Whiskers. Spinach. Drip. Beyoncé. How easy do you think it is to draw those words? How about when
you have to draw them on a 2-by-3-inch screen with just your fingertips?
Draw Something is the new hot app for iPhones and iPads--it's
essentially a virtual version of Pictionary. You're given a choice of three
words to draw, for either a friend or a stranger, and you earn from 1 to 3
"coins," dependent on difficulty; they guess (or pass) and then reciprocate.
At first I felt hampered by my tiny iPhone screen and the
limited color palette you start with (black, red, blue, and yellow). I was
worried my playing partner wouldn't be able to guess what I had drawn. (You
see, you and your partner both get points for a correct answer, so you're
trying to help them, not stump them.)
But after a few weeks, I realized that the game operates on
the "filling in" principle of the brain. As the mind automatically
fills in the gaps in a broken line to create a shape, so will it be able to
fill in what's not in a drawing, as
much as it sees what's already there. I started cropping my drawings to make
them more immediately "readable": The Riddler is really all about the question
mark on his green shirt, so cropping into the midriff makes the most sense. You
come to use the space to your advantage and, like Tim Gunn always says, to make
I also learned to scale back and simplify. While there's no
time limit for drawing or guessing, the game videotapes your whole drawing process,
then plays it for your opponent. So you're not just seeing someone's finished
product, but the whole messy process. That's enough impetus for me to quickly
plan out what I'm going to do in my head, lay it in, and hope for the best
(there is an eraser tool, however, just in case).
It's also helpful for the collaborative process. You get to watch a video of your partner guessing the word, so you learn where they
started to "see" the answer. It's usually right after you nailed the most
dominant element of a subject: color (green for spinach), form (a dustpan's
shape, for example), or physical feature (Angelina's lips). All the superfluous
detail you draw after that is for naught (I drew all of Angelina's six children).
Draw Something is a lesson in thinking about what visual
information is vital for communication--just like graphic design, which is,
after all, my profession. Every day
I think about how best to tell a story visually within the space of a
rectangular magazine page and guide our readers--not stump them. Draw
Something has opened my mind to the possibilities of the space I'm working
with, regardless of my canvas.
after I garnered enough coins, I "bought" more colors. A girl just cannot live
on primary colors alone.
Amy Petriello is the art director of American Artist magazine.
P.S. Have you used the Draw Something app--or something like it? How was it for you? Leave a comment and let me know.