Drafting Lessons – Volume 1

“The key to success is to give it all away.”


I have no idea who gets the credit for that quote, and up until I started thinking about this post, I really wasn’t sure how it applied to me.  I mean I get the gist of it, but working at a larger firm, I wasn’t really sure how I could actually act on it.  I’m not the principal in charge of my own office, I don’t own the patents to some world changing technology, and I’m still a work in progress when it comes to raising my two kids.  Like most of us in the architectural industry, the drawings we work on, the renderings we do, etc. all really belong to the firm; and to “give it all away” would probably get me fired.  Not something I am really wanting to do right now.  So with that in mind, I needed to think of a different approach.  What was something that I can contribute, where was there something lacking in the industry?


Ever since I started working at firm, and even more so recently, I have consistently heard the complaint of the gap between school and professional practice.  ‘School never gets you ready to actually work.’ – ‘It’s not schools job to teach you to work, it’s their job to teach you to think/design.’  The two rarely ever want to give an inch.  Hmmm, does that sound familiar?  Wait, is that an “Aha!” moment?  No not really.  But it did give me an idea.  What about what actually doing the whole mentoring thing on a bigger and digital way.  Everybody complains that we’re not doing a good job of that anyway, when we’re slow we are constantly looking for work and not paying attention to the next generation, and when we are busy; well… we just don’t really have time to do a good job with all the other things we have to get done.  So here are a few things I have learned over the years.

Left, left, left right left….

 While I was in school, we had to design our own title block in “Construction Documents” class.  We were able to use a few examples from local firms to give us an idea of where to start.  And now that I have worked at a couple of different offices and seen drawings from more places than I can count, I can tell you most of them out there are pretty similar to this…

The typical Revit title block, ours is cleaned up quite a bit.


Ok, ok so where is the lesson here if they all have a similar feel to them.  The question I always ask the new guys in our office is “Where do you start putting drawings on a sheet?”  Most of the time I don’t really get an answer.  So according to my exhaustive research of looking through years of drawings I’ve worked on the answer is (6).  Wait, what?  Ok nevermind, Phineas and Ferb joke. The answer is, the bottom right side of the page, anywhere else is just plain wrong, trust me.


What is this, bowling ball spin directions?


No….. Because I said so isn’t a good enough answer.  Here’s really why.  When you work on projects that have more than 2 sheets they get put together like a book. Have you ever tried reading a book where the words are so close to the center of the spine that you have to bend it open as hard as you can to see what says?  And then no matter how careful you are you end up breaking the spine and have pages completely fall out, or is that just me.  Well anyway, same idea here. Except if you stick a small drawing, note, whatever in that spine of the drawings, and the contractor misses it; that’s a headache waiting to happen on a project.


Ok, here’s a bonus one for you.  I’m pretty sure most architects will agree with me on the first lesson, this next one, maybe not so much.  I’m going to go on a limb here and say that the drawing portion of a set of construction documents are the most important part. Yes I know that all of the notes and specifications are important too and help form a complete set, but without the drawing you really don’t have anything at all. Now instead of talking about line weights or hatches, I thought I would touch on something most people kind of overlook.  All of those notes that describe everything in this drawing that is undoubtedly the best drawing the world of architecture has ever seen. Do you really want to cover it up with a bunch of lines going every which direction?  To clean up all of the notes you have to have, first of all, use both sides of the drawing to place them.  So many architects think that you have to put the notes on a single side of the drawing…. Why???  Create an imaginary line in the middle of the drawing, if the item you need to describe is on the left or right of that line, put the note on the same side.  And here is where I get the funniest look from people I work with.  If your notes are on the right side of your drawing, left justify your notes.  I think I can skip the whole thing of lining up your notes, just about every architect I’ve ran into does this anyway.  But those notes on the left side of your drawing, what about those?  Well, it’s actually really easy, right justify them.  I know, I can hear the “What?!?!?” through the screen.


Those really cool justification symbols, use ’em.


In my mind it seems pretty obvious why you would do this.  You are really just mirroring your notes onto the other side of the drawing, right?  Well, try it in your favorite drawing program, I bet it will end up this way automatically.  Not convinced, ok, remember that part about the drawing being the most important part?  If you have your notes on the right justified to the left, and the notes on the left justified to the right – that’s a lot of lefts and rights, maybe we should get a switch hitter for this – you actually start to frame the drawing with your notes.  You were still keeping these aligned right?  This is definately a situation where a picture will work a whole lot better than this entire paragraph.


A couple of details, from a previous project.


So if your new to an office or just trying to figure out how to read the piles and piles of paper these crazy architects create, little tidbits like these might just help you look like a rockstar at your office, couldn’t hurt…


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