The Importance of Sketching

By on November 10, 2016. Posted in , .

Architectural Sketching

Sketching + Architecture go hand in hand. And I’ll be the first to admit that most of my sketches may not be “museum quality” just yet, but architectural sketches are not about looking pretty. They are all about communicating ideas… whether it’s solving initial design problems or working through ideas and details with colleagues or clients, sketching is like magic compared to merely thinking or talking.


From The Architect's Notebook: Working with an Architect - The Importance of Sketching


Sketching that is done when we’re deep into designing are often ones we don’t present to our clients. While they certainly reveal an extremely important part of our creative process, they probably make a lot more sense to us than they do to anyone else.

Someone once said to me, “You draw furniture in your sketch plans?” Of course we do – we’re thinking through all the possible ways you will use your space as we’re designing – where do you sit when you’re hanging out with your family, when you’re reading a book, when you’re watching tv? And it’s the sketches of all of those scenarios playing out on one plan that really starts to portray that feeling of home!


Architectural Sketching - Site Specific Sketch


I usually start sketching from macro to micro – meaning, big picture first… I’m not exactly going to draw a “bubble diagram” for how each space needs to be directly connected to another space, but I do group activities or rooms and consider how those relate to site, sun, views, and other spaces in the house…

architectural sketching + design process


Thinking Through Sketching

There are so many ways to design a plan. Most of the time I start by putting it all down on paper and “thinking through” (with a pen on paper) how life happens in each scenario. Drawing it out usually helps to define what is and isn’t going to work pretty quickly.


The Importance of Sketching - Architecture + Design Process


Most of our architectural sketches are done with pen and trace, but I think a little bit of color for a Schematic Design presentation helps to define activities and indoor vs outdoor more clearly. During a meeting, less time spent defining the basic plan means more time brainstorming ideas and designs.

The Importance of Architectural Sketching


The Magic of Sketching

The vignette sketches below, drawn by Marisa, are for a project in which we have almost completed Schematic Design. Sketches not only help us work through special moments in our designs, they are also integral for our inner-office meetings as the design develops. We will often pair these vignette sketches with inspiration images we collect through the process to present a better “walk through” of our ideas.

Architectural Sketches - vignettes


The best meetings are when our clients get involved in the sketching with us! Back to problem solving and communicating ideas – this was a very successful meeting!

The importance of Sketching


And the same can be said for meetings with consultants and contractors – in the meeting below we’ve got our structural engineers and contractor with us at the table sketching through ideas for how to most effectively build our client’s home. The magic of sketching vs talking – everyone on the same page and excited to be part of the problem solving process.

Architectural Sketching - Collaborative Design Process


“Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.” – Pablo Picasso

Happy Sketching!




  1. I agree. Sketching is the easiest way to convey our ideas most especially in the elevations..our way of communicating and making the concept understandable and esy to implement.

  2. Estoy de acuerdo, las ideas, la creatividad y los conceptos arquitectónicos se generan con la mano y la mente.

  3. Sketches help to go round the design before putting it all together and helps to do some complicated details by hand

  4. Beautiful work. My first 2 years of college were pencil and ink based drawings. I feel this has really helped me appreciate how drawings relate to printing stage when ready from computer. I still get initial design drawings on translucent sheets overlayed and worked up by pen. Keep going. Your work looks fantastic. Kindest regards. Dave

  5. I just laid to rest this past weekend a dear friend whom I spent 35 years hand drafting project details and plans with. During that 35 yeras we saved so many projects from doom coming to understand details that most likely would have been missed had we not sat and drafted together. I can’t say enough how important hand drafting can be.

  6. Excellent article and well-illustrated. Thank you.

    Sketching isn’t just for architects and designers, however. I encourage/require all of my undergraduate and graduate students to do at least some sketching. I teach courses in real estate development and finance, and urbanism. Below is a link to a LinkedIn Pulse article I published in 2016 on why I believe it’s important for everyone to sketch.

    “Why I Want My Real Estate Finance Students to Sketch, and Why You Should Sketch, Too,” December 6, 2016, LinkedIn Pulse

  7. Working in the design field nearly 10 years before the first explosion of the 3D computer arts in the 90’s has given me a great perspective on the pros and cons of both digital and analog representation. And while modeling and computer graphics have clearly shown their ability to represent 3D space accurately, their facility can not replace the ability to quickly study multiple thoughts within seconds….either conveying an idea to a client or co-worker or letting your pen study the nuances of geometry. This is precisely the thing our institutions of higher learning must remember as the art and skill of hand sketching many times is treated akin to the typewriter, as an old-world, dying tool when in fact it is just the opposite. Those who can communicate and study quickly and efficiently, will not as easily find themselves being seduced my technology over true design.

    Just like anything else, we have to use the right tool for the right job. Why not the best of both worlds….digital sketching on the iPad Pro is a revelation, and instantly digital!

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