Dynamic Drawings: A new medium for Art, Design, & Communication

[Note: This article is written for San Francisco Design week, on behalf of Autodesk. Unfortunately, Autodesk sold the Sketchbook business unit, and Sketchbook Motion is no longer available in App store. But, hopefully it will inspire many more to pursue this mission in years to come.]

Since ancient times, we have been using written language, pictures, scientific notations, & symbols for thinking and communication. However, these languages and representations are primarily invented for static media (such as paper), which is often incompatible with our powerful ways of thinking and understanding.

LRT Maintenance system by David Thorp, made with Sketchbook Motion

We are now seeing the start of dynamic media to represent our dynamic thoughts. Dynamic Drawings capture the mechanism, behaviors, and dynamics of the visual elements, and respond to user interaction. These capabilities make it a very powerful medium for science, engineering, design, art, and beyond. 


Until now, creating dynamic graphics has not been easy. The complexity of animation, timelines, and scripting is a significant barrier to its widespread adoption and usability. Since Autodesk has a history of democratizing design, we challenged ourselves to solve these three issues-

  • Make animating as easy as sketching
  • Make dynamic content at the speed of thought for real-time communication
  • Bring life to pictures

Solving these three issues motivated our award winning research initiative – Project Draco, that aims to make animation as easy as sketching, and a powerful tool for visual art, design, and communication. Draco is now available in iPad as Sketchbook Motion, and recognised as the best iPad of the year 2016 by Apple. According to the Apple App Store editors – “Animation is anything but easy. That is, unless you’re using our 2016 iPad App of the Year. Sketchbook Motion’s first trick is ditching insider terms like ‘keyframing’ and ‘timeline’- instead opting for wonderfully natural words like ‘wind’ and ‘rain’. It’s SO much easier to wrap our head around… ”. 

Now, who would benefit from the fluidity and communicative aspects of animation? Educators? Designers? Artists? Architects? Children? The answer is, ALL OF THEM! It already has! Our users have surprised us with their creativity. See some of the amazing and inspiring content created by our beta testers.

Back in the 1970s, visionary computer scientist Alan Kay envisioned the computer as a portable, universal, and powerful communication media for expression through drawing, writing, and composing. At the time, this was a radically different perspective. Kay’s idea was instrumental to our research efforts for realizing dynamic drawings as a powerful communication medium.

Sketchbook Motion is a stepping stone toward this goal. Our subsequent research efforts looked into making these drawings interactive, classically stylized, and controllable. However, beyond art and communication, sketching is also a process, a way of thinking, a tool of thought. How can this new, dynamic medium facilitate powerful ways of imagination & design? These are important, critical questions worth pondering. 

Concept architectural rendering by Andrew Lucia

Rubaiat Habib 
Principal Research Scientist

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