Doodling for Thought.
Exploring methods of thinking and idea process.
I spent some time trying to work out a method of thinking, I sat in my little office chair writing the word think, ideas down, I scribbled, I drew, I doodled… and wait! That’s it! I doodled!
All the best ideas I have come from abstract and mostly pointless little scribbles in notepads. I stopped keeping a sketchbook in any artistic sense when I realised that literally nobody cared what was in my sketchbooks, least of all me. Graphic Design is function, not fancy, so my references needn’t be neatly curated in a sketchbook. That said, I have hundreds of sketchbooks from the last ten years that have started filling up my cupboards, I don’t dare lose them for the years of ideas they hold, but I sure hope I never become a recognised designer as any display of my sketchbooks would be a dull insight into my casual thoughts and ideas, sometimes my shopping lists, but also sometimes my best ideas.
Doodling for thought seemed the perfect thinking process to use as my workshop challenge. Armed with a theory on my own way of working, I took to the web to see if there was any evidence to backup my thought process. And as it turns out, I’m not the only doodler out there!
Scrawl: An A to Z of Famous Doodles was released in 2018 by Todd Strauss-Schulson, Claudia Strauss-Schulson and Caren Strauss-Schulson. In terms of what and why, it doesn’t provide much short of some pretty entertaining doodles, but it’s nice to know my doodling is in good company…
Mark Twain’s man being eaten by a Monster particularly resonated with me, there’s probably some psychology to what we doodle and why, but in any case, seeing a monster eating up a little stick man is a lot of fun.
Why do we doodle?
With a little research, it seems there’s actually been a lot of psychological study into why we doodle and what those doodles mean. Epilepsy Action have a long online article that explores this. They state (which I really like): Doodles are like fragments of a map that shows how someone’s mind works.
Full article can be found here: https://www.epilepsy.org.uk/doodle-day/doodle-meanings#:~:text=Why%20do%20people%20doodle%3F,-Meetings%20and%20phone&text=Doodling%20helps%20relieve%20boredom%20and,to%20play%20or%20improvise%20idly’.
I liked that idea though, that Doodles are like fragments of a map of the mind. Nice. This very visual idea made me think that my workshop piece should depict this, obviously in doodle form. I set to doodling some maps of the mind, which is when I discovered how hard it is to intentionally doodle. How frustrating! Regardless, A final piece is important so I’ll make that work.
Getting in Trouble.
My earliest memories of doodling and being made aware of it was getting in trouble at school. I’d been scribbling away little drawings of cars and batman on some off-cuts of paper in art class (art of all things!) and I was told off by my teacher and sent outside for not paying attention to the task at hand. Someone had tried to tell me doodling was wrong!? Well turns out I was in pretty powerful company. In 2012 news reporters around the world reported on Hilary Clinton being caught doodling at a UN General Assembly. Much to the vitriol of the world press who seemed to take the mindset of my primary school teacher.
But to the contrary, in 2009 a study by the University of Plymouth (typical it’d be on my doorstep…) by Jackie Andrade found that Doodling helps us focus and concentrate on the task at hand.
40 participants monitored a monotonous mock telephone message for the names of people coming to a party. Half of the group was randomly assigned to a ‘doodling’ condition where they shaded printed shapes while listening to the telephone call. The doodling group performed better on the monitoring task and recalled 29% more information on a surprise memory test. Unlike many dual task situations, doodling while working can be beneficial. Future research could test whether doodling aids cognitive performance by reducing daydreaming.
Doodling as Art
Oh yes fellow scribblers. Those little stickmen and crudely drawn penises now count as art, and rightfully so!
To shape the direction of my piece to summarise doodling, there’s no better place to look than at David Shrigley. I’ve always admired the work of David Shrigley for it’s naive simplicity. I admired his direct approach without objective. In an interview he states that whilst people perceive a message about the human condition that he never set out to create an objective.