You still 🤬 use triangles and circle templates?”

Analog Man

A local contractor recently got his knickers in a bit of a twist when he caught sight of Jonathan’s drawing table in the background during a Zoom meeting.

“You still 🤬 use triangles and circle templates?” he blurted out, in front of the client. “Get a 🤬 computer!”  

Ah, the irony of being told to get a computer. While on a computer.

Obviously, this was just too good not to post on social media. To say the response was overwhelming would be a gross understatement. The post blew up, generating to date some 329,000 impressions, 3,800 reactions, 669 comments and 143 reposts. In short, it went viral.
(See the original post here.)

My question is—why?

Touching a nerve

There are some, like the aforementioned verbally abusive contractor, who think the “old ways” are backward and inefficient—a waste of time.  In response to our post, one BIM Manager wrote: “I would now no more use these manual tools for orthographic drawing than I would use a typewriter instead of a word processor – to do so would be absurd and unnecessarily restrictive and slow. I certainly understand the nostalgia for these tools, but the romanticization of them and the contention that they somehow provide a more profound design experience seems to me regressive and blinkered. Freehand sketching is different of course, there’s obviously a place for that just as there’s a place for handwriting alongside word processing – but manual drafting tools like the triangles and circle templates referenced in the OP belong in a museum or the trash, with all the old typewriters.”


Of course, others couldn’t imagine NOT using hand tools, as this Architect of a Certain Age wrote: “They’ll have to pry my triangle and eraser shield from my cold, dead hands!”

Who is right?

I would argue both brain science and anecdotal evidence come down favorably on the analog side of the equation, at least when it comes to design. For example, one 2021 study conducted at the University of Tokyo revealed that writing on physical paper leads to more brain activity.

“Actually, paper is more advanced and useful compared to electronic documents because paper contains more one-of-a-kind information for stronger memory recall,” said Professor Kuniyoshi L. Sakai, a neuroscientist at the University of Tokyo who authored the study. (See study here.) 

Contrary to the popular belief that digital tools increase efficiency, the study showed that participants who used paper completed the assigned task about 25 percent faster than those who used digital tablets or smartphones.

And, based on their findings, the researchers encouraged using paper for creative pursuits.

“It is reasonable that one’s creativity will likely become more fruitful if prior knowledge is stored with stronger learning and more precisely retrieved from memory. For art, composing music, or other creative works, I would emphasize the use of paper instead of digital methods,” said Sakai.

Anecdotal evidence

By far most of the creatives who responded to the post supported the use of hand drawing and sketching during the design phase of a project, even if they later handed it off for digital production:

“Sketching is essential and part of the free flowing stream of consciousness process that leads you to other solutions.”

“Analog drawing techniques are the base. If you can see it and explain it to others, using a simple paper and pencil, then it only gets better from there.”

“Yes, technology is great and continues to develop, but unfortunately the thinking process in the conceptual phase of planning and design stays far behind.”

“Designing by hand with tissue, triangles, straight edges, & circle templates allow your brain to think creatively. Designing on the computer does not allow free flowing neurotransmitters to process the ideas in your head.”

But perhaps my favorite sentiment came from a California architect, who offered this advice: “Just tell that contractor to stick to building and following the plans. And tell him you’re a Gift from God.”

Enough said.

Andrea Lee is Marketing & Business Development Manager and Blogger-in-Chief at JLA, an architecture firm located in Northern Michigan. Before joining JLA, she was Associate Editor at a publishing house, where she wrote copy for dozens of custom publications and contributed regularly to Great Lakes/Seaway Review and Great Laker magazines.