Introduction

Index

Drawing Curved is a collection of texts and images concerned with digital curvature. It seeks to understand when a curve starts to be tangible, or what might give a sense that they can or can't be handled. What makes a curve smooth? When does it seem appropriate to interrupt it?

Signature Drawing Curved started in 2012 when Pierre Huyghebaert was invited to comment on George Francis' Essay on Drawing Palettes1. Through his practice in typography, cartography and graphic design, Pierre developed a deep interest in vector drawing. The Francis essay is an extensive, subjective description of the workings, pros and cons of different drawing tools. Pierre considered it to be yet another instance of imbalanced attention for bitmap manipulation at the cost of vector editing, and decided that he needed to extend the comment into a publication. He invited his colleagues Colm O'Neill, and later Femke Snelting to co-edit, discuss and research together. This is why we now write as 'we'.

Autopen We come from a specific corner of graphic design. Each of us is using, developing and studying free software tools and this mainly in the context of the Brussels' based design collective Open Source Publishing.2 We are interested in the specifics and precisions of our tools; our attention for curves is not so much about optimising production, but because we think curves are part of design itself. Their details matter because they are part of its (visual) language.

Parallelogram One clear and timely catalyst for drawing curved was our rediscovery of Pierre Bézier's drawings and writings. Bézier was committed to toolmaking. His grandiose stories carry the patina of his dirty hands and are full of witty engineer perspectives. His view on the gentry of design, on the way management was snubbing the toolers in the automotive industry, provided us with many enticing entry points to approach curves and their translation at the very moment that their digital existence was stammering.

Four bar Together, we have been trying to understand the virtue of curves in drawing software. Why is it that when we bend physical plastic or wood, we know that they will yield different results, but when we want to adjust the fluidity of a curved line on a computer screen, we have no notion of origin or space, let alone the properties of the segment ― or even whether it is a material at all.

Lesbian rule We began by picking apart the word curved. How it happens, what it means, and how it is measured. Specifically, how are curves communicated and carried over. Also, how do curves come about. How we find them naturally, or how we can make them happen. Drawing curves by hand for example, is something that you could spend your entire life doing without fully mastering it. Thankfully, we have tools that help us get close a bit closer to an ideal. We examine the act of drawing as an extension of oneself, onto surfaces, and through utensils. An encapsulated movement, or a frozen state.

3D-2D We look at the physical world, where our human eyes see curves with flexibility and strength and visually comprehensible properties. We look at software, because the majority of curve production done today involves interaction with computers. In fact, software is one of the main themes of Drawing Curved because it is where the questions ―and frustrations― that this research originated from. It is also where we find the most potential for interesting answers. It is ongoing research and hopefully the beginning of a discussion.

Metal rings Drawing Curved is an open ended collection. Some of the items are quite clear, others are more like commented wishlists. We're mixing ideas and intuitions that are often barely anchored in a nameable discipline or practice. Curves are a potential, a black box that we would like to open up together. Welcome!


  1. George Francis, "Essay on Drawing Palettes" in: LGRU Reader (Brussels: Constant, 2010) reader.lgru.net/texts/essay-on-drawing-palettes 

  2. OSP - Open Source Publishing