My biggest fear in bringing this topic us is to be thought of as a curmudgeon, a Luddite or an old school voice crying over the bygone days. I am not – but first a little history lesson.
The Luddites were a social movement that advocated the destruction of the mechanized looms that were revolutionizing the 19th century textile industry in England. Their concern was that the automated looms could be operated by unskilled labor and would result in the loss of their jobs. Many of these machine looms were destroyed until the British government stepped in and made it specifically illegal to destroy them. During this short movement, many died over the desire to protect or destroy this sentinel of industrialization. Many were imprisoned and some were executed or shipped off to Australia.
So please – don’t think of me as a Luddite. I am far from it. I embrace technology and change. I drive change into the industry I serve. I press forward at every step and drag those along that are laggards. I discuss, cajole, defend, explain, expound and energize change in organizations.
The reason I bring this all up is that I fear that the lessons learned and the perspectives gained and the culture generated by past experiences can have profound positive effects on the changes taking place. If we fail to carry along the wisdom and passion that was developed by the legions of past designers and drafters then we risk having to learn these lessons over again.
I am not advocating a return to the drafting boards. I do not want to destroy computers or software tools. I embrace the new crop of 3D tools and strive to expand their impact on the entire design and build process. So as I speak of the methods, tools and processes of the past it is not to embrace them anew or restore the old ways. It is to learn from them, apply that learning to develop wisdom as we move into the next phase of design communication and tools.
Drafting is a means of communicating design intent and construction requirements/constraints. It has been used for many years to its fullest and now it can and has been set aside or replaced by something better. So many means of communication have been displaced by something better. The telegraph replaced the Pony Express. Trans-Atlantic wireless communication developed by Marconi replaced sending hardcopy on ships from England to New York. The TV replaced radio, or rather, enhanced it. The Internet made communication faster, more egalitarian and open to all.
Today we are nearing the point of total abandonment of drafting and I think it is a good and proper thing, but I do not want to throw out every last vestige of it before we pause to see what we have learned and attempt to take those best lessons into the new age.