How to Transform Architecture Drawings With a Simple Workflow

How to Transform Architecture Drawings With a Simple Workflow

Usually architecture students have a frazzled workflow when it comes to architecture drawings. They might start manually or switch back and forth using multiple software but this leaves messy files, random iterations and a fluctuating method. However, with a simple and clear workflow you can transform the way you work and improve the quality of your work.

Although software such as the Adobe Suite are often perceived as interchangable, they work better together and it’s also a good starting point for creating drawings or other pages in your design portfolio. When I was in my first year, I avoided Photoshop like the plague. Sure it was another thing that I felt like learning a new software was like climbing a mountain, but I realised very quickly that you don’t actually need to be an expert. You just need to know which software is good at specific actions you want to take.

However, if you start manually and go through the process of design development and find yourself at a place where you’re working through iterations, it can be unnerving to make the jump to creating a shiny, polished drawing. This goes for plans, sections, elevations and detailed perspectives too. The higher the number of software involved, the trickier your process may get as you begin to juggle different processes.

Every architecture student will have their preferred method of working and although there isn’t a right or wrong (atleast not until you start looking for jobs) it doesn’t hurt to experiement or use a software you’re not totally familiar with if it advances your progress. The same goes for other skills such as research; required when you don’t quite have the full picture of what your design drivers are or hand-drawing for designing in an unorthodox manner which is most likely quicker than trying to do it straight on a CAD model.

Start with a sketch

The one tool you’re supposed to take everywhere with you as an architecture student is your sketchbook. Aside from obviously making sketches, it’s the best place to take notes, figure out ideas before they start materialising in your 3D models. Depending on the level of detail in your sketch and the purpose for it, you might trace over your sketch to create refined plans or it may just be a catalyst for the next chapter of your project.

When thinking about a workflow and timeline, you don’t want to spend all your time sketching or trying out multiple different ideas. The best way to move forward is by completing a series of exercises that will help you to get to your better ideas faster.

  1. Sketch or trace over precedents that you find interesting
  2. Step away from your project and come back with fresh eyes. Then eliminate any sketches you don’t feel resonate with the project
  3. Set a time limit on how long you spend sketching during the week

Refine and iterate

The next phase of developing your architecture drawings is to refine and iterate them. This is generally a longer process and will require some patience. Let’s say you have an elevation drawing that showcases your bespoke design component and you’ve already got a rough sketch as a vision to follow. The next step would be to model it in your software of choice. Once you do a few iterations of this, you can begin testing exports. There are so many ways of representating something such as an elevation. You could do a line drawing with soft shadows or a flat render or even a detailed hand-drawing based on your model.

The outcome doesn’t need to be defined at this stage because you might come across something you didn’t expect (but is better). I would suggest taking the time to refer to precedents, then rate how important of a drawing this is - for example a plan drawing is one of the basic ways of representing space but a worm’s eye perspective might not be the best for a simpler building that doesn’t have any particular details to showcase through this type of view.

Templatise in InDesign

After you plan and refine your drawings, you should try and templatise your workflow to smooth out the edges. Any kind of repeated action can be streamlined by developing templates very early on. I had my own AutoCAD title block template during university which meant any drawing I created already had the necessary information on the side, which in turn meant that I never forgot my North symbol or scale bar. This is also identical to how practices work and although their quality management system may be more complex and vast, it shouldn’t stop you from implementing similar practices to working efficiently and maintaining a high level of quality within your work.

Eventually your final stop for software should be in InDesign. If you’re making a map in Adobe Illustrator, then you should link this into your portfolio file in InDesign. As another rule, only include text in InDesign too as this will avoid the extra step of opening the original file should you need to make any changes. The same goes for keys and annotations for drawings too.

Let’s say you’ve been working on a model in Sketchup. You want to create an annotated render as a full page in your portfolio. First you render the view in your rendering software, then import that original photo image into Adobe Photoshop. You make the tweaks and adjustments you need to and save as a new file. Then, in your portfolio draft, you insert your Photoshop file which should just be a case of drag and drop. Try and set out the page sizes beforehand unless you’re working on final illustrations and scaled drawing. This just eliminates any confusion later.

Having a set workflow for architecture drawings will transform the way you work since you know what to do next and therefore aren’t spending too much time on one thing. If you look at your arsenal of skills and software as a selective process, your method should turn into a reliable workflow that you can repeat for future drawings. This will save you much more time in the future and help you feel more confident in your work.

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