"Pencil & Paper" under value at your risk ...

Pencil and paper – under value at your risk …

I was reading an article by my daughter Eiren McLoughlin1 about “Depths of Design” and it starting me thinking about the importance of keeping things simple with the least path of resistance to the creative flow in design.  I posted a short version of this article as a responsive comment to her article and choose to explore the subject in more detail in case you should have a further contribution about the importance of simple tools and approaches in the design process.  I suggest for context consider reading her article first before reading further in order to get the fullest context, here’s the link to Eiren’s article:

Re: Pencil and paper

In my personal thinking on this subject, the realisation into the material world of the results of creative thinking process begins early with the simple adoption of ‘Pen and paper’ or as throughout history ‘Pencil and paper’, ‘Chalk and Slate’,  ‘Crushed blue berries and cave walls’ … the tools are often the most simplest in order to avoid impeding the journey to the end result and so, all design have at their root the most simplest natural origins.


Historically we could consider the early drawing by man on cave walls as the investment of knowledge through design for diffusion.  This approach continues to this day as we watch 3 and 4 year old children doodling their most creative thinking as their minds explore and expand their most imaginative creations and designs for ‘the biggest and best house, air plane, zoo, tank or race car in the world’.

Commercially the notable and often quoted examples of the preferred ‘Pencil and paper’ design method includes the likes of Taiichi Ohno’s2 approach to designing out waste and adding customer value through process improvement within the ‘Toyota Production System’ (Famed for his pivotal role in the birth of the lean manufacturing approach) or Prof. David Kelley3 of Standford and Ideo who is closely associated with Apple’s design success (Famed for his pivotal role in the ‘Human Centred Design’ approach).

These modern contemporaries are not alone with many famous historical artists who often begin realising their early mental visions into reality by translating them into the material world using ‘Pencil and Paper’ as sketches and designs.  Leonardo Da Vinci4 springs to mind as perhaps the iconic example.  Other examples of the value and importance of simple early concept designs could be the intellectual property protection granted via a patent.

Perhaps this is because the mind can more greatly focus on getting what’s in the mind out onto paper without the boundary’s and constraints imposed by more complicated methods which may slow or imped the process.  After all there is little value in waiting for your pc to boot, mastering the piece of software or controlling the mouse precisely before you can translate your creative thoughts as an uninhibited artistic flow begins to realise the early simple concept design in advance of more progressive iterative elaboration and development.


In short, Eiren you are not alone in your love for Pencil and paper as you walk in the foot prints of the greats.  This first choice can be viewed as the most basic and simple of tools, yet it is often the most productive, efficient and path of least resistance that offers the least painful birthing method of abstract thought into a real world design.

You touch on the subject of planning and perhaps leave off were many of my own articles begin which is the value and importance of ‘Plan-Do-Check-Act’, Gathering needs, the voice of the customer, early experimentation and measuring results early and often in what Eric Ries coined as the ‘Build-Measure-Learn’ feedback loop.


These are now the defacto standards as the root of early concept design and development commonly found in Lean, Agile, SCRUM, XP across a number of new product development approaches for product and service based industries.  I would really hope you can expand on what brings you to the point of design and what follow’s to confirm the designs match with customer expectations and its measure of problem-solution-fit.


… as I said, I look forward to your follow up articles …


Just my 2 cents …


Disclaimer: Eiren is not merely a 3 year multimedia gifted and most creative student of Limerick institute of Technology, Ireland, she happens to be an avid writer and volunteer who continues to make her father very proud.  Wishing you every continued success, Dad.



    1. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/depths-design-eiren-mcloughlin?trk=prof-post
    2. http://www.toyota-global.com/company/vision_philosophy/toyota_production_system/origin_of_the_toyota_production_system.html
    3. http://www.ted.com/talks/david_kelley_on_human_centered_design
    4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonardo_da_Vinci




Comments are Closed