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Topic: Drawing: Engineering drawings - beauty and utility
Engineering drawings - beauty and utility?
Engineering drawings are the paper-based memory of technology. Before computers, they were the means by which colleagues and customers could talk about machines. They were the first successful mode of technological communication of the Industrial Revolution, and although they were used across industry, their historical importance is highlighted within the story of the building of the railways. The modern engineering drawing began to be produced in the 1770s. At this time, increasing production and the division of labour in factories meant that it was increasingly important to have an easily understood method of communicating information. The problem of how to show three-dimensional objects in a two-dimensional medium was solved by the use of scale drawings. In essence the engineering drawing enabled industry to convert ideas into products. Engineering drawings can be variously viewed as works of art, ‘tools of the trade’ and business aids to selling the product. They have also become historical documents that reflect changes in working practices and in the specialist workforce who created them. Over time these drawings have developed a distinct visual language which only those with the appropriate knowledge and skills can decipher. However, the need for such expertise has not stopped the general viewer from seeing the beauty and intricacy of them. So much so, that these drawings now have commercial as well as historical value.
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Topic section: The production process
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James Watt pioneered the use of drawn-to-scale engineering plans. The skills needed were adapted from the work of the rural blacksmith  > more

Topic section: Selling
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Before photography, the engineering drawing was the main selling tool. Now videos of locomotives promote the product  > more

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Engineering drawings have an aesthetic value and their beauty encourages appreciation beyond the engineers who understand them  > more
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