The power of the pencil

29th January 2024

In this world of ever advancing technology, we have witnessed an increasing use of digital tools in the creative design and technical delivery of landscapes. We are all familiar with architectural software such as AutoCAD or Vectorworks, but over the last few years BIM has been taking over, leading to three dimensional ‘drawing’ from the outset. These have brought a series of important benefits such as productivity, ease to make changes, and precise co-ordination between professions. So, is the pencil still a powerful tool in our industry? In this blog, we look into the value of sketching and provide some examples.

Sketching is a fantastic visual communication tool, which helps deliver any idea at any work stage. It can be easily understood by anyone regardless of their language. In addition, most of the time freehand drawings save us time from writing long emails describing a proposal because of their visual immediacy: ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’.

Sketching is particularly valuable when initial ideas need to be explored, as jotting down thoughts instigates the search for the best solution. Sketches, due to their unpolished nature, engage the project team as a whole encouraging discussion and prompting alternative ideas. In doing so, the team feels involved and have a sense of ownership of the design.

Freehand drawing can also be used for quick perspectives providing the ‘look and feel’ of a design, or annotated sections describing the horizontal and vertical relationship of the various elements.
Sketches can also be prepared to coordinate a proposal with other consultants during the technical design stage, for example. A quick freehand drawing allows to convey the design principles, whose viability can be tested using a software.

The following images illustrate a variety of freehand drawings carried out at Outerspace demonstrating the importance of this skill which will never be out-of-date!

Image 1: Early concept sketch


Image 2: Conceptual drawing


Image 3: Annotated sections/elevations


Image 4: Bird’s-eye view


Image 5: Drainage coordination plan and detail


Image 6: Technical detail – AXO.


Written by Giovanni Grigoletti, Senior Landscape Architect