Paper versus digital drawing: Is there a winner?

The question of paper versus digital drawing is one that continues to plague the architecture profession. Alongside many other professions adapting to the digital age, the architectural field has seen a drastic shift towards the computer and away from pen and paper. Keeping consistent with the speed at which technology evolves, the practice of digital drafting continues to evolve alongside technological advancement.

Although familiar in language, concepts and ideas, a practicing architect of twenty years and a practicing architect of two have distinct design processes unfamiliar to each other due to differences in method. Often debates focus on the benefits or downfalls of paper versus digital drafting: which is better, which is worse. This conversation doesn’t really get to the heart of what I believe is important when discussing the two. Both paper and digital drawing are tools of representation and expression. Misuse of these tools is ultimately what leads to issues, rather than the inherit limitation of either method.

Benefits and limitations of paper and digital drawing

With paper and digital drawing, there are benefits and limitations to each technology. When talking about the ‘good old’ pen and paper, the freedom of the blank canvas is limitless. Basic sketching allows for ideas to be quickly expressed on paper and freedom for the creator to express themselves in unique ways. Whereas, what digital technology lacks in its freedom of approach, it makes up for in its precision. Unlike its predecessor, digital drawings can be accurate down to the millimetre through the use of computing power.

There is no clear winner between the paper and digital. Despite their unique upsides, the limitations inherent to each technology come at the fault of the user. A strong project should never encapsulate only one technology throughout its design process, but rather a combination of methods that enable the best design output.

Aaris Katsoulakis, 11/10/21


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