23 November 2009

Drawing: A Fundamental Instrument to Understand Reality

After using drawing as part of my design process in Rwanda, I have taken a great interest in its role as a means for communication in low-literacy communities (and how this might affect the way mobile systems are designed and implemented). Beyond that, I am also keen on how it can help us access other cognitive levels in the complexities of daily experience.

This short video (via BoingBoing) about Milton Glaser highlights how drawing can play a role in looking at things more carefully and encourage a consciousness about what we see. He also suggests that it need not be "accurate" in order to have benefit. To me, this becomes extremely interesting when we are seeking to understand complex issues in our world.

If "drawing is thinking" then we have a broader capacity for understanding these complexities as we move beyond a typical read of them. Statistics and texts offer one dimension of this information. And while this is valid, it is often postured as the most reliable way of understanding complexity (especially when said complexity incorporates unknown cross-cultural or demographic details). Visualizing this information seems to allow for a broader read and allows for new possibilities to interpret what we see. When we are dealing with complex issues, like those I witnessed in Rwanda, I believe that we need other ways of seeing if we are to find ways of addressing new solutions.

Could drawing help us show this information in a more accessible way? Could this activity make something like the MDGs more understandable to those who are being evaluated by their success or failure? I don't presume to have all the answers but I can see that there is room to expand:

The impact of communication can be jeopardized by not having accurate information about the needs of the counterparts and by the reliability of available tools. Experience in monitoring and evaluating the impact of communication initiatives is comparatively weak, leading to the re-use of formats and campaigns regardless of their effectiveness in improving conditions of marginalized groups. Paola Pagliani, The MDGs as a Communication Tool for Development

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