The Importance of Doodling

Jason Santa Maria says, “Sketchbooks are not about being a good artist. They’re about being a good thinker.”

This quote and the others throughout this blog come from an article by Alma Hoffmann titled   “I draw pictures all day”.

The term doodle has had a negative connotation throughout history, at one point denoting a fool, then as a verb to swindle or ridicule. It was even used to describe a corrupt politician. Maybe that’s why today we think of doodling as a waste of time or a sign of boredom. But doodling is the first step in visual communications. “The purpose of visual language has always been to communicate ideas to others.” After all, weren’t the cave drawings just early doodles?

Are people wasting time in meetings when they are doodling? “It turns out that the simple act of scribbling on a page helps us think, remember and learn.” One experiment by a psychology professor showed that a group of doodlers actually retained 29% more information than a group who didn’t.

With an estimated 37% of the population being visual learners we should have a lot of doodlers out there. Unfortunately by the time most of those people survive high school and college, they’ve had that ability suppressed. (“When I think back at all the crap I learned in high school…” Paul Simon in the song Kodachrome.)

Alma continues to say that she encourages her students to doodle, that it is better than a quiz at getting them to understand, evaluate, and retain information from her lectures. Her typography students who doodle get a head start on evaluating how the hierarchy of type should look on a page.

So get out there and doodle. Napkins are good. Margins also work. Better yet, buy yourself a small sketchbook and carry a cheap #2 pencil. Your sketches aren’t meant to be works of art that you will show someone else. (Why would you want to put yourself through their critique?) These sketches are for you alone to visualize your thoughts and ideas.