Why be good when you can be better?

11/01/2010 — Leave a comment

When I was an undergrad in design school , I was one of the weakest drawing students among my peers our freshman year. My professors, patient and inspiring though they were, seemed to remain concerned about my weaknesses in the fields of drawing and craft; it was the final pin-up discussions at which I shone.

When the second semester of my freshman year came along and my drawing skills still fell short of my peers, one of my professors, who held a master’s in drawing, pulled me aside and gave me some advice. He gave me a few tips on how to improve the quality of my work, but above all advocated simply for practice. One of the exercises he recommended was to draw simple shapes over and over again– to draw until they were coming out of my ears. By so doing, I would be training my hands to be more skilled at quality of line and form. So for weeks I drew obsessively– circles, squares, cones, pyramids, triangles, lines, lines, lines; it was the mad hatter’s geometry and it was exploding inside my sketchbooks.

By the time I graduated with my BFA, I was selected as the designer of the year, so something must have clicked along the way; the mad hatter’s geometry had pushed me further. Today, simple forms like those from my professor’s exercise tend to creep into the margins of my sketchbooks and meeting notes– an unconscious habit, it now seems.

When I came across the above video from the Design Council, one of the first things that came to mind was that exercise of drawing simple shapes over and over and over.

Why be good when you can be better? What do you wish you could do better, dear readers? And how do you plan on getting there?

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