If you ask me

Why the ability to draw is a skill that lasts a lifetime. Plus, why the UK should sing the praises of manufacturing.

Drawing? It makes you think!

We can see drawings everywhere - marks or traces that have significance or meaning. We encounter them in traffic signs, the animation on a satnav, and the diagram that reminds us how to wire a plug.

It's remarkable that we can get water from a tap, drive safely, circumnavigate the globe or knit a jumper. It's not always appreciated that we could not do any of these things without being able to make or read drawings. Just as people do not generally appreciate how much engineering supports our everyday existence, they are not necessarily aware how drawing underpins the way we live. Engineers know that drawing enables us to think and to make things happen. Now is the time to share that knowledge.

The Campaign for Drawing has developed an education programme to help young people learn to think more effectively using drawing, not just reading drawings, but through different kinds of drawing activities. In response to questions such as 'why draw?', the campaign's education programme has devised a framework to identify some of the purposes of drawing.

Drawing as perception is that which helps order sensations, feelings, ideas and thoughts. The drawing is done primarily for the need, pleasure, interest or benefit of the person drawing. It enables people to develop observation and interpretative skills.

Drawing as communication is that which assists the process of making ideas, thoughts and feelings known to others. The intention is to communicate sensations, feelings or ideas to someone else, using particular codes or conventions.

Drawing as invention is that which assists the manipulation and development of thought. Ideas are at an embryonic stage, unformed at the beginning of the process. Ideas take shape when the drawer experiences 'reflexive oscillation' between impulse, ideas and mark, receiving feedback from the marks appearing on the page, which prompt further thought.

Drawing as action is that which helps put ideas into effect. These drawings form a bridge between the realm of the imagination and implementation. The intention is not just to focus on the content of ideas and proposals, but also to see how to make them happen.

Artists have given wonderful support to the Big Draw, the campaign's annual festival of drawing in October, when hundreds of drawing events are held all over the country. Throughout the year, designers and engineers are invited to support Power Drawing, the campaign's professional development programme, to embed the use of drawing as a medium for learning in schools and colleges.

Secondary school students can spend more than 10 per cent of teacher-directed time engaged in drawing. This focuses on drawing as presentation and communication, proof that the student has learned something. There is less emphasis on the use of drawing as a means of understanding, working things out, visualising possibilities or testing ideas.

Engineers and others involved in the construction industry will meet at The Royal Academy of Engineering next month to shape up ideas to promote drawing as a tool for design activity.

Eileen Adams is a consultant and director of Power Drawing, the professional development programme of the Campaign for Drawing, www.campaignfordrawing.org.

Get real and sing industry's praises

The signs are that manufac-turing in the UK is heading for a major downturn. Just look at the bleak car production figures and how motor manufacturers are looking to cut output in response to these. UK manufacturers are feeling the pinch from global economic turmoil and are struggling in home and overseas markets. Bed maker Airsprung, for example, said recently that it expected to make a loss this year, after two successful years, thanks to rising costs, the housing downturn and falling consumer demand.

The drop in the value of sterling has been good for exports, but this gain comes amid the rising cost of credit and soaring fuel prices. Yet some people in the manufacturing sector remain convinced that short- to medium-term economic turmoil can be weathered by British industry, which has enjoyed increasingly robust health in recent years. The real danger, they say, is that of talking down future prospects so that business confidence sinks lower and gloom-mongering becomes self-fulfilling.

Bleak economic data may fuel this sense of despair, but we must remember that, while the financial sector is in the self-imposed doldrums, the 'real' economy - the manufacturing economy - is still strong. Even national newspapers, which tend to ignore positive manufacturing news, have been pointing to the virtues of a successful manufacturing sector, in contrast to the house of cards that is the City of London and Wall Street.

The reality, of course, is that we need both industry and the City to be solid. High time, then, that the government brings firm regulation back to the financial sector to ensure that it cannot wreak the economic havoc that we've seen in the past year on both sides of the Atlantic.

The government has, at least, started to show a long-overdue appreciation of the importance of manufacturing to the British economy. This interest culiminated last month in the launch of a 'UK manufacturing strategy' - a grand title for what is, in effect, a bringing together of a ragbag of recent and even old policies. But at least there is a cohesion to the proposals, together with optimism about manufacturing's ability to ride the current economic turmoil.

British manufacturing can continue to make things that are best produced here rather than outsourced to Asia. This ranges from high-value precision components and cars to food and pharmaceutical products. But as well as producing goods, the UK's industrial future also lies firmly in design, product development and high-value research.

Government ministers are right to point to these as crucial to Britain's real economy, and to invest in a growing number of initiatives to promote manufacturing regionally and to the wider public. That's what getting real on the economy should mean for everyone with an interest in future prosperity.

Bob Cervi, Manufacturing editor

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