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Do I Need Strong Drawing Skills to Get a Graphic Design Degree?

Updated on January 9, 2020
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Andrew achieved a BFA in Graphic Design from UMass Dartmouth and is constantly looking for opportunities to help others.

As with all skills the better someone is at one is always beneficial but is it required?
As with all skills the better someone is at one is always beneficial but is it required? | Source

Starting in a Graphic Design Program

One of the biggest concerns of many talented people is not knowing if they have the skills to complete the program/task. The main thing people worry about when entering a design degree is if they need to know how to draw or not. It is a valid concern for any field that runs alongside art. Graphic Designers, Web Design, Multimedia, Animation, and even CAD and Architect degrees all require "acceptable levels of drawing." Now don't let that scare you as I will explain what that means. While all of them should have a type of drawing class in the program, these classes will get you to the level you need to be at to get your degree. Basic Drawing isn't a hard course and it doesn't take that long to start enjoying drawing. Outside of an associates degree there will be between 2-3 more drawing courses involved in getting a higher degree. With most of these degrees they all have a different level of drawing you need to know and almost anyone at the point they are at now can achieve what must be done for their degrees and to be able to be successful designers. After all, not much of the job is free drawing, its often aided by computers.

Drawing in Design Programs

While being able to create things like this will be learned, most design work just requires basic drawing skills on paper!
While being able to create things like this will be learned, most design work just requires basic drawing skills on paper! | Source

Basic Drawing vs Actual Application

During basic drawing you will learn how to draw with a pencil on paper. You will learn how shapes work together to create easy objects and be able to draw what you can see. Drawing what you can see is the best way to start. It will always be easier to draw something looking at a guide then it will be from the top of your head and this is how you practice. You might draw a vase of flowers, or a simple stapler on your desk. With this practice you can then see shapes and can draw from your mind to create sketches for example.

For most of the class you will be practicing fine art drawing, for many of the design programs you just need tactical and mechanical drawings. All of the fields require at some point for you to sketch a thumbnail or idea out before starting a project. When I started I hated doing all the levels of drawing before creating the finished product, now im happy I did. The ability to have a sketch and comp created for a project makes creating the final computer version much easier then staring at a blank monitor all day. Heres some of what expectations of each program are for drawing levels:

Graphic Design - Graphic Designers have to take visions from there clients to create something that they are looking for. This could be a logo, a layout, a sign, or anything required for the business to help keep a brand image. They have to draw out all layouts, and normally have many ideas to go from.

Web Design - Web Designers often have to learn some basic drawing skills to help create the page layouts on paper before building them on the computer. While most of the degree is just building, the overall design is the most important part of customer friendly sites.

Multimedia - Multimedia courses also require thumbnailing and layouts. While this is much less then any other degree here it is still required.

Animation - Animation degrees have the most storyboarding and thumbnailing on paper then any other degree. You really have to know where a cartoon or movie is going in order to create the right characters, their emotions, and their overall image.

CAD - While mostly math is required for CAD (building components and parts) some parts need to be drawn out. The drawing for these courses are more technical drawings with rulers and other tools.

Speed Drawing with Photoshop (Easier than Paper!)

Why is Drawing on a Computer Easier?

While many of us would love to draw perfectly on paper or any other medium it takes a lot of practice and overall skill of what you want something to look like. Its easy to mess up any piece of art on paper or computers but a few things have to be taken into consideration:

On Paper:
- Erasers don't always clean erase and can ruin the paper
- Pencils can break while using them leaving deep marks
- Graphite can crack and split making weird uncontrolled results
- Your arm or hand can rub the image away creating distortion

On Computers:
- Eraser clean erases and can erase at whatever level you set
- Pencil tips don't break, and you can choose what effect, size, shape etc
- You image cant be ruined unless you do it
- You can use a mouse if you aren't accustomed to using a pencil
(Or a Graphics Pen Tablet)
- Anything can be moved, re-sized, or rotated etc
- Lines are guided and can be auto created *
*Using the Line tool, shape tools, and the Pen Tool to create curves and lines using handles and not freehand for clean edges.

Most people can draw better then they think!
Most people can draw better then they think!

Essentially, the answer is that the better you are at drawing the easier it might be for you, but it doesn't mean you cant still complete jobs and do the work if your not as strong of an artist. The advantage someone who draws better may have is time to come up with the completed product. Other then time, both a weak drawer and a strong drawer can come to the same high quality design. Light thumbnails, storyboards, comps, and layouts are nothing to stress about. Its almost like drawing placeholders for what you want to complete and accomplish. A good comparison would be to writing an essay but making an outline first so when you go to write from paragraph to paragraph your not just sitting there wondering what to write, you have a short simple word or idea to get across over the next 2-3 sentences then you have the next already set up. While its not exactly the same thing, it does follow the same principles.


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