Keep it Sketchy: What We Can Learn From Architectural Record’s Cocktail Napkin Sketch Contest

Photo Credit: Jeongin Kim, Laguarda Low Architects in Architectural Record

In an era where digital tools and software dominate the architecture world, you might wonder if the traditional art of sketching still has any significance. The continued reverence for this foundational skill, however, is evident in the Architectural Record’s annual Cocktail Napkin Sketch Contest [SOURCE]. This contest celebrates the simplicity and immediacy of expressing ideas on a cocktail napkin while creatively showing the irreplaceable role of sketching in architecture.

Sketching serves as a fundamental process through which architects visualize and communicate their concepts. It is the first step in bringing an abstract idea into the tangible world, offering a direct line from the mind’s eye to the physical page. The act of sketching allows architects to explore forms, spaces, and structures freely, without the constraints imposed by digital design tools. It’s about capturing the essence of an idea in its purest form where the stroke of a pen can lead to unexpected breakthroughs and innovations. 

The Architectural Record’s Cocktail Napkin Sketch Contest is a celebration of the creative process that lies at the heart of architectural design. Participants are invited to share their ideas and visions through sketches made on cocktail napkins, a medium that inspires spontaneity and simplicity. This contest highlights the fact that great ideas don’t always come from elaborate presentations; they can emerge from the most basic tools and settings. 

While the advancements in digital rendering and modeling have made certain things easier, sketching remains an invaluable skill for several reasons. Sketching allows architects to quickly jot down ideas and explore multiple concepts without the need for extemporaneous software or equipment. Each sketch carries the unique vision of its creator, offering a personal connection that can sometimes be lost in digital renderings. Sketches are easily revised, making them ideal for brainstorming sessions and initial client meetings where ideas evolve rapidly. 

As we continue to navigate the incredible transformation of digital advancements in the architectural industry, sketching remains as vital as ever. Sketching continues to be a part of the design process, bridging the gap between the abstract and the concrete, the imagined and the realized. 

Next time you go out to dinner and inspiration strikes, just grab a cocktail napkin and let your creativity flow. 

Share this article

You May Also Enjoy

A Celebration of Retail: Why it is Still our First Love

When COR3 Design first started back in 2011, our bread and butter was designing retail spaces for our clients. We were deeply embedded in national chain stores like Hobby Lobby, Ross Dress for Less, and Beall’s Outlet–to name a few. Our work took us across the country for site visits and project updates, and we gained licensure in dozens of states. 

Read More »