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Hand-Drawing vs Digital-Drawing: How to See Your Design More Deeply

By Maria Lorena Lehman — Get more articles like this sent to your email HERE.

Image Credit: © Ractapopulous | Pixabay


When analyzing the finished results between a hand-drawing versus a digital-drawing, the stylistic differences are easy to see. Both types of drawings can be very beautiful, if thoughtfully composed. Yet, a designer will think about what they are drawing very differently depending on which drawing process they use. With hand-drawing, the designer often strives to “capture” insight with each line drawn. With digital-drawing, the designer often strives to “test” insight with each line drawn. The differences may seem slight, but they reside within the issue of preciousness.

As one draws by hand, much thought must go into the placement, color, direction, and even length of a line that, once placed, becomes a permanent part of the drawing. While when drawing with a computer, a line can be placed, tested, and removed within a few clicks. As the preciousness of drawing a line differs between what is drawn by hand versus the computer, the designer’s thinking process differs as well. With digital-drawing the designer is more inclined to think strategically through on-screen iteration (as the placement of each line is tested), while with hand-drawing the designer is more inclined to think strategically through mental iteration (as the placement of each line is final). After all, within a hand-drawing a new line can make or break the design; thus, careful attention must be placed on where, how, and why it is being realized.


Both hand-drawing and digital-drawing will help you to see your architectural designs more deeply. However, questions arise when you consider how often you create hand-drawings to design, as compared to digital-drawings. Again, each drawing type will help you to see your design in different ways – not just because of the drawings’ different finished results, but also because of the different thinking processes needed for each type of drawing. Thus, both digital and hand-drawing will help you to evolve different ways of seeing, and this is why it is important for you to practice both.

If you are an architect that works primarily with computers to design, it is important to create hand-drawn explorations. Conversely, if you are an architect that primarily works by creating hand-drawings, it will greatly benefit you to explore using digital tools. In both cases, you will evolve how you think and see design. As you gain mastery with both drawing practices, you will find particular uses to leverage each within your architectural design practice. For example, hand-drawing versus digital-drawing may help you to see your design project more deeply at different stages in the design process. The key is to know when to use each drawing type to see insights at important stages, and to also use the drawing types to allow for discovery during those same drawing stages.

Ask yourself: How can I see my project more deeply by drawing it differently? Then proceed to explore through a new drawing type. You will be pleasantly surprised by what you find.





what members are saying...
Maria: I came across your website through a reference in today's Architect Weekly ezine and am delighted I did. I'll bookmark your site and check back often. I read the first article and then the second and thirty minutes later realized how much time had passed. I've been practicing for thirty years and have always missed the stimulation of academia. I find each of your brief dissertations sort of like a day in design studio. Thanks for the inspiration.

Ron Ward
AI Group Design
I am excited to see you touch a vein of values in architecture, I have been chasing myself for years. Your depth of involvement in these very deep subjects is really beautiful and passionately dealt with and well written. Sound, color and value, shape, texture, scale, smell.... all definitive measures of the spaces we should be alert to. [...] I will savor the rest of your investigation of sensuality in architecture. I'm Glad I found you.

Dennis McLaughlin
McLaughlin Architect
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Maria Lorena Lehman is a multi award-winning visionary author, designer, and educator from the United States. Maria holds a Bachelor of Architecture with Honors from Virginia Tech and a Master in Design with Distinction from Harvard University Graduate School of Design. CLICK HERE to learn more.

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