Design through drawing

We intend to justify the confluence of drawing in art and design and their formal difference, that is, drawing for art or for design.

Is drawing for art different to that of drawing for design? This is the stimulating issue we propose to debate so as to interpret the relationship between drawing and design for art.

1.  Drawing as a subject that conceptualises an idea will be seen as a descent of  Western culture, especially in its renascence affirmation period. Thus we can consider its origin to be in the disegno  Florentine  culture of the Italian  renascence period, where the first drawing² academy is established. This enables a better understanding of our proposal since drawing was the subject that was able to bring together the various arts designated as drawing (arti del disegno).

The path of its renascent heritage is first of Classical Greek influence and then of Roman. Thus, it is poiesis the way of «knowing how to do» arising from the Greek domain of techné resulting in project construction and the creation of the object. In Renascence disegno frees itself from its liberal artisan approach and instils itself as a subject deriving from theoria; the abstract intellectual knowledge acquired through contemplative observation. However, it is also praxis ,in its practical virtue, where drawing expresses itself as a being-object  in view of the cultural traditions that bear a moral, ethical and political wisdom.

From the 18th century drawing as an artistic action starts to conquer autonomy in tandem with the desire for freedom that art aspires.

Drawing liberates itself from its project function to art (in the disegno tradition) and asserting its autonomy by abiding by its own internal rules.

In the second half of the 20th century the conquest of modern artistic autonomy resides on the presumption of the artistic objects as irreconcilable manifestations of the artistic «thing». In the 1st half of the 20th century Duchamp and Malevitch are ironically examples of absence of the artistic function in art and in the 70s  Beuys embraces absence with transcendental charm.

Drawing motivated by the action of desire abandons the artistic necessity and becomes an object of art. Drawing is neither history through memory of its past (classical drawing), nor the revelation of the invisible through the visible (modern drawing), but simply the figure which presents real art. Therefore, drawing is no longer represented symbolic sign but a symptom.

In this context drawing is represented in art as belonging to art.

2.  Does design, as it is know today in its disciplinary autonomy with its Industrial Revolution bearing and acquiring affirmation with Modernism, take over the functional space left by drawing?

“The paradigm of design as an operative function of interface design, aspires to be a self-representation of cultural dimension. Thus, design is the drawing of artefacts of cultural interface” resulting from the interaction between author-program-technology. [Providência in Calvera, 2003,199]

As result of this interaction design, is via the author, an instrument of reflection that aspires the freedom of art, yet conditioned by a constructor program that provides the work/artefact a content of truth through its formal realisation.

That is, design is still a Greek derivate of technés, while poiesis, the creative «knowing how to do» through theoria and praxis.

Can design be a way of interpreting and fulfilling the artistic function through drawing; while the latter is, in an autonomous form, a domain of art?

In the condition of  existing for…, drawing exists as a function that gives form to a project.

Drawing (pre)exists as a multidisciplinary function: the triangular correlation between classification, representation and imagination. This triangular correlation derives from the one described by  Vitrúvio as utilitas, firmitas, venustas.

In an attempt to articulate the triangle described as the result of a project in design: author-program-technology with drawing via which the project is fulfilled, described as classification-representation-imagination. This would result in a figure whose authorship would arise from the interval between representation-imagination, the program from the interval between representation-classification, and technology between classification-imagination.

Considering the representation of the project in design as the relationship between these two triangles, then design is closer to science-engineering by the representation of the semi-circles defined by peripheral movement  between the representation and technology touching the vertices of program and classification. Nonetheless, it is closer to art when it comes to authorship and imagination; the peripheral movement of the semi-circle. Thus we could within the circle define diametrically opposite movements, such as, imagination-program , representation-technology and authorship-classification.

In tandem with the text “More than a hélice” we belive that design “among other subjects, if not the only one, is the most legitimate heir to the title «artistic»” [Providência in Calvera, 2003, 212].

Thus from this conceptual resume we will seek to interpret the current  instrumental paradigm that drawing is to design, and clarifying the issue that permeates this text.



Calvera, Anna (ed.) – Arte? diseño? Barcelona: Gustavo Gili, 2003

Didi-Huberman, Georges – Devant l’image. Paris: Les Éditions de Minuit, 1990

Dienato Partenone (ed.) – Nel disegno – Materiali di un Corso di Disegno e rilievo della Facoltà di Architettura di Roma, 1984-1990

Vasari, Giorgio – Le Vite dei piu eccelenti  architetti, pittori, scultori. Fratelli Melita, 1987

Vitta, Maurizio – Il progetto della bellezza. Il design fra arte e tecnica, 1851-2001. Torino: Einaudi, 2001

Wajcman, Gérard – L’object du siècle. Verdier, 1998


Co-authoring: Magalhães, Graça; Pombo, Fátima.


Paper presented at 4º Congresso da Associação Portuguesa de Ciências da Comunicação, Universidade de Aveiro, Aveiro, Portugal, 20-21 outubro 2005


Year 2005
Type Conference Proceeding
Publication 4º SOPCOM Repensar os Media: Novos contextos da Comunicação e da Informação. Livro de Actas do 4º Congresso da Associação Portuguesa de Ciências da Comunicação.
Pages 61-72
Publisher Universidade de Aveiro
Local Aveiro, Portugal
ISBN / ISSN 972-789-163-2
Language Português