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Bernstein on notes as sketching

Bernstein on notes as sketching exercise

from Tinderbox Way 3rd

Sometimes, we need to know quite a lot in order to understand what we don’t know.

Kumiyo Nakakoji (now at the Kyoto University Design School) calls this representational talkback. 17 The writer seeks a way to represent the problem space, sketches notes that describe an initial approach, and then reviews the notes as if approaching the problem anew. If the representation is good, the problem now seems simpler. If the representation fails to make sense, that incoherence often suggests a new and better approach to the problem.

In this way note-taking can be like sketching, a private exercise to improve the acuity of our perception and to focus our understanding. Our sketches often focus on small detail: a study of a hand, say, or the weathered wood of porch behind a Gloucester drug store. We don’t draw these studies because we expect the image to matter, but because sketching these things with care and attention will improve our eye. By learning to draw the hand or the mountain, we polish our ability to draw anything. The process, not the picture, matters.

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