heavy graphic design seems to be these days, many would-be graphic designers wonder if drawing is related to graphic design. The answer to this question isn’t as straightforward as it may seem.

Do I Need Drawing Skills?

Do graphic designers need drawing skills or not? This debate has been going on for some time. As with most debates of this nature, it has proponents on both sides. Some people will say that graphic designers don’t need drawing skills, that their jobs are all about communication. Others disagree, saying that designers should have drawing skills. Understandably, this leads to a great deal of confusion. Some clarification will clear up the confusion.

Academic Drawing vs. Idea Sketching

Several activities fall under the umbrella term of drawing. Many people, when they think of drawing, think of the drawings they’ve seen in museums or art history books. It’s no wonder that many would-be graphic designers feel intimidated by this. For them, drawing is about making portraits of grand ladies or impressive portrayals of beautiful landscapes.

However, sketching and doodling also fall under the umbrella terms of drawing. True enough, many fine artists sketch and doodle in their free time, but so do many people who don’t consider themselves artists at all. When drawing is identified as sketching, it becomes less about polishing a work of art and more about play and about communicating ideas. Few skills can beat drawing when it comes to communicating a visual idea. All a designer needs to do is get out a pad and pencil and sketch a thumbnail of his or her design idea.

Why It Could Help

Many people who draw regularly, even those who are not designers, like biochemist-turned-sculpture Briony Marshall embrace drawing as a necessary skill. As she explains in The Big Draw, some people draw to understand what they are seeing. When a person draws, it trains his or her eye to see form, shape, light and color. It also improves eye-hand coordination. Seeing form, shape, light and color, as well as having eye-hand coordination, are skills that are useful for designers to know and to master.

Designer Janis Andzans additionally points out that solving design problems in the sketch stage is easier than trying to solve them in the later stages of a piece of work, particularly when it’s time to create a digital rendering of the idea. This saves a designer time in the work process.

Learning How to Draw

There is a misconception that drawing is a talent. While that may be true for some who have the natural ability to draw, the reality is drawing is a skill that can be learned. According to Betty Edwards, the author of the book “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain,” the ability to draw is the ability to master five skills. They are:

  • The ability to perceive edges
  • The ability to perceive spaces
  • The ability to perceive the relationships between objects
  • The ability to perceive shadows and light
  • The ability to perceive the whole

Drawing is a global skill, which means that a person only has to master a few abilities to become proficient at that skill.

What Other Skills Do Designers Need?

The ability to communicate counts as one of the most important skills that a graphic designer can have. According to Rasmussen College, the ability to communicate is even more important for a graphic designer than the ability to draw. Graphic designers must convey the emotions underneath the message.

It’s also important that a designer has an excellent foundation in design skills. Competent designers know about composition, color theory, user experience, photography and photo-editing and typography. They also must have a handle on the industry-standard software that modern designers use, which usually includes the programs Adobe InDesign, Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop in the Adobe Suite.

Many would-be graphic designers wonder if drawing is related to graphic design. As has been pointed out, it depends on who a person talks to. That said, the ability to draw can help a graphic designer. It gives him or her the ability to communicate ideas visually and to work out problems in a design. It is a skill that many people possess naturally. However, it is a skill that can be learned. Finally, there are many other skills that a designer should know. Drawing, then, becomes just another skill in the designer’s toolbox.

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