ARTFUL DEBATE: Hand vs. Computer Drawing | CHENG Design | sustainable, emotional, timeless design

ARTFUL DEBATE: Hand vs. Computer Drawing

Tiburon House - Hand Drawing | CHENG Design

A response to Enzo Tessitore’s editorial on Hand vs. Computer Drawing: A Student’s Opinion for design purposes in architecture.

Instant disclosure: I have no training or experience working as a designer with CAD programs. However, I have worked out design problems looking over the shoulder of CAD literate associates at the monitor and found it a most useful and very efficient tool.

Tiburon House - Computer Drawing | CHENG Design

Tiburon House, Computer Perspective. 2013 Copyright by CHENG Design


The touch-points of technology and human culture have fused into one another in the digital age like no other time. Debates will be argued on both sides of what has merged into an inextricable reality: computers are here to stay and they are indisputably efficient tools for great design. For me, the argument goes beyond whether or not a design presentation should be hand drawn or not.

Tiburon House - Hand Drawing | CHENG Design

Tiburon House, Front Elevation Perspective. 2013 Copyright by Fu-Tung Cheng


It is more about what I feel when I draw and the feeling the drawings convey when they are seen as finished sketches or renderings. Seen here are a couple of examples of my perspective sketches as compared to the CAD drawing of a house I’m currently working on that will complete construction this year in Tiburon, CA.

Computerized drawings not fully rendered come across as texturally flat, clumsy, dead, and incomplete. Hand drawings that are incomplete by definition, but deftly sketched, nuanced and suggestive, allow the viewer to participate in the image, filling in the missing information with their own imagination.

Without exception I have always used my hand-drawn preliminary rendering perspectives to “sell” the client the conceptual vision for a project. And, when we have had the opportunity to have CAD drawings side-by-side with the hand-sketched perspectives, people invariably gravitate to the hand drawings. Architecture, is after all, emotional. Conveying feeling is best conveyed with what feels best.

What are your thoughts on hand v. computer drawings?


One Comment

  • Dear Fu-Tung,

    I enjoyed your response to Tessitore’s editorial. In my studio it’s always hand drawings and never CAD for initial concept presentations.