Illustration: Lauren Nassef | Art Direction: Jelena Schulz

The humble pencil, in its current form, derives from a late-15th-century blueprint for a hollowed-out juniper stick, flat with an oval diameter, and packed with graphite. By the early 16th century, the pencil morphed into something very similar to what we use today—a graphite core nestled between two carved wooden halves that were glued together. Aside from being a highly functional tool, the pencil is a romantic object that is still widely produced. Even in our digital age, the pencil industry has continued to post single-digit improvements in sales over the last few years. In spite of the pencil’s long history—and if we are going to be totally honest—it doesn’t seem to hold the same place in the creative process as it once did. How many architects actually pick up a pencil to do serious drafting anymore? And, yet—like umbrellas—there always seems to be a pencil laying around (and they’re mostly cedar today, not juniper). With a surfeit of these cedar sticks, the architect’s challenge in today’s studio is not what to draw with a pencil, but what to actually do with one. Some suggestions are above.