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Design Like DaVinci: Leonardo's Sketching Lessons

Leonardo Da Vinci is the archetype of a Rennaisance man--artist, mathematician, sculptor, scientist, writer, and more. As an artist, Leonardo produced a very small sample of great work that included the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper. Leonardo was a prolific sketcher, producing more than 13,000 pages, which are arguably his greatest legacy.

Within his sketchbooks, Leonardo thinks scientifically and creatively. We see sketches of futuristic devices, detailed drawings of human anatomy, postulations on plate tectonics, observations about diet, exercise, and heart disease. We see sketches of weapons, flowers, soldiers, flying machines, horses, and more. Some sketches serve as wireframes for statues and bridges, while other are early renditions of paintings. For Da Vinci, his sketches were his visual thoughts.

By studying his sketchbooks, lessons from Leonardo emerge. You can improve your own sketching and visual thinking on your design projects. You can design like Da Vinci.

Additional Supporting Materials


  1. What are five sketching secrets of Leonardo da Vinci? What are the key takeaways for designers for knowing these sketching secrets?
  2. What are examples from Leonardo's sketchbooks that illustrate these points?
  3. How you can isolate your creative and critical thinking to improve your problem solving skills?
  4. How can you improve your own design projects by using these Davincian principles?
  5. What are some pitfalls from Da Vinci's life? What are things to avoid from his sketchbooks?



Brian Sullivan, Usability Principal, Sabre

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