Teaching Freehand Analytical Drawing: Strategy and Pedagogy based on Polanyian Philosophy of Knowledge for Millennia Design Students

Presented by: Ryadi Adityavarman

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Marcel Proust

The importance of freehand drawing, including analytical drawing, by its celebration of eye and hand coordination, has been widely accepted in the interior design education. Yet it has been increasingly difficult challenge to teaching the subject properly for the current millennia generation of design students, which have developed greater familiarity with digital technology.

Freehand drawing ability among current interior design students is declining partly due to the over dependence on digital visualization. This rapid loss of freehand drawing ability is quite alarming. Despite impressive advancement in digital technology, freehand drawing remains a valid indispensable design tool especially during the conceptual development and initial design process.

Investigating underlying relevant theoretical principles for freehand analytical drawing would enable better understanding about its inherent essential educational value. This understanding would then subsequently enable proper development of suitable teaching pedagogy to accommodate the learning characteristics and needs from design students of the present millennia generation.

Teaching pedagogy of the course is based on Michael Polanyi’s philosophical system that emphasizes indivisible connection between body and mind in the knowledge acquisition process. The central idea of his philosophy celebrates the dynamic balance between conceptual and tacit knowledge by proposing integral interaction between awareness, activity, and cognitive dimensions. 

By revealing the power of hidden dimension of sensory experience, Polanyi opens new potential of enlightened views on other aspects of learning mode. He proposes the importance of concept of embodiment in which human body acts in subsidiary role and yet serves as a central axis in the process of learning and knowing. 

Based on the concept of holistic knowledge acquisition, all of dimensions of Knowledge (awareness, activity, cognitive) are interpenetrating and influencing each other through combination of explicit and tacit mode of learning. The subsequent implementation on studio teaching pedagogy is based on reciprocal connection between conceptual and bodily activity through “authorship-connoisseurship” and “learning by doing” strategies. 

Polanyi’s concept of embodiment is translated to the course by incorporating the bodily experience as part of the drawing strategy. Polanyi’s central idea of supervenience that focus on the notion of higher level of understanding is being discerned in and through simpler individual parts (mediational character). This principle is being applied to the class exercise through arrangement of projects from simple to complex of objects and drawing techniques. The overall goal is to develop higher aesthetic sensibility and refined visual creativity while providing gradual confidence and drawing ability for the students.

The result from the course showed significant improvement on the students’ freehand drawing skill and confidence. Freehand drawing cultivates holistic connectivity between mind, body, and feeling. Beyond ability to create refined drawings, the most important benefit of freehand drawing is arguably to enhance aesthetic sensibility of the students that will serve as foundation for their subsequent design learning.


  • Gill, Jerry (2000). The tacit mode: Michael Polanyi’s postmodern philosophy. Binghamton: SUNY Press.
  • Iliescu, Sandra (2009). The hand and the soul: Aesthetics and ethics in architecture and art. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press.
  • Johnson, Mark (2007). The meaning of the body: Aesthetics of human understanding. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Pallasmaa, Juhani (2009). The thinking hand: existential and embodied wisdom in architecture.  London: Academy Editions.
  • Polanyi, Michael (1998). Personal knowledge: Towards a post-critical philosophy. New York: Harper & Row Publishers.

Appendix File 1
Appendix File 2
Appendix File 3

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