Drawing instructors like to encourage our students to practice. We teach in 3-hour studios instead of 1-hour lectures. We give sketchbook assignments. We write daily sketch prompts. We say things like, “Drawing is the best way to learn how to draw.”

Why are your instructors so keen on practice, especially daily practice? It has to do with three learning concepts: active learning, distributed practice, and critical thinking. Basically, people learn best when they use new skills regularly, and carefully evaluate their performance. Using your skills (instead of just reading about them or listening to a lecture) is the active learning. Using them every day (instead of just when class meets) is the distributed practice. And carefully evaluating your work (instead of walking away as soon as a project is done) is the critical thinking.

When you’re learning how to draw, active learning and distributed practice are easy to explain: practice your drawing 6 days a week. Thirty minutes a day is just fine. You can draw every day if you want, but I like to take time off every week.

Critical thinking is a little trickier. When you’re a new industrial designer, you may not have the knowledge to spot the good and bad parts of a drawing. How do you evaluate your work? How do you use what you learned to make your next drawing better?

These “Good Drawing vs Bad Drawing” posts are designed to help you. Each post will focus on one part of a good drawing, like line quality, perspective, or storytelling. It will show you how to test your own drawings, and it will give you tools to improve your drawings in the future.


A note about “good drawings” and “bad drawings”

“Good” and “bad” are subjective, especially when you’re talking about an artistic skill, like drawing. Things like accurate perspective and clear forms can be vital to a good industrial design drawing, but irrelevant when you’re looking at a cubist sketch by Pablo Picasso or an expressionist portrait by Elaine de Kooning.

In these posts, I am going to assume that you are an industrial design student who wants to draw sketches as part of the product design process. You’re using your sketches to develop design concepts, solve problems, and communicate your ideas to the rest of a design team. So when I say a drawing is good, I’m saying that it looks like something a professional industrial designer would draw while developing a product. And when I say something is bad, I’m saying that it doesn’t look like a professional industrial design drawing.