Growing up I was always taught that Math, Science, and History were some of the most important subjects a person can learn. Of course they are important, as a general education, but what makes these more important then artistic growth? I may be a bit bias about the subject since I do use this skill in my career but I want to explain to you why I believe the skill is just as important. Many great things happen when you practice an art form. I practice drawing on a daily basis for many different reasons, but three important reasons are; relaxation, study and communication.
This one is a little obvious. No one thinks I break a sweat sitting at a table with a pencil in my hand, but it's much more then that. I have found that when I am anxious, upset or sad I very quickly loose emotion in the act of drawing. Once I fell into a routine, my mind Started shutting everything out. There was no more stress, no more anxiety, no more distraction. With today's constant stream of information at your fingertips, the elimination of distraction is becoming increasingly more important. While you can accomplish many of these from meditation, I feel it is much more rewarding to have something you have created as an outcome.
Drawing contains a high level of concentration on the subject your trying to portray. You must look at the subject until it can be interpreted in a two dimensional illusion made up of lines. when you are purposefully looking for details in your subject you learn much more then about it then if you were to simply recognize it.
As adults we have seen the object we are drawing hundreds of times. in order to streamline the processing power, our brain usually just passes over each object telling us what it is. but to concentrate on the details is to find a better understanding of the object.
Here is a very obscure situation, yet I still like the idea. Say you are in a different country. This particular country does not speak English and since your American you most likely don't Speak their language either. You are in the middle of a store looking for a rest room. What exactly are you looking for when your looking at signs? If your like me, you're most likely looking for an illustration, of some kind, that indicates a man and a woman. Yes that is graphic design at its finest but if you take it even further, it started with drawing. In most cases, Drawing is a universal language. This is all depending on your skills as a draftsman of course. you could be quite the comunicater with pen in hand.
I have been told that drawing is not essential in becoming a graphic designer and depending on where you want to go with it that may be correct. That being said, I believe very strongly that in order to do that job well one must be able to communicate visually. As far as I understand it, pencil to paper is still the fastest and most convenient way to do this. So for all the aspiring graphic designers out there, you might want to look into learning the skill.
I know many designers who would tell me they posses no skill in drawing but out of the designers I know who are doing what they love in the field, the majority of them can get there idea out on paper before they start. that is all you really need. I am in no way saying you have to draw like Picasso, but that you can explain an idea. That is all it takes.
The best thing about drawing is that, like everything else, it is a learned skill, There is no person on the planet who is born with a skill in drawing. The art takes practice like an instrument. Which means you can draw too! You just have to do it.
I have read many books on drawing and most of them are the same. they all start you off with drawing circles, then they somehow illuminate the circles and have more detail in the drawing, then the drawing next to that is complete. I agree, wtf? it took me many years to understand what that even was. There are much better books out there. Ones that explain things in much better detail. if you are interested you absolutely must try:
Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, by: Betty Edwards
and when you are done with that book try this:
Creative Illustration, by: Andrew Loomis