Observational sketchbook work and drawing as primary research

Studies show that as a research technique, sketching, writing and drawing, translates observations onto the paper, aiding in the epistemic space between research and project realization. Outputs that employ this method of primary research communicate explicit signs and visualizations at work, evident in the visual language of the finished project. Additionally, observational sketching aids the generation of ideas and thinking by translating concepts into two-dimensional objects, which help develop research questions through the interaction between the mind, the instrument and the paper. (Hoffmann & Whittmann, 2013)

Research suggests that sketching is a highly complex cognitive skill, which can externally represent conceptual thought supporting the formation and synthesis of creative and visual thinking.  Problem solving and design ideation tasks surrounding the ability to explore analogies through freehand sketching, may shorten some of the transient periods experienced in the early stages of the design process. (Lane, et al. 2013) There is a distinction between sketching from observation, and from the imagination, where the latter requires the generation of more abstract mental images. During my journey in the direction of the major project I will employ both methods of sketching to question experiences, test and modify my actions as I look back and reflect. What I have started, is an exploratory process using line drawing techniques and sketches of the self or subject to begin this process. Not to say this is or is not foundational, it could end up as such, but for now it is merely experimental.

Another study using paradigms supporting the modalities of seeing and the transfer of knowledge from the mind, or better said, “sketch thinking”, observed results that proved sketching to advance the thinking process. Although the studies were biased towards the observational sketching: (reflection, recognition, enquiry, enlightenment, journey and unification) the development of reconfiguration and synthesis were observed. Results considered sketching practice with research as a highly cognitive skill for use in design pedagogies as a thinking tool for idea generation and epistemic pathways for multiple disciplines. (Lane et al. 2013) Scientists frequently scribble and write while producing diagram drawings which “has been characterized as a third tool for knowledge production” (Hoffmann & Whittmann, 2013) in the same way, creatives often employ mind-mapping during primary research to achieve similar results.


Lane, D. et al. (2013) A Paradigm for Promoting Visual Synthesis through Freehand Sketching. Design and Technology Education: An International Journal 15.3. [online] available at:  https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ916490 accessed 04-08-2019

Hoffman, C. Whittmann, B (2013) Introduction: Knowledge in the Making: Drawing and Writing as Research Techniques. Science in Context. Cambridge University Press. [online] available at: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/science-in-context/article/introduction-knowledge-in-the-making-drawing-and-writing-as-research-techniques/EF43F2D2B6A3A1AEBD946D0B85CA3B3A accessed 04-08-2019

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