Ep 117: Graphic Matters | Life of an Architect
Table of Contents
Architects still communicate their designs through the use of graphics – and there are a lot of different formats, mediums, and techniques that are up for consideration. Architectural graphics is always a hot topic, and if I have learned anything over the last 12 years of writing articles for Life of an Architect, it’s that sketching and architectural visualization are the hottest of topics. Join us today and Andrew and I wade into the fast-moving waters that is architectural graphics. Welcome to Ep 117: Graphic Matters
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‘Graphic Matters’ on this site jump to 1:31
Architectural graphics, and how they are used, typically vary depending on the message being conveyed and the phase of the work being depicted. You might be explaining to someone the abilities of the firm, selling your client on an idea, articulating in-depth concepts, or telling the contractor what we are trying to accomplish. It is reasonable to think that each one of these objectives is going to use a different type of architectural graphic style.
Architectural Graphics, sketching, and digital visualizations are something that I have covered extensively on the website over the past decade, but we’ve only addressed the topic in small bits and pieces here on the podcast. I have included just a few examples and topics down below:
“Do you have architectural visualization skills? Maybe you’re asking yourself “what does even mean?” Well, you are in luck because today on the Life of an Architect Podcast we are dedicated to discussing all things related to architectural visualization and graphics and we have the perfect guest, Alex Hogrefe.”
“Sketching is hard for most people – it’s hard for me – and it’s okay if you end up using other tools to help get you to your destination. Architects’ have our own vocabulary, one full of jargon and lingo that I typically try to avoid, but we all understand what it means when you bring a pen and some paper together and start talking … something that I do literally all the time in my office. There was someone else sitting on the other side of these sketches and we were discussing how something could/should be done and what that might mean in a larger context.”
“While it can be a specific representation or type of orthographic projection like a plan or building sections, as we discuss it is basically the creation of computer drawings. Almost all architectural graphics created in practice today are going to be generated from a computer. While this is not absolute, it is definitely the majority. So how is this related to the notion of creating graphics that read the way they should?”
“The point of today’s post is that sketching is hard for most people and it’s okay if you end up using other tools to help get you to your destination. As one of my college professors once told me, sketch until it hurts and then keep sketching.”
“Architectural sketching is becoming a thing of the past – at least that’s how it seems to me most days. I graduated eons ago back in 1992, back in the days that pre-date computers being used in the studio. This doesn’t mean that everyone who graduated in my era could sketch – far from it. What it does mean is that we learned how to think and communicate our ideas in a slightly different manner from the students graduating from modern-day architecture programs. Now that I’ve been at this “architect” thing for a little while, I can look at my sketches, all the way back to my time in school, and see how my sketch technique has evolved, and how that technique has shaped my architectural solutions.”
“Not all of sketches and drawings are world-class examples of the best sketching techniques, but that’s okay. In fact, it’s kinda the point. Most of the time, if not ALL of the time, sketches are captured moments of temporary thoughts or ideas that exist along a timeline that will continue far beyond the moment that has been captured. Sometimes this idea is lost on people who follow my Instagram account and they will comment as the drawing being shown is being handed to the contractor for construction – which is, to the best of my knowledge, almost never the case.”
“Architects should sketch. You may not think you are very good at sketching but if it helps you work through your thoughts, I would argue that you are in fact, very good at sketching.”
I don’t think I am stepping out on a limb to say that graphics and visual communication are vitally important to the architectural industry. I don’t think I go more than a day at most without some conversation about using or creating graphics to help execute my current task at hand.
The Education Process jump to 12:20
Let’s start with the education process of an architect and how people actually learn the craft of creating graphics. Let’s start with how it was when I was in school – which was a second studio that took place on Tuesdays and Thursdays and was completely dedicated to learning how to draw. It was during this time that I was actually taught how to draw – not “draft”, but to actually draw. There were sketching classes, life drawing classes, color-theory classes – on and on, and all of these classes were dedicated to the craft of visual communications. This was a studio class and it was 6 hours of in-the-classroom time per week. The curriculum of most programs now is not as focused as this and more times than not, when I ask someone during an interview how they learned a particular piece of software, the response it typically “YouTube”.
This starts to reinforce just how important the design studio at school is and the culture that is associated when everyone is up in the same space working. Being surrounded by your peers and seeing the work that others are creating is terrific motivation and it also goes to support the exchange of ideas and techniques for how people graphically communicate.
Graphic Types jump to 30:12
There are a lot of different methods that are employed to create your graphics, and while this list is not exhaustive, this part of our discussion had more to do with the process of how you create your graphics rather than focusing on how those outputs will be used. To that end, I think the first item we have to start at the beginning … sketching. A portion of our conversation focused on how the viewer fills in missing information that is more emotive in nature in a sketch, more so than just about any other graphic medium employed with regularity in architectural graphics. We also think that sketching always has a place in the process – although that would typically be in the beginning, there is a problem-solving aspect to sketching that can manifest itself during the construction document phase more than many other graphic processes.
An evolution of the pencil-on-paper process is the evolution and application of digital sketching platforms using software like Procreate and Morpholio Trace. I have been using Morpholio Trace now for about 14 months and after traditional sketching for the last 30+ years, I am getting the hang of how I use this sort of software and how I can move some skills over directly to the platform while others require some modification to my thinking process.
Render engines – when using software like SketchUp, or even Revit, especially when partnered with third-party applications like Enscape, Lumion, Vray, and Twinmotion … not to mention outside vendors that specialize in creating digital visualizations. Of the software platforms listed here, my office regularly uses four of the six.
Even platforms like Revit, AutoCAD, Rhino, and ArchiCAD contribute to the final visual delivery of the message we are trying to communicate. The reality is that we spend more time creating drawings and communicating our intent in Revit than all the other platforms in their entirety.
The Role of Social Media jump to 45:41
I don’t know how we can talk about graphics and the role they play without bringing up social media and the amount of effort that goes into the process of creating graphics for the sole purpose of communicating to a completely digital, and to a certain extent, unknown audience. Social Media as a source of inspiration is a real thing … I can’t help but think that this is a version of the role that architecture studios played during the time when everyone worked exclusively up in their desks in the studio. You saw what other people were doing and it was absolutely motivation for everyone to step their game up. It was also another way to learn how to do things – like emulate styles and techniques that others were using.
I follow a lot of people on Instagram who draw/sketch/ create visualizations, and I have spent a handful of articles here on the website dedicated to pointing out the style and techniques that others use (and put on display) that are readily available – essentially a Masterclass of examples that can be studied and emulated with practice. I will readily admit that I practice recreating drawings that I find on Instagram all the time.
I should really do an updated list of architectural sketchers because I went back and look at that original list because it’s now over 5 years old and there are tons of new people that I enjoy following.
What the Rank jump to 58:42
We are continuing our streak of ranking non-food-related items and we are going to get a little sporty today …
Today we are ranking [drum roll please] ….
The Best Three Summer Olympic Events
Summer Olympic Events
|Basketball||Women’s Gymnastics – Floor||Men’s High Dive|
Summer Olympic Events
|Women’s Gymnastics – Vault||Men’s Swimming 4 x 100||100-Meter Dash|
If all we were ranking was the main sport, rather than drilling down into a specific event, this probably would not have been very difficult to rank but once you get down to individual events, things get a lot more difficult.
Ep 117: Graphic Matters
There is no question where I stand on graphic matters – for an industry that relies on drawings to communicate our ideas and intent, graphics matter. Knowing who your audience is will typically help clarify the format in which the message will be delivered. And along with the purpose of that message, as there are different goals to be achieved along the way as the drawings evolve from schematic design to construction documentation (although that line is constantly being blurred, pun intended).
Cheers, and keep drawing –
Special thanks to our sponsor Petersen, which manufactures PAC-CLAD architectural metal cladding systems. Visit pac-clad.com to learn more.