I've been quiet lately online but only because I've been noisy elsewhere! I just finished off the last touches on my Alive Underground RPM2017 'Snippets' collection, completed some drawings for the Downhome Life Magazine and written & uploaded a couple of rambling 'essays', one of which is below. Every now and then I feel compelled to write something...and so I do.
On the topic of ‘Draughting’
So, call me ‘long in the teeth’, ‘archaic’, a ‘dinosaur’…whatever.
Why? Because it appears I am amongst the last of the ‘Draughtsmen’. I certainly hope that this is not the case, but it’s looking that way.
Let me back up a moment…
I hit the streets in the early 1980’s, graduating from the College of Fisheries, Navigation, Marine Engineering & Electronics (the institution that would eventually morph into Memorial University of Newfoundland’s ‘Marine Institute’), with a spanking clean Diploma of Naval Architecture Technology. That program was designed to take neophytes with no knowledge of Naval Architecture, and over the course of 3 to 4 years, turn them into Naval Architects and Marine ‘Draughtsmen’ with sound technical knowledge. Nowadays the term in vogue is ‘Designers’. One of the key points in the mandate of the College of Fisheries was to produce individuals that could upon graduation take on the responsibilities in a shipyard or a design office setting, complete with the knowledge toolbox to be efficient and effective in whichever capacity was required, be that ‘pure’ naval architecture, design, field services, production, etc.
One of these skills was the ability to not only read and fully comprehend complicated and technical specifications and drawings, but to be able to as a routine job function, produce these documents. A point of note here is that this was in the days just before Computer Assisted Design overtook the industry. We were still working on drawing boards in those times. Computers were newly being introduced to chew through all those Ship Stability, Resistance & Propulsion and Hydrodynamics calculations we were accustomed to producing ‘long hand’. The great CAD revolution was just around the corner. In short, graduates were expected to ‘hit the ground running’ when integrating into the Drawing Office.
Before I proceed further let me clarify that this writing is in no way disrespecting the impact that CAD has had on industry. I know it to be a leap forward in the execution of nearly all branches of engineering. CAD has enabled our drawings to be incredibly accurate, it has enhanced manipulation of vast amounts of data, and it has made the process of revision a much simpler exercise. As much as the draughtsman in me enjoys making a ‘real drawing’ on paper or Mylar with graphite or ink, I also thoroughly enjoy the CAD workstations, and the possibilities they enable.
No, my issue is not with the software, it is with the ‘hole’ in the process of design that is inherent as a result of the simplicity that is offered by the software. In short, because CAD is so easy to use and manipulate, the impetus to think about firstly, then lay out the drawing in the manner in which it will be reproduced is not necessarily there. In other words, the designer is not so compelled to imagine the drawing in their heads that they will be creating before they start. This is the beginning of the CAD shortcoming.
When a designer ceases to imagine what the finished drawing is going to look like, he or she is headed down a slippery slope. In the ‘olden days’ when paper was in use (or way back, when linen was the media!) great thought had to be given regarding exactly what to show and what to leave out. The drawing had to include enough of the general arrangement as well as sections, elevations and details to illustrate precisely what the design was. Now days a designer can start a drawing, change its layout any number of times, fiddle with the presentation, manipulate every aspect of the process and yet still manage to produce a magnificent design document…or not.
It is with some reservation that I make these comments. I would like to state for the record that the issues I’m discussing are not crippling the industry, nor am I suggesting that we forsake CAD and all our technology that has made design life what it is today. What I am saying is the industry is lacking in resources that can actually ‘Draw’. To clarify, ‘Drawing’ is a skill that enables someone to produce a representation of a thought or a group of thoughts, so that someone viewing that representation (drawing) clearly understands the idea that’s being communicated.
This skill is disappearing in the industry. It has been my experience in my capacity as a ‘Senior’ or ‘Lead’ designer and as a ‘Checker’ that much of the design drawing catalogue is deficient in terms of clarity when it comes to representing the image of what is intended to be built. CAD has made it easy to ‘cut’ sections and elevations anywhere in a 3D model and produce details where required, but these ‘cuts’ are often lacking in what I consider to be ‘good’ drafting. Whereas in the past a designer would draw a detail, indicating a surface with structure beneath as ‘hidden’ lines, or superficial items needed to establish a context shown in ‘phantom’ lines, (I mention linetypes only as examples) what I am seeing is that the CAD designer is relying on the software to draw the detail and the line conventions and weights are being either omitted or not even considered. In my view a designer should and must draw what is there at the section or elevation indicated. If it becomes necessary for clarity to remove some aspects of the detail then that must be stated and indicated on the detail.
It is imperative in industry to make a profit. One of the major factors that affect or inhibit this goal is the introduction of what we all know as Confusion, or Chaos. Confusion can occur at any time and at any place in the design process, be it the drawing office or the boardroom. The very best defense against this is to produce documents that leave no questions regarding the design. The closer we can come to producing these documents the more likelihood of reducing lost time dealing with chaos thus the better chance of maximizing profits.
And I might add, also the better chance that real ‘Draughtsmen’ (and women!) will continue to exist.