Instructional Drawings

Class Exercise: Blind Drawing

  • Divide students into pairs. Call one person of each pair X, the other Y.
  • X students get drawing 1.
  • Y students get drawing 2.
  • Distribute blank paper and pens if necessary.
  • Pairs sit back to back without looking at the other’s drawing
  • X student describes his drawing to Y; Y tries to draw it from his instructions.
  • Switch at a reasonable time.
  • Y student describes her drawing to X; X tries to draw it from her instructions.
  • Pin up the drawings at the end, so people can see. Group by X/Y.
  • Discuss the results

Class Exercise: reverse engineering

This image is procedurally generated (Click to zoom):

1) Analyze it and try to “reverse engineer” the algorithm that produces similar images (only the lines, colors are not important). Describe the process using the minimum amount of clear, non ambiguous instructions.

2) Give the instructions to a person who has not seen the image and ask him/her to “execute” the process using a pen or pencil and a ruler, without giving him/her additional feedback – like in the exercise we did in class.

Warning: I don’t want exactly the same image line by line, but a universal set of instructions that can produce infinite variations of the pattern.

Here’s another image produced by the same algorithm:

Assignment: Drawing Algorithm

conditional drawings

1) Take a look at the videos and the materials on the conditional design website and manifesto. Also check peg programming for pseudo-code examples.

2) Create a set of instructions able to generate an infinite set of different drawings.

3) Without showing the previous results ask three (or more) people to execute them. You are not allowed to communicate verbally during the execution.

4) Post the results on the blog.


The surface has to be a standard letter sheet (8.5 by 11 inches). The tool should be a provided marker.

Your rules must contain an element of iteration. There should be “loops” in the execution that create repetition, seriality, fractal structures.

If there is repetition in the process you may have to devise an ending condition. You can verbally stop the execution, set up a timer, or prescribe a certain amount of iterations.

Your rules should be as specific as possible but also able to generate different results every time, so you should include at least one element of randomness or ambiguity.

Most importantly: the goal is to create a recipe for interesting drawings, not arbitrary doodles. Can you embed style and composition in a set of rules?

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One comment

  1. maddie_duque

    1. Draw 3 diagonal lines from the edges of the image.
    2. For each line, pick a point along the length of the line.
    3. Draw an adjacent line from each of these points until it either reaches some arbitrary length or until it intersects with another line. Pick an arbitrary gradient and run it along these lines.
    4. Repeat.

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