Architectural Drawings

This list is intended to be useful in two different ways: one, if you are asked to draw an idea you can consider the kind of drawing that is necessary to communicate the particular idea you have in mind, and two, as you labour in your design process consider that changing drawing (and design)methods is a useful way of seeing and discovering different aspects of your design. This list is a strictly non-philosophical and non-theoretical overview of drawing methods and types. These are neither definitions nor histories. They are simply a series of points that might get you to think about the diversity of means possible when you decide to draw. There are suprisingly many different kinds of drawing; this list is certainly incomplete.

In no particular order:


A sketch can be a ‘noun’ in the sense that you might draw a quick and shorthand version of an idea (as in a comedy sketch). However, sketch should be largely seen as a verb – it is a way of drawing, as much as it is a specific kind of representation.


Diagrams exercise a distilling process or transform conditions into a code. Diagrams are not about how things look but about underlying structure. They are a way of revealing something hidden.


The doodle is characterized by a sense of distractedness or absence of a clear intention. It is drawing subconsciously, perhaps with intent, but not with one known at the time. Something else occupies the mind while doodling, rather than drawing as the centre of focus.


The cartoon is defined by either a caricatural quality or ironic point of view. The purpose is to exaggerate some aspect, through distortion (formal or content-wise) to make or test a point.

During the renaissance a ‘cartoon’ was a preparatory drawing made for scaling up a sketch up to a painting.

Measured Drawing

This is often confused with a ‘final’ drawing, but is, in fact, different from a ‘final’ drawing. What is important is the word ‘measured’, that is, a testing of dimensions, whether they are lengths, areas or quantities.

Hand Drawing

This is method rather than a type of drawing. Hand drawing does not determine a particular content. However, when used consciously, what is emphasized is the quality of the ‘hand’. It allows for accidents and isn’t concerned with the perfect reproduction of lines or tones. Hand drawings may be measured or sketched.


There are two types and aims: The first is to compare conditions which are not physically proximate. I might overlay the plan of different projects to compare their layouts and scale. The second creates a kind of spatiality in the process of drawing. Drawing one plan over another (on the same sheet or on layered transparent sheets) is a way of testing three-dimensional relationships. Overlays are also used as a compositional technique in presentation drawings, although this can get out of hand, resulting in confusion.

Perspective Drawing

The best way to understand perspective is not as a specific representational type, i.e. a drawing as seen from a human point of view utilizing the laws of perspective with vanishing points, etc. Rather, think of the word perspective and its relation to the following words: position, point of view, aspect. These can be taken geometrically or politically. For example, what is your ‘view’ or ‘position’ on £9,000 fees? When you draw a perspective there should be an intent, view, or position in that sense. You are making a point, and this is more significant than where things vanish to.

Orthographic Projection

These are fictional head-on views in which all dimensions are true and geometrically governed. Plan, section & elevation are the primary projections. They are largely seen as types of drawings required at the end of a project. However, there are reasons for doing these at various stages of a design process. It is important to keep the fictional aspect in mind. These views are never actually experienced; they are, in essence, diagrams or analytical drawings that are taken to represent an underlying ‘reality’.

Axonometric/Isometric Drawing

This is a geometrical projection that combines 3D representation of form while maintaining true dimensions. Nevertheless, axonometric drawings distort your object. This distortion is what is useful about them. Understanding the nature of the distortion and illusion is necessary if you want to use axonometric or isometric drawings in an effective manner. Using them as diagrams is fine, but then you might not be exploiting their potential.

Detail Drawing

While in school this should never be taken as a technical or construction document but as a testing of the design implications of a discrete part of your design.This is the best way of thinking about a detail even when it is a 1/20 wall section.

Hardline Drawings

See ‘Measured Drawing’. In many ways a hardline drawing is defined by its opposition to a ‘hand’ drawing.

Unfinished Drawing

There are good reasons why a drawing might not be finished. A) If the point being tested is met before the drawing is completed. B) If you discover the drawing isn’t addressing what you are trying to investigate. However, as all drawing is a teasing out of ideas and conditions it often makes sense to finish a drawing even if you think you know what the outcome is. Just as often, the drawing will turn out to be different from what you imagined.

There is also a rhetorical way of using unfinished drawings as a way of emphasizing those aspects that are drawn by leaving out parts of the design.

Cutaway Drawing

Cutaways are imaginary views that dissect a building to reveal its inner workings (technical or social). Cutaways have played an important role in the development of architecture, but the drawing type has not received much attention. See, for example, Le Corbusier’s use of the ocean liner or Koolhaas’ use of the Downtown Athletic Club in Delirious New York.

Atmospheric Drawing

This is more a description of a quality than a type of drawing. It is misleadingly used as a type, which too often leads to ‘moody’ imagery. It is up to you to decide when a drawing requires some sort of atmosphere. It is important that you understand what this atmosphere is for and how it is made (e.g. light and shadow, textures of materials, etc.).


Think of rendering as in ‘making’ or ‘fashioning’ – to cause to become. What and how you render requires taking a position and making a statement. Rendering is not a natural outcome of a process (pushing a button). Rendering is often confined to final or presentation drawings, but are useful in the process stage. A rendering should be propositional and exploratory. It’s also worth noting that renderings existed before computers.

Squiggly Line Drawing

Squiggly lines were the product of drawing by hand quickly. At some point it became evident that if you control and to a sense exaggerate the squiggle drawing acquired a kind of texture or vibrant quality. After Michael Graves, squiggly line drawings became a post-modern fashion – the worst thing that can happen to a drawing technique.

Schematic Drawing

There are two definitions here. The first is in a technical or engineering sense and is similar to a diagram. It is, in fact, a specific kind of diagram – it generally outlines procedures or processes. The second definition is in the sense of outline or general ‘scheme’. It is a particular stage in the development of designs in professional practice.

Conceptual Drawing

This is a misused term as nearly all drawings are conceptual. At its worst it is a catchall term for drawings that are not literal in their representation. At its most benign it simply means an abstract drawing. At its best refers to a drawing that is about the concept behind a design. In this sense, such a drawing can be a plan, axon, sketch, diagram, schematic or any other type of drawing.

Hybrid or Mixed-Media Drawing

This is a technique where different media are combined either to speed up the process of drawing or to capitalize on the advantages of different modes of representation. A hybrid drawing might use photography, computer drawing, hand drawing and collage in a single piece.

Final Drawing

There is no such thing apart from the idea that you will have a final deadline on which you will hand in a final selection of finished and unfinished drawings.

Presentation Drawing

The definition of presentation drawings depends on the context but what links them is that they are drawings meant to be presented to someone to make an argument for, or explain, your design. Presenting for a competition jury, to a client, a tutor, a final review or for the RIBA Bronze Medal are quite different things and call for different approaches. Considering the audience and intent of the presentation is the most important thing that can be said about this type. Presentation drawings may draw from any of the previous categories.

Life drawing

This generally means a drawing made by hand in pencil, pen, charcoal or other media, of real objects in space. If it involves naked people it is normally called ‘life drawing’ and if it involves apples and bottles it is called ‘still life’. Often courses in ‘life drawing’ combine both.


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