Design & research

Drawing for Engineers


Drawing for Engineers

A coworker and I noticed that many of the engineers we worked with didn’t sketch to convey ideas. We set out to create a workshop that would to help engineers get more comfortable drawing by hand.




2 months


Alex Ko


Visual & curriculum design, workshop facilitation

Engineers attending the workshop.

Engineers attending the workshop.




It's a familiar problem: as digital technologies replace analog ways of making, practitioners become, well, less practiced at doing things by hand. For mechanical engineers, CAD software has essentially replaced drawing in educational and professional settings.

Nonetheless, there is value in drawing by hand; it clarifies thinking, aids in real-time communication, and saves on CAD hours. After a few informal conversations, Alex and I set out to create an experience that would help engineers get more comfortable drawing by hand.


The mantra.

The mantra.




Together we interviewed engineers about their creative process and collected sample sketchbook drawings. We found that embarrassment around drawing poorly kept many engineers from sketching regularly, even in a private notebook. Those who drew more frequently often did so "in section," or in two-dimensional cross-sections of 3D parts.

We saw an especially rich opportunity here around communication; while today's CAD-trained engineers are very comfortable thinking in section, their clients and non-engineer may not be. How could we help engineers break into the third dimension, and through their own inhibitions, to communicate visually?





We developed a curriculum to introduce engineers to various drawing concepts and tools. I developed a deck and corresponding workbook to guide participants from a conceptual re-framing of "drawing well" to practical exercises. Together, we hosted an hour-long workshop for engineers over lunch.


Sample workshop slides. The slides below capture some of the key elements of the workshop, including a new framework for thinking about drawing and various exercises, guiding participants from drawing simple shapes to 3D objects:



Sample workbook pages. We wanted participants to leave the workshop thinking of drawing less as a talent and more like a skill, like learning scales on the piano. Exercises at each stage of the workshop helped participants warm-up their muscles and begin to practice simple drawing exercises: