Bad Analogies

Bad Analogies

People sometimes make bad analogies.

Analogies not apt.

(very) Poor fit to the situation.

They’re off target.

They miss the relevant point(s) entirely.

Sometimes they take a useful analogy and misapply it where it fails, oh, massively.

The classic horse-drawn carriage buggy whip (and whip holder) analogy, applied to shaming the entire field of technical drawing, might be the worst misapplication of analogy anywhere, ever.

Horse drawn carriage with whip, and whip holder attachment on carriage:

Horse drawn carriage, with whip, and whip holder attachment on carriage

Buggy whip holder, attachable to horse-drawn carriage

Buggy whip holder, attachable to horse-drawn carriage

Here’s the first horse-less carriage, the first auto-mobile:

no horse required:

This carriage pulls itself; has an engine. An auto-mobile. No horse required!

And yet! Is that a horse whip holder attached to the side of the carriage below the driver’s seat of the Benz Velo?

“Haha! They’re so dumb! Innovative people wouldn’t do that! Don’t get left behind. Technology moves on; don’t be a laggard clinging on tight to old ways, stubborn fool…”

– bad analogists

The analogy has value applied to some things, sure. It’s the stark misapplication I’m interested in though. I’ll get to that. First, here’s another early car.

Nice trunk!

perfectly good analogy gets mangled:

Bad analogists put this analogy into a matrix like this:

horse-drawn carriagehorseless carriage, auto-mobile
DrawingsDigital Models
Buggy Whip and holder bracket3D models with drawings as deliverables

In other words, they say that this transition:

is like this transition:

It’s a mangled analogy. You might as well shoot your arrow with your back facing the target. Aim 180 degrees the wrong way. Analogy maximally off target. You’re missing:

– the relevant transition, and

– the actual function of drawing (the target of your derision)

Bad analogists haven’t noticed yet:

  • the actual significant transition brought about by digital modeling, the transition from mental to digital modeling.

They also fail to notice:

  • the actual function of the thing (drawing) they believe modeling should displace.

Let me fix both of these with two matrices.

Matrix 1:

horse-drawn carriagehorseless carriage, auto-mobile
mental modeldigital model (plus mental model)

The introduction of digital modeling did not, and should not, and can not, affect a transition away from drawing. The transition that digital modeling affects is confined to modeling. Digital modeling transitions modeling from mental only (and physical), to digital (plus mental and physical)

The modeling transition:

That’s a significant transition. Its significance should be well and truly recognized. It needs to be considered thoroughly. The nature of that transition has to be taken seriously. Typically however it’s just completely ignored. Fans of the buggy whip analogy, applied here, simply forgot entirely that mental model was ever part of the picture. And remains so. I mean, “the picture”, things as they are, digital modeling in its entirety, is nothing without the mental model present, and developing along with it.

So that’s the relevant transition: from mental model, to digital model (assisting the development of the mental model)

Drawing has a separate function, but closely related.

Drawings are attention-focusing devices.

That’s what they are, literally, a technique for expressing the act of focused attention. And this act has a purpose. Attention focusing is action in pursuit of the development of understanding.

Understanding of what?

Of models!

  • Mental models
  • digital models
  • and reality as it is

There simply is no such thing as understanding the world around us, without engagement of the act and apparatus of focused attention. There is no understanding, of anything, without this. Focus is fundamental. Nothing happens without it. A world without focused attention is a world of inanimate objects. Stones. Wearing down to sand. Blowing across dunes.

Whether the drawings are

  • imagined in-situ within mental models (and by the way, they are; no one understands any technical drawing without imagining it in-situ within a mental model)
  • visualized in-situ within digital models, or
  • expressed ex-situ in flat arrays in electronic or paper books/sets/pages//sheets

the underlying fundamental motivation for the expression of focused attention is the same. It’s the way the mind works, an interplay dynamic between the world as it is, and concise coherent symbolic representations of it. See Picasso’s remarks on “the plain bull” for more on this.

There is an interesting short book with some Picasso drawings and the following remark:

plain-bullPicasso’s work – just plain bull.”

In 1945 through 1946, Pablo Picasso produced a powerful series of drawings of bulls. When you arrange his bulls in order of detail the most detailed is a realistic drawing of a bull. All the features are there. Then, in a series of 18 drawings, Picasso step by step simplifies the previous image. The shading of the hide vanishes. The details of the muscle disappear. The texture is gone. The three-dimensionality evaporates. By the 18th bull, we see a line drawing – a simple image consisting of 10 curves and 2 ovals. But those 12 marks distill the essence of that bull – its strength and masculinity. The clutter is gone; the essence remains.

This final image was the only one in the series that Picasso entitled the bull. By systematically cutting peripheral parts (being careful not to turn the bull into a cow), we force ourselves to appreciate what’s important. Isolating those elements can give a great deal of focus…” – Edward B. Burger / Michael Starbird

There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterward you can remove all traces of reality.” – Pablo Picasso

Screen Shot 2017-06-02 at 4.14.19 PM

Recall Spencer Frederick Gore (1878 – 1914):

‘By drawing, man has extended his ability to see and comprehend what he sees.’

The more digital worlds become “like” the real world, the more the need for articulate expression of focused attention is required, demanded in fact, precisely by those life-like digital worlds.

if you still doubt that, have a look at this:

The technique for expressing focused attention clearly, persists, and will persist. Imagining its elimination is, well, there is no greater absurdity. But its persistence is not enough. The technique MUST evolve.

So here’s a more suitable matrix, a more apt analogy.

Matrix 2:

horse-drawn carriagehorseless carriage, auto-mobile
mental modeldigital model (plus mental model)
attention-focusing techniqueattention-focusing technique
technical drawing:
2D CAD or hand drawing
technical drawing:
TGN attention-focusing rigs in digital models

Models transition from mental models only, to digital models assisting the formation of mental models.

The modeling transition:

Drawings transition from 2D (CAD or hand drawn) to TGN attention-focusing rigs within digital models


How is technical drawing going to evolve, now that modeling has evolved so far from its former mental model (horse drawn carriage) to mental model plus digital model (horseless carriage)? What will the evolution of technical drawing look like, to keep up with the evolution of modeling?


TGN Rigs, rigging models for insight, clarity, interpretive power, communication

Download the TGN developer specification, a roadmap for the evolution of the expression of focused attention within digital models of all kinds (all apps, all platforms). In other words, the evolution and future of technical drawing. TGN Rigs are rigging for insight. They empower users to rig their models for clarity. Rigging for interpretive power, putting real FORCE behind thinking while modeling, while building. 

Use TGN Rigs as an engine of interpretation, a vehicle of communication. TGN is your vehicle, baby. A machine of insight. An algorithm of understanding. Maybe you want to hear Tom Jones’ version.

The TGN developer spec is for free to anyone who wants it. A free book. Download

TGN: a digital model INTERACTIONS format standard (Apple Book)

TGN: a digital model INTERACTIONS format standard (ePub)

TGN: a digital model INTERACTIONS format standard (iCloud)


0 1 TGN: rigging for insight  (2:16)

02 TGN: what is TGN exactly?  (5:35)

03 TGN: demonstration  (3:40)

Self critique of this demo is here:

04 TGN: portability  (5:17)

05 TGN: industry value  (9:27)

(the dev platform I mention in the videos is iTwins.js, but TGN can be developed on every platform where TGN is useful and desired)


I’ve been knocking on doors at software houses for a year, fishing for people who want to include TGN as part of their R and D, or build it into  their products. My ideas are in the public domain. Anyone can take them and do as they wish. I’m available to help any team that wants my help.


TGN meets users where they are. See in the demo at viewing position P2 position of each TGN rig, the rig’s viewing camera, on the built in rig viewing path, transitions from perspective to parallel projection, and we specify in the TGN spec (the T2 features) a CAD I/O there. This allows (DWG, PDF, SVG) or other formats to be both generated there, imported, exported and any combination of workflows. Users can do all the CAD graphics (dims, notes, labels) in their favorite CAD app and the TGN rig will incorporate that, or, some developers will build graphics creation tools into their app and users can author those items within the TGN rig, then export each TGN at P2 to any CAD format.

It all depends on how much of the TGN spec each developer wants to build into their app.

The TGN spec envisions a TGN shared core, so TGN rigs can be shared across different apps and platforms and expressed with fidelity. While above the core, different Apps can do more, or less.

It’s not easy to get software companies to adopt new things. But I’ve done it before. I invented hypermodel, the fusion of construction drawings in-situ within BIMs. I proposed that to Bentley in 2007. They hired me to lead the team to build it into MicroStation and we released that as part of MicroStation in 2012. At least 6 different software companies after Bentley have developed their own version of that since then including TEKLA, Revizto, Dalux, Shapr3D together with Morpholio, and Graphisoft in their mobile BIMx. Here’s a page on my website showing videos of the Bentley drawing-model fusion from back around 2012: 

That was nice and useful. But it was only a first baby step and it had flaws. I’ve addressed many of those flaws, with the TGN spec

  • For one, these fusions should not be siloed in one app. If the user does a drawing fusion in a model, he should be able to share that fusion with others in other apps. 
  • And the viewing experience should be much better, with more control for the author and the viewer alike. The cinematic camera rigging options built into each rig are an important advancement.
  • And likewise many other graphics control features built into each TGN rig, with controllable progressive display along the TGN rig’s built in viewing path.


TGN is the triple fusion of

  • modeling,
  • drawing, and
  • cinematic camera rigging (incorporating the lessons of a hundred years history of film),

along with the lessons of digital interoperability of our time. Oh, and by the way it’s totally about being good friends with existing CAD apps. The exact opposite of ignoring them and calling them archaic.

I thought of trying to get employed at 1 software company to do what I did last time: build fusion ideas into one software, siloed. But I don’t want to do that again. I want TGN to work for everybody everywhere in every modeling app and platform. I want the rigs to be portable from one app to another.

I’m sitting here in Sweden where I moved 3 years ago, building a cabin, while I wait for my fishing expeditions to get something on the hook:

I’ve talked with ESRI, Revizto, Bentley, Catenda, Rhino, BIMCollab, Xeokit, BlenderBIM, IFC.js, buildingSMART, and others. And many express interest. But you know how it is! YOU! You do. You know how it is. It takes some kind of spark to start it. 

My hope is that 2 or more existing companies, it could be more at the start, but at least 2 companies who are already working together to get their models working together, that these 2 companies would want to work together to build TGN into their apps in a cross platform way that they would prove that it works. The proof being, that the TGN rigs ARE portable, expressed with adequate fidelity in each of the two apps when TGN rigs are shared from one app to the other. I talk about that in my demo videos above. 

The download links to the TGN spec above are in 4 document formats (ePub, iCloud, Apple book, PDF). The book is in sections:

T4: TGN rig authoring

T3: TGN rig viewing


T1: legacy drawing upgrade to TGN

T0: TGN rig structure

in a cabin by the lake…

I’m in my cabin by the lake, waiting…

What happens in a world without focus:

Further unfocused ramblings about Focus/Attention

TGN: rigging for insight

Rob Snyder

Helsingborg, Sweden



[Tangerine] Makes Insight Tangible

Spatial Media Innovation and Cognitive Computing

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