George Orwell on sketching….

This site is definitely under construction, but I wanted to quickly chip in to a twitter conversation (

The topic focused in on whether you should sketch an idea, or graph, before you do ‘something’ (e.g. write code in R for a graph, collect data).

George Orwell sums it up:

“When you think of a concrete object, you think wordlessly, and then, if you want to describe the thing you have been visualizing you probably hunt about until you find the exact words that seem to fit it. When you think of something abstract you are more inclined to use words from the start, and unless you make a conscious effort to prevent it, the existing dialect will come rushing in and do the job for you, at the expense of blurring or even changing your meaning. Probably it is better to put off using words as long as possible and get one’s meaning as clear as one can through pictures and sensations.”

George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language,” 1946 (,

That is, language can constrain how you think. Sometimes you need to develop a new language that makes thinking easy. This could be a graph that illustrates a hypothesis and forces you to find words to describe it; or a sketch that describes a graph and forces you to find code to create it. The analogies and applications are many. But the principle is the same.

I’ll come back to this post in a bit more detail later (a blog is hard to get off the ground) and with some examples.

> also see Giorgis Lupi’s blog presentation on skecthing


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