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Why We Draw: An Exploration Into How and Why Drawing Works


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Virginia Tech


Visual information allows us to experience concepts in a way that is analogous to the real world; an image represents the semantic meaning of a concept and does so without conforming to the structural or syntactic rules of standard language. Drawing is therefore an agile form of communication, able to maneuver around barriers that impede the exchange of ideas between one profession and another where the difference in cultural dialects gives rise to translation complications. This thesis argues that the value of visual information lies not in the final, finished images, but during the creation of those images, during the action of drawing. If drawings are generally considered a form of communication, then drawing is a form of visual conversation; much like spoken language, its message unfolds as it is performed, and we make meaning from that performance.

Following an exploration of the visual and cognitive systems integral to interpreting visual information, a discussion of language structure and sources of language conflict sets the stage for employing the act of drawing as a collaborative tool in cross-disciplinary settings. Proposed is a set of principles guiding this use of drawing which builds upon the research findings herein. These principles are structured to be usable by all professions, regardless of artistic background or traditional practice, and to encourage a reevaluation of drawingâ s role in the problem-solution process.



visual cognition, interdisciplinary, Collaboration, drawing, Design