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Posted on April 19th, 2012, by

Traditionally, drawing and design implied the development of a strong theoretical basis on the ground of which the development of design and drawings could be carried out. At the same time, views of specialists on the theoretical development of design varied consistently. In fact, each design theory has its own unique characteristics, concepts and ideas, which distinguish it from other, but it is impossible to single out one universal theory that could explain the full potential of design and its essence. At the same time, it is obvious that, in spite of difficulties in explanation of drawings and design since “drawings remain strangely elusive and inexpressible in terms others than drawing itself”¯[1], it is still necessary to keep working on theoretical development of drawings and design in order to reveal their essence, functions and effects. In this respect, articles by Ashwin and Buchanan are particularly noteworthy because they present original views of both authors on the problem of the theoretical development of design and drawings and their explanation.

In fact, both Ashwin and Buchanan agree that the development of design needs a theoretical backup because drawing can have a profound meaning and significance. This is why it is very important to understand theoretical framework of design and drawing. At the same time, it should be said that Ashwin points out that theoretical understanding of drawing is very complicated and many specialists can hardly come to agreement on the theoretical explanation of design and drawing, which contains “inexpressible element that makes drawing valuable and irreplaceable”¯[2]. At this point, Buchanan stands on the ground that design and drawing can be theoretically explained and he attempts to analyze theoretical developments in the field of design to prove that this field can be researched and the more researchers know the easier further researches can be.

At the same time, it is important to underline the fact that Ashwin basically attempts to view drawing and design from a functional point of view, while Buchanan tends to view design from the point of view of designer. To put it more precisely, Ashwin argues that drawings basically serve as means of communication and, at this point, he agrees with Buchanan. Ashwin distinguishes the functions of communication, which are realized through sign systems since design practices “have generated similarly hybrid sign systems”¯[3]. Furthermore, he argues that drawings can perform six major communicative functions which he idenitifies with sign systems which “serve at least six principal functions”¯[4]: referential, emotive, conative, poetic, phatic, and metalinguistic. In general, he views design and drawing from the position of semiotics.

As for Buchanan, he also attempts to explain design from a theoretical point of view. However, unlike Ashwin, he argues that design is a creative process where the designer does not simply communicate certain message to the audience, but, instead, designer is “a speaker who flashions a world, however small or large, and invites others to share in it”¯[5]. What is meant here is the fact that the audience is not a passive recipient of the message created by a designer, but it is rather an active participant who can view the world from a different angle and whom the designer just invites to view the world from his point of view. In such a way, Buchanan apparently leaves the room for an individual’s creativity, which can affect the perception of drawing and design by the audience.

Thus, in conclusion, it should be said that understanding of design and drawing is very important since they have a huge power, but drawing and design are not always tools in hands of a designer only, but they may be tools of mutual creativity of a designer and audience.


[1] Ashwin, C. 1989. “Drawing, Design and Semiotics.”¯ In Design Discourse. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 199.

[2] Ibid., p.199

[3] Ibid., p.202.

[4] Ibid., p.202.

[5] Buchanan, R. 1989. “Declaration by Design: Rhetoric, Argument and Declaration in Design Practice.”¯ In Design Discourse. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, p.95.


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