For all my online friends that are architects (or designers) ….I am curious as to how you design.
I find myself in a constant state of flux between the computer and the drawing board (believe it or not I still have a drawing board in my work space but never use the parallel rules – I just find the angled work surface better for my neck- plus I just like having a board next to me… A remnant of a former age when I started as an architect).
..but back to my question…
I find at the early stages of a design problem I keep asking myself should I be working this up on the computer when I am doing rough sketches but then when I try to design on the computer I find that I just sit there looking at the screen. For me design solutions so often come as soon as I print it out, rip some yellow trace and let my hand to its thing… I just don’t think as well looking at a computer screen. I think with a pen in my hand. Plus I much prefer scribbling than moving a mouse!
I would love hearing other peoples thoughts – methods of design. I end up using lots of paper : rough sketch – computer- printout – refinement on the drawing board – back to CAD – printout…. Etc.
I posed this question on Flickr and some of the responses were:
no contest for me — it’s pencil in hand and a roll of yellow trace. . . . and a soft pencil (2B or softer), at least to start. . . . if it’s a complex design, I might add layers of pen or colored pencil. . . . this is as true for the trickiest tiny window detail as it is for a broad town planning conceptual layout. . . . perhaps it’s a generational thing, going back to training (arch’l school in the early 60s), but I really can’t think without a clutch pencil in my hand. . . .
I am a landscape architect that deals mostly with town planning and conceptual design. I am a younger generation LA (I am still in my 20s) and love working in the computer. That said, my design process looks very similar to Liz. I start by hand sketching ideas and concepts, plug them into the computer, print out, sketch more..so on and so forth. I find that alot of new designers and design students rely way too much on the computer. This is sad to me and especially MC_BDS’s story about not allowing hand drawn documents. That is a huge mistake!!
I also use SketchUp, but only as a base for hand rendered final graphics. I find that most clients relate to the softness of a hand drawn image moreso than a cold, crisp digital graphic. I am not an employer, but I feel that most design firms would much rather have a student/new employee that could get design ideas on paper quickly (time is money) than a proficient CAD jockey.
I went to a workshop last year where an LA said that he gets the most respect from clients during the initial meetings when they tell him their ideas and he quickly scribbles a sketch on a napkin and the client can say….”that’s exactly what I am talking about!”
Honestly, in the long run, I don’t see the “hand to digital to hand” process changing anytime soon. Hopefully anyway!
Like Matthew, I was graduating just as AC Martin used the computer for working drawings the first time… and of course, they were skyscraper architects (and other than a few great buildings, rather ho-hum.) Ultimately the reliance on computers made me leave architecture, and I find, with few exceptions, that architecture has become more boring and mundane (with few exceptions) and I believe a lot of this is the reliance on computers has stopped the creative processes. There is an hand-to-eye-to-brain connection that I think is vital to great design, where the editor is sent packing and one doodles the building into existence. I designed buildings sitting in clients homes or offices and it was most satisfying to get the initial ideas and so forth down, or rethink a concept with a client. I think computers are wonderful inventions when you are working in a high-rise, for what is the purpose of redrawing floor after floor of often repetitive plans and details — BUT, and here is the big but, I find that computers have made most “architects” lazy. One of the last projects I did as an architect was in assisting a developer in working space use (interior) out of a historic armory building — what types of leased spaces and exiting would be needed, how to keep the building intact, etc. He had fired his last architect for whatever reason, and as I worked freehand with bumwad, I found a huge problem with the CAD drawings the man created: he added a whole front section to the building! If he had been walking the building as I had, sketching and seeing and thinking, rather than plopping walls and assuming the computer had the information, he would have seen it made no sense. Elevators don’t zig-zag one structural bay. Took me a half hour and I wasn’t looking for the mistake, but I began wondering why my sketches didn’t make sense with his numbers and drawings. Cost the developer a small fortune in income to lose a bay on one floor.
I can’t explain the reliance angle, but I know I am onto something. It is like when we are writing, and grammar checks show up or spellchecks show up, and insist you are wrong when guess what, you are correct! Some people stop thinking and just go along with grammar and spellchecks. Now it is a great device for dyslexic me, but it also makes you lazy-stupid; we lose something vital.
When I taught architectural design at UCLA I made students use pen, not pencil (no ability to erase and engage the editor) and told them that when I saw a pile of bumwad on the floor next to their desk then I’d know their creative juices were flowing. They just sketched ideas, no commitment to any one direction, exploring, and so the pen-hand-brain connection was formed. I think it is key.
Now let me go back and see if I made spelling errors….
Hi Liz, this is really a good point.
I trained as an architect and got my degree in the eighties and of course all drawing was hand made.
Indeed with a lot of tracing paper, different size rapidograph pens and the faithful razor balde for erasing ! Then CAD arrived and it solved a lot of problems from a practical point of view. However I feel that I cannot start a project without a pencil and a piece of paper in front of me. Once my idea is clear I can use Autocad or even SketchUp but not before.
Also from a visual point of view even if some rendering are really amazing I think that nothing beats a good sketch ! In a sketch you can really feel and relate to the person who did it, while the same cannot be said for a cold computerized image.
Of course this is true on a small/medium size job, if you are urban planning it’s quite a different story …