The new generation of architects and students are increasingly becoming worse at sketching and drawing by hand and tend use it much less frequently to share their ideas and are relying much more on cad and photoshop.

In my academic career, I've excelled in architecture school among my peers, (professional career has not been suffering either) though my professors would constantly put pressure on me specifically to sketch out my ideas. Why is this? Why are we so critical of the new generation of architects and their lack of free hand drawing abilities? Isn't it a matter of everyone having their own personal design process? I can always get my ideas and my point across in a number of ways, though sketching is not one of them.

Nov 27, 17 3:34 pm
Non Sequitur

Because a dirty free hand sketch is infinitely sexier than a sketchup rendering. Anyone can paste together something in CAD or CS... 

Nov 27, 17 4:00 pm

a sketch is not "personal design process" - it can convey an idea in 2 seconds; until any digital tool can do that, hand sketching will still be the first option.

Nov 27, 17 4:20 pm
Non Sequitur

Correct. OP is still a student anyways, so I doubt they have seen enough practice to judge how their lack of sketching "process" actually affects their career.


Yes. A big part of sketching's utility is its immediacy and flexibility. Having to drag out the tablet or laptop and open some software just to put down a quick (but possibly crucial) diagram or two is not practical, or possible sometimes.

And almost anyone can sketch, yes.  But absent the practice of doing it frequently, it may look no better than the client's.  That's not so good.


If you really want to impress people, sketch upside down across a table from them. It just takes some practice.

Nov 27, 17 4:35 pm
Non Sequitur

...and use either hand interchangeably like it was nothing.


And write words. My handwriting is actually better when I write upside down.

To really impress them scribble something incomprehensible and tell them how great it is.

The best part is when they nod in agreement even though they haven't got the faintest idea.


Yeah, that works too. It's all quite a bit easier than we pretend it is.

atelier nobody

I'm impressed - I can kind of sketch upside down, but the upside down lettering continues to elude me. I cannot yet snatch the pebbles from Master's hand, sigh...


Sketching also triggers different parts of the brain, so you might even come up with a (better) solution you'd never even conceptualise when drawing on a computer. There is something magical happening when you put a pen or pencil on a piece of paper and start scribbling. Also, how do you scribble in CAD? That being said, I'm horrible at sketching and whatever I sketch is often out of proportion, generally ugly and not meant to be flaunted or seduce clients with. It is a personal design and engineering tool for me that helps me clarify my thoughts and identify problems and solutions.

Nov 27, 17 9:42 pm

I wish I was better at sketching (and hand drafting).  Most clients don't appreciate it as much now. They like hyper-realistic renderings because it gives them a more realistic look and feel of the project. A hand sketch rendered with color pencils or markers or water color still wins for me. Like this one:

Nov 27, 17 10:16 pm

I wouldn't be surprised if that was a traced computer drawing ;)


Haha! I would think this was digitally sketched (not something drawn on paper then scanned), but I just love the texture, the shading and the crookedness of it. I've always thought how hand-drawn plans, sketches and renderings keep that sensation of fantasy in there. And it's also so easy to look at or smooth in the eyes. Also, back in the day (because i don't think it's the same as now), having the actual skill and talent to draw by hand was deemed an advantage or must-have if you wanted to be an architect/designer because it was always a foundation skill one must have to pursue this profession.


I used to love drawing as a kid and was pretty good at it, even won some awards etc. but being forced to work too much on the computer not only made my handwriting look like from a drunk doctor with Parkinson's (no offense) it also did a number on my sketching skills...I do however always carry a notebook and some pens and pencils and scribble. I think I even got hired once because I went to the interview with a fat roll of tracing paper sticking nonchalantly out of my bag, they knew I wasn't kidding around haha.

I definitely trace computer models. Still my preferred method of designing because I can go through a bunch of options fairly quickly. It is a valuable tool to have in your arsenal.

Eye-hand coordination, the basis for all human development, entirely lacking with computers.

Keep sketching and you will get better. Life drawing classes help a lot - with drawing and more so with seeing.

Nov 27, 17 10:16 pm

"Eye-hand coordination, the basis for all human development, entirely lacking with computers." So true. It's like no camera can ever replicate what the naked eye can see.


It's not only eye-level renderings, but don't forget diagrams, plans, sections, elevations, details... all the 2D stuff.

Nov 27, 17 11:06 pm

Personally, I think there's a lack of understanding in the development of technology in the older generation of architects. These days there's the possibility of drawing using your phone and even computer with a drawing tablet.

In saying that there's a benefit in drawing with your hands as an architect there's a thinking process that develops in the mind when you settle and take the time to draw.

Nov 29, 17 9:22 pm

I fond of drawing! The best thing is making my imagination turn into a real thing, a piece where it only came to my mind and no one did. I like drawing ever since a child, I want to elaborate things to let them see my perspective.

When I didn't find the drawings I really want to see, I draw them. Even though it turns out different than I imagine sometimes but in the end, I still enjoy its company.

Making characters and see how they go through their lives, drawing things to view what is your perspective and how you'll change or keeping it like it was what you viewed.

Learning new things, and observed the surroundings.

I love drawing because I know in the future, I'll see it with my own eyes the picture I've always imagined and I can keep going and grow further.

Feb 8, 19 1:56 pm

Hand sketching allows you to work through ideas in a loose and free manner, not constrained by the (often) limited tools available in software.  Buildings that are the direct result of a software tool constraint are sad...the push pull in sketch-up is primary aesthetic driver for most of the terrible developer modern buildings from the early 2000's to present.  

Feb 10, 19 10:59 pm

There is a book I love from Architect Susan Piedmont-Palladino called "How Drawings Work", and she tackles this beautifully! In short, computer drawings can be amazing tools for conveying your idea and providing instruction for how to build. But it should not replace sketching.

Sketching has a level of uncertainty to it that can be incredibly useful when presenting to a client. You can make gestural marks which only suggest an idea, but leave open the possibility of change.

Computer drawings express a level of finality that might not be true. The hard lines make everything seem thought through and worked out. Sometimes that level of detail is actually bad for a presentation.

If your goal is to meet with your clients and give them options...possible directions yet to be explored...and to include them in the design process rather than show them your finished idea, then sketching is the eternal solution.

I wrote a bit about this in the following link! Enjoy.

3 Reasons You Must Sketch as a Designer

Oct 6, 19 8:31 pm
Sketching is faster, more direct, can be done nearly anywhere, doesn’t require a plug or a printer or a screen etc. I send hand sketches all the time to GCs, snap a photo, saveas to the server folder for future reference, takes all of 5 minutes, as opposed to spending 30 minutes opening up revit making a new sheet etc etc. besides if you can sketch something by hand you can apply that to literally any software out there. If you only know softwares you’re ruled by the commands you’re familiar with. The pencil is limitless, buttons on a screen are confining. Plus sketching in front of a client always seems to wow them, and is maybe one of the few instances where they actually realize the value and skill of an architect first hand because it’s something they absolutely cannot do. A client can however, go to or something similar and therefore thinks they can layout plans...draw them a wall detail in 30 seconds in a board room and boom they realize there’s a little more to it.
Oct 7, 19 9:04 am
Non Sequitur

I wrote backwards in front of a client last week. That sure as fuck caught their attention.

CAD is the illusion of being able to draw. It is like a carpenter who can only use power tools but can’t make a cut with a handsaw or drive a nail by hand. 

But I have a power nailer! I don’t need to nail by hand. 

And thus you will split the wood indiscriminately, miss the framing when nailing off sheathing, be unable to nail odd conditions with the vast plethora of tricks of the trade like nailing around corners by bending the nail into a curve, and so on.

Oct 7, 19 9:43 am
Chad Miller

To put things bluntly, hand sketching is the shit.

Your ability to draw out things in front of a client will always be a critical skill for anyone who wants to design.   The medium that is used for this is open to personal preference.  

Oct 7, 19 9:57 am

Sketching is just another tool to convey design thinking, and communicating intent. It isn't as simple as saying that sketching is the end all be all, but fundamentally it is a basic skill that needs to be mastered by any professional in the design field. 

Oct 7, 19 1:32 pm

Sketching is key! It's way faster to sketch out ideas on paper- erase/go over/use trace layer paper to see different layout without maneuvering software/iPad, I like it for Preliminary design. That way when I'm ready to transfer to digital I can just trace right over or already know the layout of things... I had this one boss who could not sketch and every time he would meet with clients to alter plans - the changes would look like chicken scratch :/  Now if he could sketch right there on the spot, that would be great.

Oct 10, 19 11:26 am

I think that sketching great buildings in the field is really important.  I ask all my students to keep a sketchbook and to spend time each week sketching architecture in the field, and doing measured drawings of details.  There are a couple of good  reasons why this is important. 

First, keeping a personal record in a sketchbook of the details of great architecture is an  important reference.  Also, simply spending the time to draw great buildings makes you spend lots of time looking at them, and soaking in the nuances of the architecture.  That's the problem with photography.  You pull out your iPhone and snap a photo, and you move on.  But you don't take the time to really SEE it.  There's no investment in it.  But if you sketch it, or better yet, do a measured drawing of it, you spend time carefully looking at the shapes, the proportions, the way light and shadow cast upon it.  You see things you are apt to miss in a photo.

Oct 10, 19 6:11 pm

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