Last week Jackpine conducted an art experiment that shows how impulsive design can fail (Don’t think, just design). Our task was to draw animals without research, and did we ever fail. The results show that we rely on selective and incomplete mental models of many familiar objects in order to identify them. For example, to recognize a horse we only have to identify a tail, hooves, and mane. Everything else is just … fluff.
Sometimes a mental model gets even further from the truth. For my aardvark drawing, the only mental model I could recall was Arthur from the children’s TV series. I did a pretty good job of representing him as a non-anthropomorphic creature, but it’s two steps removed from the actual animal. Unfortunately for me, the artists from Arthur seem to have used a poor mental model too.
After the experiment, I researched aardvarks to find out how to draw one as well as to prove the value of research and understanding. My learning process involved tracing over a real photo to eliminate any mental shortcuts I was taking, redrawing it without the photo, and finally trying a new angle without reference to make sure I had a good 3D understanding. I then worked backwards to make an Aardvark Doodle Guide, or, A Slightly Better Mental Shortcut, so that you can learn to draw the least likely Pictionary object too. Happy doodling!