Drawing, Memory, and Reflection

Drawing is a skill associated with design, and other creative disciplines. I consider this should not be the exception for Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) Design. Drawing is a way for synthesizing and engaging into reflection. Crucial skills for an Interaction Designer or User Experience Designer.

Wireframe and Ideation
Doodle made in a lecture about ideation and ellaboration of wireframes in the Interaction Design Practice course at the HCI Design program of Indiana University

The basis of a systems-oriented thinking is analysis. Although when a strong skill for analysis is needed for designing technology-driven solutions, amalgamating all the information [chunks] in order to create a new and feasible design is complex task. Hence, synthesis plays a crucial role in HCI Design. However, not everything is about synthesizing. Abductive reasoning is in essential design thinking. In fact, the three of them –analysis, synthesis, and abduction– practically occur in a non-linear almos-simultaneous fashion during the design process.

From my experience as a designer and teacher, drawing is a powerful tool for supporting memory and reflection. Talking about the relation of drawing and memory is quite straightforward. Drawing allow us to materialize our thoughts and archive them for future references and inspection. That’s why I’ve decided to focus on drawing again. I realize my memory is kind of bad, and this flaw needs to be beaten by the use of some artifact that connects me back with previous thoughts. I found drawing as a pleasant way for creating this artifact. Of course, I don’t deny the power of writing whatsoever. That’s the reason of this blog’s existence in first place. That implies another post, though.

Bits of life
Cover of my personal journal of micro-drawings and written notes for not forgetting things from my experiences I want to reflect upon in the future.

Drawing is also a tool for reflection. Particularly in Schön’s terms –Reflection-in-action and Reflection-on-action. From my perspective, drawing is one way of pushing through all the complexity –expression said by my advisor, Marty Siegel. While drawing, analysis, synthesis, and abduction happen. It is inevitable to reflect in the actual drawing decisions –Reflection-in-action. However, from my perspective, the magic occurs when reflecting upon past experiences, concepts, ideas, or even knowledge during the act of drawing. In this sense, composing becomes more complex than determining which components to draw, their representation, their position, and their relevance. Synthesis and abduction combine during the overall process. They contribute on the creation of meaning around a drawing.

Now that I’m conducting research on Interaction Design practice, and being involved with a HCI Design graduate program, I’ve decided to keep drawing. Of course, it’s also a hobby I really enjoy. Though, it’s a mental and physical activity that connects and disconnects myself from the realm of Design and Human-Computer Interaction.

What I want to remark is that drawing doesn’t require drawing skills. From this perspective where one gets connected and disconnected from the [design] world, it’s more relevant to keep going on drawing. The importance is in externalizing ideas that make sense when you see them time later. I believe it’s a bottom-up process every time. The reflection involved, and the types of reasoning, really will influence your future drawings. That’s why…

Keep calm and carry on drawing.



Published by Omar Sosa-Tzec

Assistant Professor of Design Foundations at San Francisco State University