Sketch Away

Every Thursday I face an auditorium packed with 60 designers-to-be at the Design Academy in Eindhoven. Together with my senior colleague, trained architect and Belgian gourmand Jos Delbroek, we teach first-year students about architecture (he) and social design (me).

One of the first things Jos teaches the students – and taught me – is swapping your laptop for an A4 sheet and a sharp pencil. This way, you train your handwriting, your design signature. Over and over again, he asks to draw what you see or imagine. Because, “the more one looks, the more one gets to see”.

Lecture Sketcher

Jos pointed me to Urban Sketchers, a global network of artists, who “show the world, one drawing at a time”. They sketch by taking the following in mind:

  1. We draw on location, indoors or out, capturing what we see from direct observation.
  2. Our drawings tell the story of our surroundings, the places we live and where we travel.
  3. Our drawings are a record of time and place.
  4. We are truthful to the scenes we witness.
  5. We use any kind of media and cherish our individual styles.
  6. We support each other and draw together.
  7. We share our drawings online.
  8. We show the world, one drawing at a time.

Product of a predominantly academic schooling myself, I’ve for long perceived any doodling in between the lines as competing with my lists, causal-relations-pointing arrows or starry bullet points. Now, I know it’s a great means of putting things down as clean as possible.

Words, shapes, lines, voids, hand-drawn type growing from the movements of your hands process the input of your senses. That makes paper and pencil a great means to train unbiased observation. And if your sketches in turn reveal a bias,  just sketch it away.

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Breakfast Business

Whilst looking for a spot to store my Bikemi (Milan’s bike-sharing system) near Piazza Lodi, I followed the black arrows on white paper sheets, glued to walls, lanterns and doors toward the space hosting the Design Academy Eindhoven exhibition, on Via Frulli. Before visiting the exhibition I sat down at the take-away cafe run by Keuken Confessies (Kitchen Confessions), enjoying actual rose tea.

The central area was set up with two long pick-nick tables, covered with classical light-brown gift-wrap paper, decorated with hand-painted plates and cutlery. This is where the Milan Breakfasts take place, quality conversations on design, with free coffee and croissants. I can’t think of a better way to bring people together and evoke some sense of communion, other than through great food. Hopefully the valuable discussions are continued over lunch, aperitivi or dinner.

Earlier, I was lucky to have dinner at Trattoria Aurora, and will try to either visit the Osteria del Treno, or Il Cucchiaio di Legno in the coming days – but with so much to see, there’s hardly any time to digest it. I might keep my culinary confessions for later.

Would you like breakfast sessions at your company, university or school as a means to set up a conversation? Why (not)?