Hammers and Nails

I’ve been drawing a lot less lately, preferring to go directly to digital for some product designs. It might sound like it would be a little slower, but the results are more conclusive.

That’s not to devalue a drawing, but when you want to manufacture a shape and not just make an accurate drawing, sometimes the digital approach is faster.

Here’s the thing I think some people, who are still romantic about drawing, don’t realize – it has some cognitive and physiological costs.

Say you draw something, you go through a dozen sketches, maybe spend an hour doodling and then hit the CAD program and realize “Hey this wouldn’t work in the real world.”

Going back to drawing can sometimes makes sense, but if you saw something that didn’t work in CAD, why leave your CAD program? It used to make sense when CAD programs were run on giant workstations, heating the very rooms they occupied.

You used to need to highly skilled and rare operators for those workstations, spending time translating your doodles into recognizable and annotated diagrams for someone else to interpret.

Now you can download apps, use in browser CAD programs, or highly accurate off the shelf vfx apps to do your CAD. If you have the skill level, there is no speed benefit to switching cognitively between the two processes. Unless you have highly internalized skills in sketching as well as computer aided design, then you have the trifecta when added to 3d printing knowldge. I’ve been developing those matched skills my whole life and having spent 3 years in additive manufacturing things are really coming together.

I’m just nagging and bragging now. After all, if you love your process, if you think it works for you, fine. But not questioning your process now and then is surefire stagnation fuel.

A line I read in a book pairs well with another popular aphorism. First, “when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Add that to “When you believe in the problem more than the solution, which do you think will ultimately prevail?”

Altered just slightly, sometimes we can believe in a process more than the product, and you can tell when that happens. It’s when you get emotionally attached to the work done BEFORE the product than the product itself. Were you sad that the final product didn’t capture your sketches? You missed the point.

Were you disappointed that the spontaneity in your drawings didn’t translate to the printed or manufactured part? You missed something for sure.

That last quote comes from Ryan Holiday’s book “The Obstacle is the Way,” which became popular for sports teams, business leaders etc. in the last few years. It’s quickly become one of my favorite books.