How to Draw in 3D - with Mark Wemyss-Holden and IsoSketch

IsoSketch logo

Isosketch exampleThink you can't draw? Well, maybe you can. Contrary to popular belief, drawing is actually a skill you can learn, at least the mechanics anyway. What you produce may not win any prizes and will probably not render you famous after you have shuffled off this mortal coil, and if you don't have the basic desire to draw anything you'll probably not start spending your weekends creating masterpieces, but with the right tools it is possible to learn to draw.

One of these tools is the IsoSketch 3D Drawing Tool, and it's amazing! Like many of the best inventions it's absurdly simple. For example, how would the ordinary person go about drawing a car? Personally I'd probably draw a couple of (wonky) circles for wheels, then add a body (more Flintstones than Formula 1) and possibly a smiley-faced stick person in the window. But that's just me. But with the IsoSketch (and it's a sort of template, by the way, in case I hadn't mentioned that), you can actually produce something that looks like Lewis Hamilton would drive. With a bit of practice, of course (yours, not Mr Hamilton's).

racing car Invented by award-winning designer Mark Wemyss-Holden, the IsoSketch was created to help schoolkids learn how to draw 3D objects. This deceptively simple little template has given children (and adults!) the means to effectively teach themselves how to draw in 3D. It frees up teacher time and has the added bonus of bestowing a whole lot of self-confidence on children who thought they'd couldn't draw. 

And although it's a simple-looking piece of kit, it's strangely difficult to describe in words how it works. It's best to just pick it up and use it! (Which is exactly what Mark had in mind when he was developing it). But I'll attempt an example… If you want to draw a simple 3D cylinder, the IsoSketch has a straight edge and a circle or three within its template; you just use these to create your cylinder. From there, it's a few small steps to drawing a mug of tea (because the IsoSketch also has a half-circle element you can use for the handle). If you're happier getting to grips with a simple box, the IsoSketch has all the straight edges you need. It also has other isometric shapes and angles and you can use these to progress to the aforementioned car.

It really is a stroke of genius that's inexpensive and easy to use. And it fits in a pencil case!

IsoSketch Demo

Cult Pens was keen to learn more, so we sent a few questions to inventor Mark and he was kind enough to answer them! Here we go…

1. Tell us a bit more about yourself

Mark Wemyss-Holden I’m Mark, the teacher-turned-designer who invented the IsoSketch 3D Drawing Tool to help people draw in 3D. I’m not teaching any more but still work closely with schools to encourage young people to realise that their skills can mean careers when it comes to having great ideas!

2. What do you enjoy about your work?

There is nothing better than hearing how your product has helped change the way students react to creative subjects, or how teachers have been able to change the way they teach because of it. I love seeing what amazing ideas people create using IsoSketch and its also pretty satisfying seeing your crazy idea on the shop shelves!

3. What got you into your line of work?

I’d probably trace it back to working with my grandad - a retired engineer - at weekends when I was young. We’d sketch down ideas for things we could make, chose materials from his magical larder of offcuts and create exciting products that I’d take home and play with. That spirit of can-do has given me the confidence to take my ideas as far as they can go, but I’d always be self-critical and say there’s more I can do. The journey never ends…

4. If you weren’t what you are now, what was the back-up plan?

Well, I was a very happy teacher, so I’d probably go back to that if things went pear shaped! If money was no object, I’d always thought being a racing driver would be a pretty cool way to spend my time.

5. If you enjoy drawing, what are your favourite subjects/topics to draw?

I’m a designer at heart, so rather than draw what I can see with my eyes, I tend to draw what I can see in my head and try to visualise on paper how it could become a real object. I’ve always had an affinity with small, handheld products and tend to gravitate towards those sorts of objects when I sketch.

6. Where do you get your ideas or inspiration from?

I usually get inspiration from problems, annoyances or products that just don’t cut it in my eyes! Inspiration can come at you from any angle, so I don’t think I really look for it, I just try to take notice when it’s staring me in the face!

7. What are your top 5 pens/pencils?

Ooh... my top five writing instruments. I would say, in no particular order, my cool grey Letraset markers, my Staedtler fine liner set, my classic Parker fountain pen, a chunky biro my dad gave me years ago from his work and a faithful Staedtler Mars HB pencil.

8. What pen or pencil couldn’t you live without?

For sheer versatility and reliability, I couldn’t live without a black fine tip Sharpie!

9. What are you most proud of?

The thing that makes me the most proud is probably having the courage to bring my vision to market. I’d never done anything on this scale before having the idea for IsoSketch and it’s something I’d always wanted to do, having studied Product Design at University.

10. What tips do you have for aspiring engineers/designers/teachers? (apologies for the vagueness of this question!)

Art can delight, maths can quantify, English can describe and science can define, but design has the power to change the world. If you dream big, then let your dreams inspire you to change the world you see into the world you want to see. Design can be products, architecture, graphics, systems, structures, places, but above all, design is about logic and problem solving. Never settle for adequate and keep asking: 'but what if…'

21 January 2020


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