Aesthetic value

The beauty of engineering drawings.


Engineering drawings can vary between the purely aesthetic variety intended to impress and seduce the viewer, through to complex technical diagrams that provide a three-dimensional slice through an object.

Some combine the two styles. The balance between illustration and information has varied over time. Initially the drawings were working approximations used by the engineer as an aide-mémoire; then, to suit various uses, they became more attractive and architectural. To aid production they then became more technical as well, and now with AutoCAD (computer-aided design) they have reverted to purely utilitarian forms. The need for attractive drawings is now met by photography and graphic design.

Railway companies developed definite house styles for their locomotives and civil engineering, which became part of their brand development. These individual styles were of course evident in the engine ering drawings themselves and the type of shading and colouring employed. Many railway companies continued to maintain these house styles until after the nationalisation of the railways in 1948.

Initially the drawings were working approximations used by the engineer as an aide-mémoire; then, to suit various uses, they became more attractive and architectural.

National methods of producing engineering drawings became s tandardised in the latter half of the twentieth century. However, unlike mathematics, engineering drawing never truly crossed international boundaries, as each country’s system was different. It was only with the advent of computing that ways of producing and understanding engineering drawings became a universal language.

Today, historical drawings have become highly attractive to the non-specialist, who might not be able to deconstruct the data held in the drawing, but can appreciate the beauty of the work. The use of colour and shade and the sheer amount of detail in many drawings reflect the skills of the draughtsmen who created them. Increasingly, this type of drawing is being regarded as a work of art in its own right and has become commercially as well as historically valuable.

Background: Class 87