SXSW 2013: Von Glitschka On Why Everyone Should Draw

Written by Madison Andrews

Studies show that doodling focuses the mind.. SXSW 2013 speaker and illustrative artist Von Glitschka reveals his views to our Madison Andrews on how drawing will enhance the creative process for creatives — and what his favorite BBQ spot in Austin is. —  At SXSX 2013 — the ever edgy South by Southwest show — graphic designer Von Glitschka will be in attendance among the many famed artists, musicians and videographers in Austin for the week. He told me every creative type in every industry should be using pen and paper. Here’s my interview — there’s a lot to chew on here.

Speaking of chewing, scroll to the end to find Von G’s choice of BBQ hangout in Austin.

Drawing Conclusions Von Glitschka Graphic

Image credits: Von Glitschka

Glitschka is a principal for Glitschka Studios, where he says drawing is essential to the design process. In his talk, Drawing Conclusions: Why Everyone Should Draw he talks about how drawing can not only supercharge the creative process, but also enhance learning and improve focus for designers and web developers alike. Why? I dug in.

How did you get to this point in your career?
I learned how to do what I do creatively speaking in analog form. In art school we didn’t have computers. That really reinforced the idea of solving visual problems by utilizing skills such as drawing. Then, about two years after I graduated, computers started showing up at agencies.

I had no problem transitioning from an analog to a digital workflow. I always had been a Mac addict so I kind of gravitated toward that immediately. But over time, I have seen this dynamic (trend) that’s been created, mainly over the last 20 years.  The industry has moved away from analog skills.

I’m not talking about drawing in general, but drawing as it relates to ideation and coming up with ideas. When you lose drawing, you lose a lot of the modalities that facilitate and help generate concepts.

Why is drawing so important to the creative process?
Drawing taps into areas that you just can’t get to otherwise, and it enhances the ability of the creative — regardless of what specific industry they’re plugged into — to really leverage ideas and come up with visual solutions to the problems they’re trying to solve. Not that you can’t get there by other means. Drawing just makes it so much easier to get there quickly.

What areas, or modalities, do we tap into by drawing?
Drawing can really enhance your ability to learn. When we work on new projects with clients at Glitschka Studios, there’s a period of time when we have to learn about the genre, topic, product, or service, so it’s really important to utilize drawing within the creative process because it basically supercharges our learning ability.

There are four different learning modalities: visual, auditory, reading and writing, and kinesthetic or tactile. To really digest the information you’re processing, at least two of these modalities have to be engaged, or at least of one of the modalities have to be engaged associated with an emotional response.

The cool thing about drawing is that when you draw you actually engage all four of those modalities at the same time and, if you enjoy drawing, it then adds the bonus of supercharging it with the emotional value. So that’s one aspect that will really help a creative person, regardless of whether they’re a designer or they’re developing a web app or they’re trying to target an audience. As they draw out ideas and problem solve, it’s going to supercharge their learning ability, and that’s going to help them to focus better on solving issues within a creative context.

How does drawing help us to focus?
Drawing improves your ability to focus and keep on task. Studies show that when you doodle, it keeps your mind focused on whatever is being discussed.

That was one of the cool things that I discovered while putting this talk together, because I’ve done that for years. I always used to get written up in reviews for jobs for doodling in meetings, and I always thought, “well, I’m paying attention, but it doesn’t look like it,” so it’s more about perception than it is reality.

How can creatives leverage the ‘superpower’ of drawing without pen and paper?

There are a lot of great drawing applications that you can load on your iPad. Whether you’re drawing with a pen and paper or on an app like Penultimate, you’re still exercising the same creative muscles as you would with analog. The only aspect of modality missing in touch technology is the texture of paper, and how a pen reacts with a given surface.

What are your favorite drawing applications?
I use Penultimate on my iPad for doing concept sketches and wireframes. Even though the tactile aspect isn’t quite the same, I still get a close enough experience that it feels natural to me. You can print them directly to a Wi-Fi-enabled printer, or email them and they end up being high-resolution jpegs that you can then work with.

Adobe Ideas interpolates what you’re drawing into a vector image, so what you get when it’s all said and done is an email file that you can open in Adobe Illustrator. I don’t really use that for professional projects, I mostly use it as a tool for exercising my creativity. That said, some of the aesthetic you get in terms of free drawing could work for an actual project, I just haven’t had anything that specific style would align with yet.

Could you envision these applications being widely used by designers for professional projects?
It needs a lot more features to make it really usable for me. One big drawback is the lack of certain vector controls — the ability to spec pantone color and add CMYK breaks, for example. It’s not really a full-fledged design program, it’s more of a concepting tool. It would need some additional development to make it really useful. I think Adobe is actually moving in that direction.
Illustrative Design Von Glitschka GraphicWhich of your current projects are you most excited about?
I’ve been developing some design courses for My first design course was about the creative process in general: how to go from analog and then execute it with precision in digital form. Right now I’m developing one on the foundations of brand identity and logo design. I’ll be creating other kinds of courses for them moving forward.

I’m also branding a microbrewery based out of Albany. I love it when clients come up with really cool names — theirs is Sinister Brewing company. We’re moving into branding and packaging for that, which should be fun.

What are you most excited about doing at SXSW 2013?

What’s your favorite barbecue joint in Austin?
Oh, man, they’re all good. Just barbecue in general, but I like Stubb’s.

Watch for my continuing coverage of SXSW 2013 … for, I’m Madison Andrews.