The Most Powerful Visualization Tool – Part 1: Recording

Today we have available a large number of digital tools that allow us to sketch, draw in 2D, 3D and vectorial format. We can produce images similar to oil paintings or watercolours, without using canvas or paper and having a palette of 16 million of colours. We can build three-dimensional models of objects, buildings and landscapes, simulating the characteristics of the materials they’re made, with the ability to virtually explore them. We can handle extremely sensitive drawing tools: mouse-pointing laser, tablets, data gloves.

Nevertheless, this huge potential and graphics power has a limit, which should never be forgotten: all this serves to Editing, not to Creation.

Computers are wonderful machines to produce countless variations on a basic concept. Shape, size, color, texture, perspective, number of elements: in half an hour a designer can produce ten variants of a chair, a refrigerator, a dress, a magazine cover. But all this is Editing of an idea: is the computer able also to give birth to that idea? To find out, we need to understand “how” an idea borns. I say “how” because it’s obvious “where” it borns: in our minds. But how does it end there?

Eugène Delacroix, notes from a journey to Morocco

Eugène Delacroix, notes from a journey to Morocco, 1832 - ©The Yorck Project Gesellschaft für Bildarchivierung GmbH

I think  ideas are recombinations of the informations in our brain, a bit like nightly dreams, in fact, sometimes ideas are created unconsciously as them. Anyone can have an idea then, because whoever has any data in his head and many people have the ability to rework them. But even those who carry out a “technical-creative” profession cannot wait for the random arrival of an idea. Hardwares and softwares can help them?

We consider separately the two steps of the Creative Process: Taking the data and Combining them.
Electronic technology provides us with a large number of hardwares with data recorder functions: digital cameras, scanners, 3D measuring laser, sound recorder, recognizers of colours, etc… But the data collected by these devices don’t become fixed in our minds, don’t change our brain synapses, because they’re stored in memory units external to us. Paradoxically, we’ve those data without having assimilated them, ie we don’t learned them. – it’s like having a pantry full of canned food, but don’t have an opener –.

This process, however, can be done by a simple pencil and a sheet of paper. Because while a hardware is a machine external to us, the pencil is a “prosthesis”, ie an extension of our body, through which we can record directly, writing and drawing, our thinking, our perception of the world, in a way so unique, personal and incisive for our brains.
In the words of my wife Anna: “The pencil is for our brain, what a scanner is for a computer. “

Carnet de Villard de Honnecourt

Le carnet de Villard de Honnecourt, XIII cent. - © Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des manuscrits, Paris

The Indiana University, as part of a study, published in 2010, conducted an experiment involving children. Some of them were shown any letters, while others were asked to write them. After that, the children were subjected to a MRI scanning in a machine, customized like a spaceship, asking them to think about the letters “to operate the ship.” In children who had written by hand, neuronal activity was enhanced and much more “adult-like” than those who had simply looked at the letters. [1]

Virginia Berninger, a professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Washington, says that handwriting is different from typing, because to form a letter it requires the execution of strokes in sequence, while typing involves only the selection of a letter by touching a button. Again, neurological examinations showed that the sequential finger movements activate the brain regions involved in thinking, language and memory, ie the process to store and manage information. [2]

Darwin Tree of Life

Charles Darwin, "Tree of Life", first Evolution's diagram by 1837 a notebook - ©Syndics of Cambridge University Library

 My view is that the information in our mind can’t be generic, but of “high quality”. What happens if our observation of reality is not superficial, but if we try to understand how things are made, what material sensations (visual, tactile, auditory, gustatory, olfactory) they produce, how they work, interact with each other and how we interact with them.
To record reality writing and drawing by hand, forces us to a very accurate observation and a first organization of our thinking: the analysis.

Moreover, we must not underestimate our sense organs sensitivity.
For example, our visual perception is a more dynamic process of the camera sensor, we’re able to simultaneously see in a dimly lit room and to a landscape in full sun outside it, while the sensor of a digital camera will be forced to choose to which of the two light levels to calibrate the exposition.

In the History of Art and Science, many people have used pencil and sketchbook: Villard de Honnecourt, Giovan Battista Piranesi, Andrea Palladio, Goethe, Eugène Delacroix, Charles Darwin, Alexander von Humboldt, Paul Gauguin, Le Corbusier, Bruce Chatwin and, above all, Leonardo da Vinci. The latter, precisely through his notes, showed us that the analytical mind is a common requirement for artists and scientists, and sometimes these roles are confused.

Leonardo da Vinci, Anatomical Studies

Leonardo da Vinci, Anatomical Studies, about 1510 - ©Windsor Library, UK

 Today, reading those notebooks, full of thoughts, corrections, sketches, shows not only the observation records of those people, but also their understanding of what is seen.
So, is a bit sad to think that in the future we cannot enjoy the view of the personal notes of many contemporary authors – who don’t produce original works, but files – we’ll have just their  hardcover monograph, printed in China.

[1] Gwendolyn Bounds, How Handwriting Trains the Brain,, oct 5, 2010
[2] Gwendolyn Bounds, idem
Other posts in this series:
The Most powerful Visualization tool – Part 2: Processing
The Most powerful Visualization tool – Part 3: Rendering


About liviusnotes

Architect, Graphic Illustrator, Drawing Teacher, Gentleman.
This entry was posted in Cahier de Voyage, Creativity, Sketches and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Most Powerful Visualization Tool – Part 1: Recording

  1. Pingback: Friend’s Book: Il più potente strumento di visualizzazione al mondo | marco motta design - Web Design Agency Milano , Webdesign , Web Marketing e Graphic Design, Studio Grafico Creativo Rho

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