Drawing to Communicate

“Drawing helps you see that the things you are drawing aren’t things but rather shapes that intertwine and connect.” — Charles Reid

Draw to Communicate

More than any other skill, people see drawing as a litmus test of creativity. And while some skills — such as playing a musical instrument — take years of training, drawing “to communicate” can be mastered in a relatively short period of time. All you need is the ability to draw a few simple geometric shapes. In reality, everything you see is composed of circles, triangles, squares, lines and squiggles. According to Martin Kemp, Leonardo da Vinci observed that “the organic complexity of living nature … is founded upon the inexhaustibly rich interplay of geometric motifs.”

A picture is truly worth a thousand words. Great communicators never shy away from taking pen to paper (or marker to whiteboard) to communicate their ideas. However, to express ourselves as visual thinkers, we must disassociate artistic drawing from drawing to communicate. We’re not creating masterpieces; we’re expressing concepts.

Most of us accept that when we are learning a new sport like skiing, we will fall down and other skiers will see us plant our faces in the snow. But when it comes to sketching out ideas for others to see, we never jump off the chairlift. This is true for both the novice and the professional (myself included). For those who draw well, perfectionism can be just as debilitating as lack of confidence. As a result, good ideas go unexpressed, talent goes untapped and solutions go undiscovered.

Wherever you fall on the artistic skill curve, half the battle is not judging yourself. Just grab a pen and go for it. Practice when you’re alone (it’s called doodling). Before you know it, you’ll feel the confidence to march your stick figures or build your wobbly skyscrapers in full view of others. You’ll discover how effective even a simple drawing of a concept can be — and how good it feels to get your ideas across.

Adapted from Creative Confidence by Tom and Mark Kelley