5 Ways to Improve Your Observational Sketches

So you want to get better at observational sketches?

Observational sketches and quick conceptual sketching is very important in the design process; it allows you to quickly draw ideas, concepts, site sections and views, allowing you to kick start your creative brain and get straight into the design process.

Despite its importance in the design process, it isn’t something that is usually formally taught at university – at least in my experience – as there is a greater emphasis on using CAD software. However, this limits your imagination to your ability to use the software which should never be the case from the beginning of the process.

I was fortunate enough to take a masterclass in observational drawing as part of my second year of undergraduate. Over the course of roughly two months, I learned how to observe and draw quickly, which helped me greatly during my final year project.

Since it greatly helped me, I’d like to share the wisdom of my tutor with other students in the hopes you learn these vital skills sooner than I did.

1  Practice Makes Progress

Now, I know you have probably heard this advice to death but hear me out. Observational sketches, especially quick observational sketches, is a skill, and as with every skill you need to practice and the more you practice the more progress you make. This was a rule created by a man called Matt D’Avella and you can check out his video on it here.

I recommend practising every day if possible to achieve the most progress but I know from experience that it may be easier said than. Sometimes life gets busy, especially in our line of work/study, sometimes a video game or hanging out with friends is just far more appealing. In this case, I recommend following the two-day rule.

What is the two day rule? I hear you ask.

The two-day rule is a productivity rule which states that if you have set yourself a goal to do something every day, you cannot skip it more than twice. This may be a helpful rule as it gives you some wiggle room for when life gets in the way and can be applied to any habit.

I also recommend setting a specific time of day to do your sketches. This could be first thing in the morning while drinking a cup of coffee, or during your lunch break at work or university, or maybe it could be something you do to relax before you go to bed.

2  Warm Up to Loosen Up

Just like athletes need to warm up before a run, you need to warm up before you draw!

When I first started the masterclass in observational drawing, I thought the idea of warming up before drawing was ridiculous and, I’m not going to lie to you, it certainly feels like it in the beginning. You may not feel like it makes much of a difference at all, but trust me, it really does.

So how do you warm up to draw? It is all about loosening up the muscles in your arm. This can be done by drawing squiggles, stars, parallel lines, shading, and many more that can be found online. The idea is to use your arm to draw rather than your wrist, to get you to feel more loose and free while you draw.

Ideally, this would be done on a large piece of paper of at least A3 or larger, and this doesn’t mean you need to buy an expensive large sketchbook or sheets of paper. Warming up could be done on an old newspaper, a spare or ripped sheet of layout, a roll of trace, a bunch of A4 sheets stuck together, an old unfolded cardboard box,  or maybe over that one drawing that smudged or printed wrong (I know I have had many of those over my undergraduate). It doesn’t matter what you draw on and it doesn’t need to be pretty.

3  Begin Small and Fast

The trick with training your observational skills is to give yourself a time restriction, 30 seconds per drawing maximum, at least to begin with. This may seem stressful at first but trust me when I tell you it will be for your own good.

The idea is to stop you from getting too invested in getting all the details down with perfect precision. To get good at quick observational sketches, you need to be able to get the idea of whatever you are drawing across quickly. If you are drawing a table, it just needs to look like a table, you don’t need to show every detail on the table leg and every slight change in shading.

Because of this time restriction, I suggest you also start with something small. Start with one or two objects, set a timer and try to get across what it is within 30 seconds. Draw the same object three or four times before moving onto the next one. The more you draw it, the faster you learn to observe, meaning you can begin to try to add shading within that same 30 seconds. Try different shading techniques to see what works for you and what you like!

Then, when you feel like you’re ready, try doing some sketches in 5 minutes or under. The idea behind this exercise is not to be able to draw a fully shaded cathedral in 30 seconds, but to learn to observe quickly and not get too caught up on getting it perfect.

4  Draw Your Point of View

After you get more comfortable doing individual objects, it is time to start drawing scenes. You can start by walking around your house/flat and drawing the different views. Once again, at each scene, start with a small amount of time, maybe 30 or 40 seconds with a maximum of one minute.

If you live with other people, don’t feel pressured to draw them accurately, if at all, if they are in your view; the scene is the most important part.

This also gives you the opportunity of drawing in different positions. Do you find that you are more free and loose if you draw standing or sitting down, at a table or on your lap, against the wall or lying on your stomach?

Once again, you can attempt shading once you feel confident enough and you also benefit from doing one view multiple times. You can learn how to quickly draw a door, a sofa, a table and chairs very easily drawing them multiple times at different angles.

You may also want to attempt drawing outside in the garden or the street. If the weather is less than ideal, try drawing the view out of your bedroom window or while sitting in a cafe. You may find that you draw better in certain atmospheres and spaces, and it may allow you to draw more crowded spaces.

5  Have Fun

Yes, yes I know. Yet another piece of cheesy advice you see on every blog post ever. But the reason you see it so often is because it is true. If you aren’t having fun with what you are doing, you are far less likely to keep doing it.

Now what makes this kind of thing fun varies from person to person. I am one of these people that has always done hand drawing for fun so it wasn’t that difficult for me to commit to doing this myself for a masterclass I joined in my second year. However, I have compiled a small list of little things you can try to make it a little more entertaining. These can also be used for any other task.

Reward yourself! Give yourself little rewards for every day that you do some observational sketches. This can be for every day you do 10 minutes of observational drawing, you can eat your favourite snack, or play your favourite video game, or hang out with friends.

Make a wager! Find a friend, housemate, or partner that you trust and give them something that you don’t want to lose or something that you want to gain. You can give your friend £20 and say that if you complete your daily drawing that month, you get the money back, if not they get to keep it. This can be done with objects as well as money, the idea is the incentive.

Make it a game! See if you can try and find a way to turn this new habit into a game! Make game cards, a points system, characters and more! Really just have fun with it. There are also a couple of apps out there that turn your habits into a game, the most notable being an app called Habitica, where you gain experience, level up, and complete quests, all just by checking off habits and checklists. You can do all this with your friends too! Leading me to my next point…

Bring a friend! A lot of things are a lot more fun when you are doing them with someone else. Meet up with a uni friend or colleague for lunch and see how many things you can sketch in 30 minutes! Or maybe turn it into a healthy competition! For days away from the studio, set up a group chat or discord server. Maybe even share your observational sketches with the members of the :scale discord server!

Finally, challenge yourself! Some people, such as myself, are motivated by challenges. I don’t mean challenge yourself to draw an entire cathedral in under a minute straight away with all the details down to the reflection in the window. I mean little manageable challenges along the way. You’ve drawn the outline of a coffee mug? Great! Now see if you can shade it as well in the same timescale.

To Sum It All Up…

Following these steps will help you get better at both observational sketching and conceptual sketching! This skill will slowly become second nature, allowing you to sketch spaces as if you were in them with all the bells, whistles, tables, and chairs, from your imagination, and create some Instagram worthy sketches of existing spaces! Observational sketches are also great to include in your portfolio because they show a variety of skills without the pressure of them being technically correct.

All in all, the message behind this post is to practice a little every day, take small steps with little challenges, make it fun, and reward yourself for the little victories. It really is as simple as that. I promise you, if you stick to this habit, you will see a real change within the first couple of weeks, so imagine what will happen in a couple of months or even years.

Written by Zara Gravett


Things I Wish I Knew About Practice

About six years ago I started working at an architecture practice as a Part 2 at a big London practice. Since then I have started and finished Part 3, worked on a variety of projects and typologies on a variety of scales- everything from bespoke joinery drawings at 1:2 to master planning; from threshold details and door schedules to running large chunks of mixed-use projects of a scale that paralyse me into inaction if I try to think about them all at once.

Eleanor working from home

I am still at that Part 2 job, now as a project architect with an odd (and totally independent) sideline in architectural journalism and writing. Things are going ok. Six years ago though I was a bundle of nerves with both too much, and not enough, confidence in my ability to do the job I had just been hired for. A few things I wish someone had told me:

Congratulations! You’ve finished a significantly challenging degree (be it Part 1 or Part 2). Breathe. What comes next looks different, both to what you have been doing, and most likely to what you are expecting.

Architecture is a career that builds slowly, you won’t be an overnight success. This is a good thing; this is not the sort of job you want people with no experience to be superb at. If it was that easy you wouldn’t be spending the better part of ten years training to do it.

You will be exhausted for the first month or so. Permit yourself to feel it. It’s a huge change- a new job, new tasks, possibly new software, maybe a new city or a new home. I spent the first few weeks going to bed early and napping at weekends. Two or three months in I had a social life and side interests again- give it time.

You are now (probably) the most junior member of a team. This is likely not what university has prepared you for. Studio culture usually encourages competition with your peers and discourages collaboration. Collaboration will be key to your success as an architect. Learn how to work with others well, take a genuine interest in your colleagues and don’t try to pretend you are above them or the tasks you are set.

Working in Practice

Being new means your boss needs to work out what you’re capable of; and being a junior in an architect’s office usually means drawing door schedules, ceiling plans or something in Photoshop. This isn’t a bad thing. Try to find something interesting in every task. Architecture isn’t just about, say, the composition of the facade – it’s about collating the input of tens of specialists to allow for the fabrication of what had been an abstract concept.

This sounds superbly ephemeral and glamorous, but in practice a lot of time this looks like coordinating drainage, allowing for concrete tolerances and checking building regulations. However, the decidedly non-glamorous bits are where you learn how a building goes together and are generally how you get good at this job. This doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to get bored, it does mean you have to do the boring thing well anyway.

You will be surrounded by people who have been doing this for years. If you’re in a physical office, sit with one earbud out and listen to what’s going on around you- you will learn a lot.

Ask questions. No one is expecting you to know exactly what to do. I ask ‘stupid’ questions (no such thing) all the time, I hope I never stop. If a Part 1 or 2 new to the office joined my team and didn’t ask questions I’d assume they were overconfident and not doing the right thing. If your team lead is busy or not very happy about being peppered with questions keep a list next to you and email/ talk through it once a day/ twice a week… whatever works for you and your team.


If your team lead is grouchy it’s probably not your fault, more likely they are worried about making their child’s school pick up in time, the outcomes of the planning meeting they just came out of or whether that client will pay their invoice this month.

Your career isn’t really on your boss’ mind. This sounds harsh but I doubt their career is at the forefront of your mind either. You have moved from an educational environment where you are paying an organisation to nurture your talent and improve your career prospects to a place where someone pays you to do something they need doing.

This doesn’t mean a good office won’t help train you and good team leaders won’t take an interest in your career or give you good advice, but you need to take responsibility for your progression now. Be proactive, speak up, look for places you can help or value, seek out opportunity.

Communicate with your team lead. They are busy and won’t have as much time for you as they would wish. Tell them if you’re struggling (this is not failure)- maybe you just need something explained differently or maybe they assumed knowledge you didn’t have. Also, tell them if you can do more- they will be thrilled.


Sometimes it will be necessary, but if you are working excessively late every day something is wrong because you are not completing the work you are being paid to do in the time you are being paid to do it in. Maybe you have too much work, maybe you are not managing your time well, maybe you think it looks impressive. Try and address it. Some practices have a big overtime culture, if that is the case and you are happy with it, fine, you are choosing to be there.

Personally, I would not choose to stay in a practice that required excessive overtime as I have too many other things I want to fill my evenings and weekends with and I don’t work well tired. I try to make sure no one has work they are expecting from me unfinished or emails unanswered though; I don’t want to be the reason someone else is working late.

It is crucial that you have a life, hobbies, interests and friends that are not architectural. Have a read of a previous :scale article discussing expectation and worth.


Some days will be battles and that is totally normal. If your job is a constant war though, address it. The majority of architecture practices are filled with lovely people doing their best; some are a little toxic. From here on in you are responsible for choosing whether where you are is where you want to be. Be brave, speak up and raise issues but if a practice isn’t willing to adjust their culture decide if it’s for you. Your jobs will shape you. Look at the people around you, if you don’t want to be like them consider moving.

Don’t allow yourself to become a victim to circumstance, there is always another choice you can make even if it doesn’t feel like it at that moment. Take a step back, get a good night’s sleep, speak to someone you trust at some distance from the situation. Don’t make big decisions when tired or angry.

I love architecture and the vast majority of days I love my job, it doesn’t mean I don’t have gripes. This is not a race, there is no such thing as perfect, and a lot of the time success looks like perseverance and hard work. You will make mistakes but it is not the mistakes that will define you, but how you respond to them. Good luck; enjoy rising to the challenge!

Written by Eleanor Jolliffe


Everything You Need to Know About Your Final Year

Starting your third and final year of BArch at university can seem really daunting. Especially if your experience at university in the past few years has been solely virtual. I felt that it was necessary to write a blog post on the jump between your 2nd and 3rd year because there are some significant changes and processes that require a bit of planning and preparation.

Since things are looking to get back to normal, let’s assume that you will be able to experience the full university experience. Regardless, I feel like it’s really important to use your summer to prepare for the year ahead – I mean, it’s the basis of our recently successful :scale studio which you can learn all about right here. Skills are life-long.

If I break down the general structure of third year, it will involve a dissertation, a design project and other smaller modules. In this blog post, I’m going to cover three aspects that I think you should be prepared for.


Dissertation Prep

Now, over the past two years, you’ve had experience in writing academic essays and understand architectural history and theory in a bit more detail. But a dissertation is different, it’s a bigger project that you have to think carefully about. Another thing to note is that it creeps up on you faster than you expect. Usually, by January, you’re finished with your dissertation but by then, you need to immediately jump back on to your design project and other assignments so there is little to no time to process the journey.

To prepare for your dissertation, you can start at different points. Maybe practising writing for architecture blogs or entering competitions can be a great basis to start from. After all, you can only really practice by doing the work. If you’re stuck about finding a topic that works for you (trust me, we all go through this) then perhaps you need to take a look at your previous design projects for some inspiration.

Think about whether there are any overlapping drivers for your projects and how this can relate to the wider world. For example, over the summer in between my 2nd and 3rd years, I had watched plenty of sci-fi and futurist movies which got me thinking more about the relationship between architecture and digital devices. It did take me quite a while to finally grasp a topic and be quite specific about it, but once I had done this it was a lot easier.

Giving yourself a direction is probably the best way to gain clarity. This can also come from a predetermined brief that your dissertation tutor might set you but getting those gears moving is a great exercise. I also love to read more about other dissertations and you can usually read summaries in exhibition books from most universities. Most often, there are a few overlapping themes and ideas but anything can spark a topic.

Finding Your Style

This was my personal goal for 3rd year. I had seen so many amazing representation methods but my fear was stopping me from experimenting and finally deciding on a style for myself. So in my 3d year, I told myself I’ll keep it simple and set a very specific goal. My choice of representation was vector illustrations and a couple of hybrid drawings. In my 1st year, I practically didn’t have any kind of style as my final images were simply sketches and collages.

In my 2nd year, I ran out of time and tried doing too much in too little time. This meant that whilst the outcome was acceptable, it was cringe-worthy in my eyes. Now I know using Pinterest is probably your first instinct – it was for me – but don’t let it dictate your approach. I think the best advice I can give is to be realistic with yourself. If you have no clue about rendering then don’t attempt a detailed and realistic render unless you’re ready to commit to the steep learning curve.

Utilise your strengths and have a plan. I started thumbnailing my final few images about 2 months before I even began working on them. I kept thinking about the aspects of my project that could project this kind of atmosphere and exactly what I wanted to convey through the illustrations. Another great tip that not many students consider is to only work on parts of your building that you need.

Of course, have it developed to a stage where you can create plans and elevations and so on, but for those detailed illustrations or renderings, I’d suggest you create a new file and only work on part of your 3D model or base sketch. I think finding your style naturally happens in 3rd year and the beauty of this is that it’s not set in stone forever.

A piece of advice I was given at one of my crits:

Try and push yourself, you’re almost there but you need to be braver.

Staying One Step Ahead


I know firsthand how stressful and sometimes overwhelming your 3rd year can be. You’re almost at that finish line after so many ups and downs. But amidst all the hustle and bustle, we don’t stop to think about that finish line and what it looks like for each of us. I remember attending a careers lecture where we had to put together our CV and list out 3 or 4 firms we’d like to work for. This really got me thinking about the kind of architecture I want to practice.

I know that applying for jobs, putting together your CV and portfolio is probably the last thing on your mind because you’re too occupied by your other deadlines and projects but trust me when I say the earlier you start the better. I don’t think it takes longer than an evening to design your CV. A portfolio can take longer, but you don’t need to do any of this in one go.

If you spend that one evening creating the simplest CV, looking at a few templates or YouTube videos to guide you, you’re already ahead of many of your peers. To get you started, browse through job listings and really break down the job descriptions. Doing this can give you a broader idea of the skills you currently have and those which you can work on in the next few months.

So in conclusion, we’ve learnt that it is quite important to prepare for the year ahead in a variety of ways. Reading, researching, or personal development will help you move towards a position that is prepared and ready to face the challenges ahead. The third and final year of your undergraduate degree will be tough but it will also be enjoyable and hopeful towards the journey ahead.

If you’re planning to continue down the road towards the qualification, see this as the first chapter, where even if you make mistakes or have small failures, it’s totally fine because it counts towards a bigger learning experience. I know that you want to be relaxing and probably spending time away from architecture but these habits and skills don’t have to be viewed as a chore. If you start seeing this as an investment into your future self, it’ll benefit you much more.


3 Powerful Digital Workspace Tips

Workspace Tips

In the past year, have you stopped to organise, reset and clarify your digital workspace? For many of us, our computers, laptops and Zoom home screens have become our primary workspaces but it can be incredibly powerful to make sure that these are working for you in a productive manner.

If you’re like me, you look for an efficient solution and workflow. This means thinking about saving time even by 1% because that compounds over time and helps you to do things quicker, feel more organised and avoid any distractions. Often, our desktops and folders can be cluttered with old files, half-done iterations and bizarrely named documents we don’t dare open.

Maintaining an organised digital workspace might seem like a non-essential, low-priority task but it can actually help you clarify your virtual environment. As an architecture student, this can help massively to keep your projects and modules on track. Implementing small habits can compound over time and lead to an efficient system in the future.

One habit I’ve implemented since investing in a new laptop is to find ways to adapt it to my workflow. This involves quarterly reviews and organisation hours so I can ensure that everything is running smoothly and things are in their proper places.

The 3 most impactful habits I can reccommend to people are the following:

Decluttering your software 🧺

Do you really need all 3 versions of Sketchup or the outdated version of Rhino you downloaded that one time but never ended up using?

Having gone through the process of re-downloading all my software onto a new laptop, it actually made me evaluate what I really need and what I use regularly. Decluttering your software is highly important for the well-being of your system and for focusing on building the skills within the software that really matters.

Another aesthetic idea I’ve implemented is to keep my desktop bare. No files and no software. Instead, I’m focusing on using the bottom toolbar or the Start menu to find and locate whichever program I need to use at that moment. This also prevents me from saving countless downloads and files onto the desktop – something we will get onto later on. I also like to change up the wallpapers and colours every once in a while just to give it a bit of a refresh and adjust to my mood.

Also, you may want to start being strict with which kinds of software you download if you’re worried about storage and allowing your computer to run at its best performance. If you try this out, be sure to tag us on Instagram or Twitter with your clean desktops!

Another organisation technique is to set aside some time every week or month, basically on a regular basis to do a very simple cleanup. This can involve the following:

  • Clear your cache and browser history
  • Delete everything from your downloads folder (and then recycling)
  • Make sure your frequent files are organised
  • Close those tabs 😉

Homepages 🏡

One thing I’ve found that really gets me in a state of work and free of distractions is to have my opening Chrome tabs be my digital hub. Notably, this consists of my Notion dashboard and Todoist Inbox. These aren’t just tabs I like seeing first and then forgetting about, they are my most-used pages as I am either working in Notion (taking notes, planning, scheduling) or ticking off tasks in Todoist.

If you can utilise this automatic feature to show you the scaffolding for your efficient workflow, you will be less inclined to immediately open up YouTube or Reddit. (That can come later.) Similarly, bookmarks work in a really interesting way. You might feel like it’s incredibly important to keep frequently visited pages on your bookmarks bar but you don’t need to. If you type in the first two letters of a frequent webpage, it will most likely be the first search suggestion, thus eliminating the need for the bookmark.

Instead, try and keep the bookmarks as pages that will help you in the long run. For example, a Resource Library that you can access easily and will be valuable for you is far better than bookmarking a website you used once and then never looked back on.

I’ve recently been saving and archiving web pages of interest to my Notion workspace so that I can actively take notes and utilise the information and content I am consuming. Having Notion on hand, open all the time just makes things that 1% quicker and efficient.

Another ‘fear’ we often have sometimes is to commit to bookmarking pages, in the fear of going overboard – which can happen but with a review system, you will be able to curate the list to your liking. I would recommend making a few folders and saving web pages you come across that might not be useful at this very moment but could be extremely valuable in the future.

File Management System 📂

A file management system is something I’d highly recommend for your digital workspace. The sooner you can create this, the faster and quicker you can get things done and find files easier. As a content creator, I’ve found that having this system makes things a lot easier than trying to find random JPEGs and Instagram posts in your downloads folder. For architecture students, this is probably a great keystone habit to start working on as it will probably be similar to how a central system works in practice.

To make things easier for you, I’ve created a flexible system with structured files within files within files. This is a tried and tested system that is very similar to a central system that many businesses and organisations use. All you have to do is download the Desktop Zero template and start organising your files as soon as possible.

In practice, files, drawings and correspondence absolutely need to be organised mostly so that the rest of the team can also access and work together by using a central system in their digital workspace. This keeps everyone on the same page and means that there is always a place for something.

Implementing these 3 tips can be game-changing because they are the first steps towards an organised environment and workspace. Let me know in the comments if you have tried any of these!


The Importance of Exploring Your Options

Before I start, I might as well tell you a bit about myself first. My name is Hajar, I am Lebanese. To pursue a bachelors in interior architecture, I travelled to Istanbul back in September 2016.

When I started senior year, I decided to pursue a master’s of architecture right after graduation. I started hunting down the tests I need to take, the list of universities that I could apply for, the programs available, and whether I should apply for a scholarship. All the planning went steady for a while until the pandemic hit.

man leaning on wall

Everything went down the drain from there, as it did for most people. My former options were no longer applicable leaving me with only two choices. Afterwards, I was blessed to continue my studies at my alma mater. Nevertheless, I still question whether or not I made the right choice of pursuing my studies in the first place instead of applying for a job.

Of course, I should be grateful. The fact that I am continuing my studies (even though it is online) in the midst of these crazy events is blissful in itself. Yet, the occasional ‘what-if’ questions come to my mind. What if I honed my software skills instead? Learning Revit or Rhino could be a boost to my CV. What if I focused on learning the Turkish language seriously? It is necessary to practice architecture, even if it’s in an international firm. Master’s is a two-year commitment that would be the next stage of my life. I needed to be sure that I wouldn’t regret it.

I just wanted to tell you snippets of my story in case you can relate. But the actual reason behind this op-ed is to say this: if you still are a senior or a junior student and speculating post-graduate as a choice, I would like you to consider the following, as a piece of friendly advice:

Consider your interests when you want to apply

The point of pursuing your studies further is about delving deeper into the core of the topics that hit a personal note. Your pursuit of a post-graduate in any subject of your choice puts it all into an academic perspective. Being subjective as you make this decision is vital. You need to think about the bigger picture and whether the subject you want to study, in this case, Architecture is something you’re ready to commit to again. You might also have to think about other elements like whether it fits into your future goals, whether you can afford it right now and what you want to get out of it.

To make this easier, recall why you were interested in architecture from the start. A neglected white house in Beirut was my incentive to study architecture. I imagined that if those post-war houses and buildings are transformed, then they will be delightful sights of heritage value. Back then, I didn’t know that I was thinking of adaptive reuse. Now, I am planning to have my thesis inspired by it. Even more, I am searching for master’s programs focused on adaptive reuse as a subsequent step. Once you know your drive it becomes easier to start planning for and around it.

Do your research well

Explore all kinds of master programs there are. You can never imagine the number of programs that are opening up across the globe. You have got programs stretching from sustainable methodologies to restoration and digital fabrication. The list is endless. Don’t forget to also relate it to your initial interest. Your selections can be filtered accordingly.

So, make sure that you do not leave any potential topic out of your sight. Also, be thorough. For instance, know the difference between a thesis-based or a non-thesis based program. Be knowledgeable about both and look out for the outcomes of each that suit you.

As a visual learner, I relied on youtube videos to learn about diverse architectural fields. I will list below helpful youtube channels with a brief on their content:

  1. DigitalFUTURES World

Initiated by the Tongji University of Shanghai, this innovative channel broadcasts weekly talks on the future overlap of architecture, design and technology. Every episode has a different theme ranging from the use of AI, digital fabrication and computational design. Experienced professionals are invited to share their works and knowledge.

2. TEDxTalks and TED

Who doesn’t know TED? Its talks never ceased to inspire me. Whether it’s a personal or professional talk, every video I watch has a lasting effect. For instance, Micheal Pawlyn’s take on biomimicry and Maysoon Zayid’s inspirational story have different subjects and methods of delivery. Yet, both build awareness and apprehension. Ted talks can be a great source for inspirational leads.

3. The official channels of architecture schools & institutes

Architectural Association, Harvard Graduate School of Design and MIT Architecture regularly post their conferences, lectures, talks and student projects on their respective channels. Their educational material can enlighten you on topics you never imagined are currently being discussed.

Of course, you are not limited to any type of resource. A work of fiction like a movie or a novel can also do the trick. But the difference here is that it starts as a starting point, you then have to research, inform and enrich yourself further.

Asking friends and family about possible postgraduate programs can be helpful. Your closest people will be generous with their advice. They might see in you a talent that you are unaware of. They will help direct you to a path unknown to you that may not necessarily relate to architecture. Still, it can be a noteworthy and essential insight.

Now, If you already are a postgraduate student,

I advise you to not succumb to self-doubt. To compare yourself to your classmates who had past work experience, seem more knowledgeable and trained than you are, can be wearying. Try to silence those inner voices. I do that to myself, and I have resolved to stop comparing myself to anyone.

I know it’s not easy, but you need to. You can never know what can happen after you finish your studies and the pandemic reaches a halt. You might land your dream job right after. So, do not dwell on your lackings. They are bound to change. Meanwhile, improve your software skills, learn a new language or enjoy a hobby.

The trick about planning is that you deal with things you know. Be prepared for the unexpected. If this global pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that. And it may turn out better than you initially thought it might.

Your choice is dependent on you. Once you know the type of path you want to lead in the architectural field, you can decide whether or not you want a post-graduate pursuit at all in the first place. So, there is always a choice to not go for it too. It is not compulsory to go for a postgraduate. More importantly, your success is not tied to it. It all revolves around what you choose to do. The path you want to lead.

So, let those feelings slide down. They are bound to pass. Do what suits you best and without being pressured into doing it because no one knows you better than yourself.

written by

Hajar al Assi


Toxic Patterns in Architecture School That Need to Stop

This week is a bit of a different one. This blog post is the outcome of a drop-in audio event held over on our Discord channel. Similar to the recently popular app, Clubhouse, we were able to engage with members of the archi-community and talk about something close to everyone’s hearts – the architectural education system and toxic patterns we see often.

The following article has been edited to include the viewpoints and discussions from the audio event and where possible, we have highlighted and included the names of each speaker. The initial topic of discussion was ‘What is toxic behaviour?’ and ‘What kinds of toxic behaviours have you experienced at architecture school?’.

The participants had various experiences and backgrounds such as a Part 1 Architectural Assistant, a BArch student who is also working, an Architectural Apprentice and a Master’s student. We aimed to understand some of the commonalities and personal experiences from our distinct backgrounds and have an honest chat about how we think education is headed.

Thank you to Aimie Cheetham, Grant Morris, Varun Hariprakash and Deanna Seymour for their insights and time as well as our listeners present in the background.

Where does the cycle of toxicity originate from?

man covering face with both hands while sitting on bench

In some universities, we see how all-nighters and working incredibly late is just a common attitude to the point where some students feel as though it is a badge of honour or something to be proud about. Now, if you generally work better later at night and can manage your work routine well then it’s fine but if this is something you are being pressured to do by tutors or peers, it can result in poor mental health going forward.

The constant nagging feeling of not having done enough is something all architecture students can relate to. This mindset and work ethic then gets translated into practice where some larger firms also implement overtime and ridiculous hours ‘because that’s the way the industry is’. But realistically and surely, good standards of work can come from being well-rested and actually enjoying the work you are doing?

This could either come from the way tutors, course leaders and practice directors have been educated therefore continuing the toxic circle of this type of culture that starts off the moment we step foot into university. Or, it may be an internal, self-confidence issue that is a result of silent imitation where we feel as if we are not doing as enough as the person next to us.

Universities also try to implement a model to copy the culture of other, well-known universities like the Bartlett who have built up a reputation for incredible work and projects with the caveat of a huge amount of stress and ‘hard work’. Obviously, each student’s experience at university differs so there is no way of knowing whether this is the case across all schools. But idolising negative traits will only result in poor relationships with students.

There are some changes coming to architectural education, notably being more apprenticeships that allow students to train and get a taste of practice as well as Collaborative Practice courses and placement years in some universities. Hopefully, this can help graduates who are entering an already difficult market and although larger firms may seem like an obvious choice or goal, it is most often these very practices that promote an unhealthy work culture and are the culprits behind unpaid internships.

What is our time worth?

Architecture students have multiple things on their plate at one time alone and time-management or organisation ends up taking a back seat because if we aren’t working on our design project, we’re researching for our thesis or building a model or taking photographs – it’s a race of who can fit in the most in a term. Toxic, right?

Not only do we have to worry about managing all these things but there are external factors that we worry about too, financially and personally. Thinking about student debt or having a part-time job can make the university experience rather poor. By the end of my masters, I’ll have stress about paying off my debt and it stays in the back of my mind at all times. [Varun] It’s a common trope that architecture students only ever hang out with other architecture students – mainly because that’s who we spend all our time with!

But this issue of time-management is only heightened once we get into practice. There is a certain disconnect between the kind of work we do at university vs the ones we end up working on. THe starting salaries alone aren’t reflective of the long hours we put in or that we put in the equivalent amount of effort as an architect. But that is a discussion in itself. Something that we hope will change this attitude is the Open Letter by Future Architects Front to campaign for the end of unpaid work and to create a better dialogue between the next generation of architects and the governing bodies.

On the other hand, firms that invest in younger people whether they are apprenticeships or studying their Part 3 do understand your general workload and are sympathetic with what you can realistically achieve in practice. It seems as though younger practices are more flexible and are changing the way they work, giving priority to things outside of work. Hopefully, COVID can help people realise that you can work from home. [Aimie]

Competitive behaviour amongst peers

A competitive trait that often goes unnoticed is when you hear your friends say ‘I haven’t done anything at all this week’ and then go on to present in-depth research, a new prototype model and significant progress in their portfolio. This is eerily toxic. Maybe we all do it at some point, but it’s absolutely ridiculous that students end up being so cagey about their work or the kinds of resources they’ve used. Of course, this could be a result of not sharing your work with peers given the current circumstances where we have little to no contact with anyone apart from our tutors. Or it could even be an accidental or unintentional act from someone who may think their work is simply not good enough.

Perhaps this is the result of the lack of group working in some universities which is baffling, to say the least, because working in practice is all about teamwork and problem-solving with your peers. No one architect is solely responsible for their project so why is it that this way of working is not introduced to us at an earlier stage?

Unfortunately, we are also faced with some difficult areas to navigate such as with tutors. Particularly those who feel as if our projects are theirs and we aren’t able to have the final say because if we go against their recommendation we’d probably not be as popular as those who go with everything they tell us to do.

There is a dichotomy between finding your own style but I think your tutors push you in a certain direction. Struggling between finding the balance between what I want to do and what the tutors want to see. At the end of the day, the tutors are the ones marking it. [Grant] In some cases, there may also be silent discrimination or favouritism for international students who aren’t always able to build the same rapport and understanding as local ones due to language barriers creating a rather toxic environment.

Obviously a little bit of competition is great for all of us but these are communal learning environments. It has got to the point where studios don’t share tips or resources with other studios as they are pitted against each other. I even know of one guy who didn’t even tell his girlfriend of a resource (something like digimaps) because he wanted to keep it to himself. I believe education should be free and accessible to all, especially in the built environment. Knowledge is the way forward! I’ve definitely seen things differently at different universities and from bachelors to masters though. [Deanna Louise Seymour]


Although we have recognised these issues, there are many people out there who may feel that these are trivial and non-existent. But if we can call out toxic behaviour as it happens, start to pave our own way to becoming architects who are able to work together and design for the future, it’s better than nothing.

We obviously need to be working towards being more open and sharing the difficult aspects of the industry, keeping our mental health as the number one priority to creating a healthy life/work balance. This cycle of toxicity may be difficult to break but it can start with something as simple as saying no to all-nighters.


5 Things I Didn’t Know When I Started Architecture

To be completely honest, there was a lot I didn’t know when I started architecture. I was pretty much going into it blind, having done little research and no real support throughout sixth form. I was the only person in my school to apply for architecture (and design in general really). I also knew very little about the big industry names or what the experience would be like.

But there are certain aspects of my undergraduate that I only learnt after graduating and these are the few tips I would give to first years or prospective students. There are also things I only realised much later on but the whole point of this is to learn from each other’s mistakes right?

Being able to tell a story is key

neon sign reads 'What is your story?'
5 Things I Didn't Know When I Started Architecture

You might be thinking, have I landed on the wrong blog? No. Storytelling isn’t just about writing fiction, it’s a pretty valuable skill across many different disciplines such as marketing, fashion and of course architecture. The projects you work on across all years need to have some kind of story and narrative to drive the project. If you’re not passionate or curious about what you’re designing, chances are that at some point your progress will plateau.

No one is going to teach you story-telling at architecture school but it might be worth doing so through your writing. If you can start by listing out the key aspects of your project, what it’s been inspired by, the kind of atmosphere and aesthetic you want to create, you can then translate these into your drawings.

During crits and tutorials, you’re usually aiming to tell a story through your design. The reason for this is to coherently explain what you’re trying to achieve and why it’s needed. Essentially, you’re also selling your design to your tutors and this prepares you for your professional career. When it comes to live projects, you’ll need to be able to sell your vision to a client or a planning council and instead of pointing out components of a drawing, you can really connect with them through the narrative. When I started architecture I had no idea that presentation skills were so important in this one of work.

You don’t need fancy or expensive tools

Last year we wrote a blog on Real Tools You Need for Architectural Drawings, which included some basic tools that I personally use. But in architecture, you can combine a myriad of skills and disciplines such as model-making or photography within your projects. All I want to emphasise here is that you don’t need to splurge on absolutely every single tool that seems attractive.

I’ve still got a brand new drawing board lying in my shed after only 5 or 6 uses that I bought when I started architecture. The truth is that I don’t really take hand-drawing seriously to the point of needing a drawing board. It was a poor investment choice but I learnt a lesson from it. As architecture students, we are already paying enormous amounts of tuition fees, printing costs and more and I’m sure you’re familiar with the general student budget. Keeping things to a minimum doesn’t have to compromise the quality of your work.

You could easily photograph models with your phone instead of a DSLR camera and then edit it to seem of a higher quality. Utilise the tools you already own and try and make them work. Most of the time, it might even work out for the better. Of course, if you are investing in a proper set of tools that you know you are going to use then go for it!

Your tutors can make and shape your experience

Straight off the bat, not everyone gets the same kind of tutors. Even in the same university, each studio and tutor will have their own way of working, teaching and level of support. I believe that the kinds of skills and techniques I was exposed to via my tutors are what has shaped me to be the kind of designer I am. Unless you know their way of working, you can’t exactly pick and choose but I think the kind of brief you go for should be equally important as the tutors.

One advice I would try and give is to try not and get overly influenced by them either. Your tutors are there to encourage and guide you, not to take over your project (I’ve seen this happen). Navigating around this can be especially tricky the developed your project is so try and set some kind of direction early on. If that means slightly deviating from what your tutors have suggested, that’s all good as long as you can back up your reasoning and ideas.

Architecture is hard

Surprise! Not. Architecture has previously been compared to the likes of studying medicine in terms of how long it takes to get qualified, the starting salaries, the amount of hard work and long hours – the list could go on. But I think we decide to choose this profession because of its creativity and the ability to literally shape the spaces around us. Architecture is only as good as its designer. If you feel as if you may not be cut out for it, that’s completely fine. I don’t think you should bound yourself to a certain career if your heart’s not 100% into it.

On the other hand, architecture is one of those courses that can leapfrog you into various careers and opportunities.

The course and industry have many negative notions and traits that are embedded in architectural education. But I think we can still make a positive impact by being smarter with the way we work. If that means rejecting all-nighters and actually getting decent sleep once in a while then why not? There’s no rule that all good work has to come from a mountain of stress. Depending on whether you are a glass half full or glass half empty person, there are many rewards that can come with architecture; the creativity, freedom and intricacy of designing spaces.

The difficult aspects of the course include the constant iterative process which probably leads to feeling like it’s never really over. The best practices to tackle the workload and pressure would be to manage your time carefully and try to stay on track with what you’re doing. But I won’t sugarcoat it, each person’s journey in architecture is different than when I started architecture, and often difficult. But it can be such a freeing and amazing path that could also lead to many different routes in the future.

Organisation is your best friend

I wish I honestly knew about Notion long before I started architecture. I really feel as if being organised is the key to better time management, less stress and chaos. Even if it’s something simple as a to-do list or a project tracker, it can be incredibly beneficial in all aspects. Digital tools don’t cost much and are pretty accessible, they can be a great hub for keeping resources in one place or sharing information with your peers. I’ve even made a series of templates on Notion to help other students manage their projects, track job applications and set up their own digital hubs.

Having systems in place will simply make tasks a lot quicker to get through and put in place a routine or tried and tested workflow. In fact, this is the sole reason I’ve created my Building a Second Brain course over on the Architecture Social. It’s the beginner’s guide to building your own digital system that will push you towards the circle of productivity. It doesn’t solely focus on the tools but more on the system and concepts behind some of the most well-known systems for workflows and time management.

I hope that gave you some insight into some of the general stereotypes that come with studying architecture. Whether you’re only beginning your journey in the industry or moving on to the next chapter in your career, let me know in the comments what’s one thing you’ve learnt so far that you would share with your past self?


How to Smash Your Crit

Excerpt taken from the 1 Hour Crit Workbook

‘When you are at architecture school, every semester or a couple of months you get to take the stage and put on your big performance. A crit or critique – is the chance for your tutors and peers to sit around a wall of your work and judge it. A crit is a traditional, cultural part of the university culture where students are asked to present a selection of their current work to their tutors and other guests in a limited time usually lasting from 5-10 minutes. It ends up being a lot more about the build-up of pressure and anxiety as well as a game of luck and judgment for every architecture student.

In its simplest form, a crit is your sales pitch and your goal is to convince the panel that your design is incredible. But as Ellie Howard puts it, “the big reveal is highly pressured and becomes a priority, distracting efforts away from project development and concentrating them on presentation.”

The days (and sometimes hours) leading up to a crit can be absolutely manic for architecture students whose countdown begins the moment they hear of an upcoming crit. Having observed many of my peer’s struggle with trying to get their whole project done in 24 hours and lining up for the printer minutes before their turn, I quickly realised that most students didn’t really have a set plan or workflow when it came to putting together the material for their crit.’

After 3 years of studying architecture, I have come to the conclusion that there really are two key pillars you need in order to have a successful crit. Number 1, planning – lots of it. I don’t really believe in doing things on the fly and without preparation because for me at least, it doesn’t work out the way I would like it to. I cover planning your crit in the 1 Hour Crit Workbook as well as in my webinar, 1 Hour Crit Plan (linked below 😉)

Number 2 is confidence. I’ve only really come out of my shell in the past couple of years and I think it isn’t a surprise that many people who go into this profession are natural introverts. It makes it super ironic that we have to present on a very regular basis. But having confidence in yourself and in your work is really important because it shows through during your crit.

There is however a limit, you don’t want to get overconfident and come across as cocky because the point of the crit is to discuss the idea and design and work together to come up with possible solutions. It’s the best time to look at your work through another lens so as much as it’s important to be confident about your work, you need to be able to know where to draw the line.

Crits are difficult for many and we’ve all felt that awful feeling in our guts before a crit. But there really is nothing to be scared about. If you do need some kind of motivation to get through the nervousness, think about treating yourself afterwards or just keep in mind the sense of relief and satisfaction to get you through it.

What should I include in my crit?

The content of your crit often depends on which stage you are at in the academic year. Usually, the first crit of the year comes at a point where you’re probably still exploring the programme and site and just starting to think about massing and form. So the quantity of work isn’t an issue but if you do want to set healthy habits that work for your future self, it’s really important that you complete your work as best you can.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say you’ve started a sun path diagram around your site but got sidetracked with other classes and modules, or you just plain forgot to finish it. The typical thing most students end up doing (because of trying to catch up week after week) is that they leave it unfinished and move on to the next thing.

This is where you need to re-evaluate what kind of quality you want your work to be at. If you take out an hour or so to complete that page or diagram or section of your essay, it sets you up for the future. As the pages in your portfolio pile up week after week, you should ideally end up with mostly finished content that may just need tweaking or finishing touches by the time you start to prepare for your crit.

This is such an important thing that many students don’t realise they should be doing. Unfinished work will just lead to it piling up and since you may not be tracking the status of each page or each aspect, it can be even more strenuous when you try and pull everything together for your crit. At this point, it can be a good idea to keep some kind of archive, list or digital hub of your portfolio. This will help you to keep an eye on the completion level, make sure that you don’t forget or miss anything and builds a system.


The narrative of your crit should be a compact version of the narrative of your project. This can be framed as drivers, a solution to a problem or the kind of story you want to be showing through your design. Whichever it is, keeping a simple narrative in mind will help you to logically frame the flow of your presentation as well.

Let’s say you’re having a crit in the middle of the year and you’ve got some initial drafts of plans and sections but there are aspects where you’re falling behind in such as the materiality or the circulation isn’t quite as it should be because your project is about the experience through space. Here, you would start by framing the narrative in just a couple of sentences and explaining why you want the visitor or resident to experience a feeling in the space you’re designing. In this case, you don’t need to show your 1:10 details or your early site diagrams (unless they ask for it) because you want to direct your tutors towards where the project is currently at.

Another thing I’ve seen that students often do is that they try to explain the project from the very beginning by simply explaining ‘what they did.’ 😕

‘At the start of the year, I did a 1:100 site model. Then, I did diagrams to show the opportunities and constraints around the site. After that, I did some research into the surroundings and demographic’.

The issue here is that all you’re really telling your tutors and guest critics is what kind of work or diagrams or drawings you did. But they’re not interested in that. Instead, if you explain the reasoning behind those pages, it benefits them much more because they can start to see a glimpse into your viewpoint of the project. It also helps to cut out the extra time taken if they ask you the exact questions you haven’t already told them about. Remember, you only have a limited amount of time to present so you don’t want to be focusing on things you’ve done months ago and is already set in stone.

How to pare back what you present

There’s a common saying when it comes to styling clothing.

Before you leave the house, take one thing off.

I find myself guilty of this exact action regularly. I try and put it a bit too much effort and it ends up becoming a mish-mash of things that isn’t great at all. Minimalism is great for a reason. The same idea can be applied when you feel as if you have too many pages and you need to cut it down so that you can stick to the matter at hand. First of all, think about whether the pages relate to the ones before and after it. This is something that is really important when it comes to putting together your portfolio. For a crit, you don’t necessarily need every single page if you can articulate it in a clear way.

If you’ve got 3 different iterations of drawings, each with slight changes and amendments, you really don’t need to show all three. As long as you are able to back up the changes in your design and explain the drawing itself, it saves a lot more time.

Another way to cut down on pages – or slides if you’re presenting online – is to limit yourself to a certain number. I would so, however, keep a couple of pages you’re unsure about on hand anyway in case you need to elaborate on a certain part. You could also pin up your pages in your room or in the studio and try to think about what you could say. Thinking about the narrative, you might find that you don’t even need to talk about a certain page. It takes a bit of trial and error but is really worth it in the end.

Planning your Crit

Preparation is key. Not just so that you know what you’re doing but also because it can help you balance your time between planning your crit and other areas of your life. I don’t think anyone wants to be working on their portfolio and what they are going to say until 2am every night for a week. Having a schedule or a plan set in place will allow you to focus on other things too and not make it into a stressful exercise.

Incremental work can help you to manage your time and get things accomplished without stressing last-minute. If you set yourself 1-2 hour blocks of time of your own choosing each day and only work on the thing you’ve said you will, then chances are that over the course of a week, you will have completed tasks in a logical way. But to set this up, you need to be able to plan accordingly and in order to do that, you need to know what it is you should be working on.

To help you do this, I’ve created the 1 Hour Crit Planning Workbook. It explains some of the concepts we’ve discussed in this blog post but more importantly, it has key actionable steps and exercises that will help you to get through this workflow in a timely manner.

The workbook is essentially is a one-time investment because once you try implementing the concepts and ideas, you will understand how you work best and then can adjust the steps accordingly. Planning is such a crucial part of any kind of project and you have it completely laid out in this workbook. The next time you have a crit, you’ll be able to go through those same steps and build out your narrative, pages and script with ease.

1 Hour Crit Workbook


Having a passion for your project and the kind of space you’re designing is important, period. Regardless of crits or submissions, it’s so vital that you’re interested in the way your project is shaping up. If you don’t have that spark or interest, you’ll undoubtedly find yourself procrastinating or stuck and at a dead-end by the end of the year. Similarly, although the general idea of your design is influenced by the initial brief, don’t let it be your tutors’ project. They are there to guide you and help you through the process but if you find yourself questioning whether the suggestions are the route you want to take, it may be a good idea to communicate this with them.

Building confidence in your project will show through when you are explaining it to someone who hasn’t ever seen it. It shows that you care and that you’re open to suggestions because you can clearly evaluate how the design is going.

Having confidence in yourself is just as important. As a first or second year, you might feel a sense of being out of your depth which is fine because there is no way you can learn about every single thing to do with design. It’s completely fine to make mistakes and ask things you might think are silly – because they’re really not and chances are that someone else also wanted to ask the same thing but was too afraid. The way you present yourself is a big part of giving any kind of presentation – something that we don’t really get taught as architecture students.

Keep in mind that although there are general time guidelines, rushing through your presentation won’t help you or the listener. Take your time and take pauses every now and then, it’s totally fine! Having notes to fall back on is also good but don’t turn into a robot and read directly from them as this immediately puts people off. Making sure that you’re articulating what you’re saying as clearly and simply is something you can practice with a family member or friend who has no idea about anything to do with architecture.

Last Thoughts

Unfortunately, there is an ugly side to crits which I’m sure many of you have witnessed. Sometimes, tutors can be quite harsh but you don’t need to take it personally. The fact of the matter is that you don’t really know the context of someone else’s day or what they are thinking and feeling so it’s just better to give them the benefit of the doubt. As long are you are acting in a professional and respectful way, you’ve done nothing wrong.

Something that is important to re-iterate is that your tutor’s word is not the be all end all. Dealing with design tutors can be difficult at times but it’s something that you will need to figure out as you observe their way of working and thought process. If, after doing all these things, you end up with a ‘bad crit’ then it’s okay. We’ve all had at least one of those and it’s honestly not the end of the world! How you conduct yourself and take the negatives and transform them into positives is what you should focus on.

To summarise:

  • Planning ahead can give you the proper tools to execute a successful crit
  • Believe in your work!
  • Have confidence in yourself when presenting

I hope that gives you some things to think about the next time you’re faced with an upcoming crit. I know they may not be the easiest thing but if you implement these habits and systems, you can also apply them to other aspects of your time in architecture school. If you are feeling isolated then why not join our Discord server, a community where you can get help on projects from your peers!


3 Ways to Learn New Skills Effectively

Learning new skills is the best thing you can do as a student or graduate. Skill-building isn’t just about taking a new course or trying something well outside of your comfort zone. Learning new skills can be as tough as breaking bad habits, but there are certain steps you can take in order to make it easier on yourself.

Architecture students already have a number of skills as we have various interests such as photography, art, interior design or even film and media. Studying architecture can be a bit like a mish-mash of these skills along with, of course, designing spaces. But the way we learn about designing spaces is through an iterative process as well as studying architectural styles or construction methods.

Over time, skills can also lead to alternative career paths if you end up being really good and can actually open up a lot of prospects when job-searching. For example, if you’re applying for a graduate role and you have the degree and other certifications, something that helps you stand out can be your extra skills. Since creating this blog, I’ve had to learn new skills like social media managing and content creation as well as blog / copywriting. These skills made me a more valuable candidate for my employer because I was able to do that extra something.

Of course, the way we learn new skills is an individual process. Some people pick things up easily and others take their time with it. The best thing about learning a new skill is that you don’t have to be perfect at a skill and attaining a similar level to perfection can take a whole lifetime. Instead of aiming for perfection, we need to question ourselves and ask what is the way we learn best?

Thinking back to exams and tests, learning is usually done in increments with some kind of curriculum or notes. But a skill can be anything from playing an instrument to doing your monthly accounting. Often, a hobby can also turn into a skill – but more on that later.

Habits → Skills

The first way of learning a new skill is to make it a habit.

Habits are a repeated action that you do in a certain time frame.

These can also develop into skills if that is your goal. For example, sketching 1 a day in the mid-afternoon can be a habit that you set for yourself. Obviously, there is no real trick or secret to how long it takes to develop this habit and transform it into a skill.

One thing that can help is to ‘make it easy’. A concept derived from the book Atomic Habits by James Clear. Making it easy means simplifying the habit so that you just can’t say no. Instead of ‘draw a sketch of an architectural building and add fine detailing, shadows and some colour’ just re-phrase or break it down to ‘draw a sketch for 15 minutes’. This gives you a clear time goal without any restrictions within the skill.

Once you turn your habits into skills, you can then use this to your advantage and showcase them in your portfolio. Hand-drawing is a valuable skill in architecture and the fact that you have practiced it over time also means that you can show some of your work in your portfolio.

Over time, doing this daily or weekly, chances are you’ll get better at it – after all, practice makes perfect. Often you don’t even realise what kinds of habits you have till you try to make some new ones. One thing that helps when creating new habits is to latch them on to your existing ones. If you have a routine, it could be useful to fit new habits into your routine such as after lunch or before you do your workout routine.

Skills and habits can also turn into systems & workflows. Systems are a set of habits put together and over time. Systems are so important in the way we work and the kinds of things we spend our time on. This systems mindset is something that helps you in the long-term with time management and skill-building.

Time Management

person holding white mini bell alarmclock
from Unsplash by Lukas Blazek

Learning a new skill doesn’t need to be time-pressured because skills don’t have a clear limit. However, giving yourself a time-based goal can be a good thing to start off with. An important part of learning new things is to manage your time well. You can start off with something small like using a Pomodoro timer or scheduling time in your calendar.

It can be difficult to manage your time when you have many other things going on at once but in your spare time, learning a new skill can be a fun and exciting thing to do. The way you manage your time should be to plan time for new skills around everything else. Starting small like just trying something new for 5 minutes is a great way to go.

How is this helpful when learning a new skill? By taking control of your time you can dedicate blocks of time in your week that you dedicate to a new skill. Learning a language or architectural illustration – whatever the skill is, that’s up to you. But you just need to make some time for it. Architecture students might be scowling right now – you barely have enough time to submit your design projects on time and I’m telling you that you need a new skill?

But, if you think about it in a smart way, the skills you’re already laving to learn can also be the thing you do in a bit more depth. For example, I wanted to get really good at simple clay renders in Vray both from 3DS Max and Sketchup. I wasn’t looking to create realistic renders or get too caught up with lighting and shadows – I just wanted to know how to do clay renders as efficiently as possible.

So outside of my normal studio time, I would practice rendering. I wouldn’t touch or change the design but simply watch some tutorials and go through some trial and error till I got to a point where I felt I’ve become decent at this skill. Now, I can create clay renders with ease because I know the ins and outs and the kinds of setting you need. It’s a small skill but can help with my future workflow. Sometimes we get a bit caught up in what’s on our plate that we push aside any ‘new’ skills because they don’t take that kind of priority.

That’s fine too, but if you’re choosing your skills carefully, you should lean towards skills that are related to the kind of job you want to be doing or your industry. Architectural illustration is something I enjoy and want to do but I find that since it’s not a priority for me right now, I tend to push it aside even if I schedule it into my calendar. Instead, I’m going to set myself a challenge to complete 3 mini-projects over the next 6 months – sounds simple right?


Like I mentioned before, practice makes perfect (but not always). You’re not striving for perfection here but instead, you want to get to a place where you’re comfortable with the skill. After 18 months of blog writing, I see it as a skill because I can plan and write really efficiently, having a habit of weekly writing, creating my own system and workflow around the process to ensure it is streamlined, but I still don’t feel as if it is a ‘perfect’ skill. I have a lot more to learn about storytelling or copywriting.

As long as you keep practicising the skill, it should benefit you in all aspects. Just the fact that I had social media and content creating skills set me apart from other candidates. The same can be said if you’re an avid model maker or if you have experience with clients because you’ve freelanced previously. But these skills cannot be learnt without practice.

It’s often said that you should have a hobby that you do to help you relax or one that is just fun with no outcome or goal. Oftentimes, this ends up being something you didn’t even know could be useful later on in life. My experience creating posters and flyers for the family business meant I knew the basics of design which in turn helped me with creating social media posts. Who would’ve thought?!

No matter how much you practice, if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, chances are you will just drop it and it will be the kind of skill you tried once and never picked up again – which in my opinion, if not practiced to a certain level – can just be a waste of time. So, let’s say you’ve got the mindset down, you’re pumped to make a new habit and you have also been able to manage your time well, how can you actually start with your new skill?

  • Make sure you have any tools or equipment you need beforehand; I find that making an investment in things like a drawing tablet or some exercise equipment makes me do the thing otherwise it’s a waste of money!
  • Ask your friends what kinds of things they are doing. Maybe you’ll find something that you want to try and that way you can have someone else for accountability or support.
  • Take it easy. Don’t pressurise yourself into learning this new skill. A different approach or environment could also be good to try out if you’re stuck in the same place all the time.

When is the best time to learn a new skill?

Honestly, never. You can learn a new skill at all stages of life, it really depends on what it is you want to do and whether you’re in the kind of situation where it’s feasible to do so. Working a 9-5 and managing this blog, I don’t really have time for anything new but I am building on my current skills. I’m self-teaching myself how to edit audio and video clips as well as designing a website that is more interactive and useful for you guys.

I recently came across a Reddit post that directed me to the video below. It was nothing eye-opening but many of the parts really clicked in my head. We architects are so attuned to taking care of every fine detail (because we have to) and I’m the kind of person that feels like if I’m not learning a new skill or doing something productive, I’m just wasting time.

But that shouldn’t really be the case. This ‘toxic productivity echo chamber’ may be something we’ve built for ourselves but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how many skills you’ve learnt if you’re burnt out all the time. If you are thinking of learning a new skill, don’t do it to keep up with others around you, do it for the enjoyment of learning! You can be just as productive with the correct time management and giving time to self-care whilst doing incremental work on your skills and habits.

I recently went on the Pride Road Architect podcast where I spoke about skill building and things graduates can be doing when applying for jobs. Check out the episode here:

Let me know in the comments below what kind of skill you’re learning or would like to learn. Don’t leave it for next month, next year, try and do just a little bit and see how it goes!


How to Create Iterative Massing Diagrams in Sketchup

Massing diagrams don’t need to be complicated or take a long time to put together. In this week’s post, guest author Ellie takes us through her workflow from thinking about the programme all the way down to finishing touches and exporting your diagrams. This is especially helpful if you want to showcase an iterative process in yoru design work and make it clear, simple and effective.

Establishing your Programme

Before you get started make sure you have established the programmes you wish to feature within your building, and begin to make connections between different programmes and understand which require more space and which need much less.

There are several ways to visually document your programme that will also help you understand the spatial qualities these programmes will require. Three different examples of these programme diagrams are:

  • Bubble Diagrams
  • Hierarchy diagrams
  • Spider Diagrams.

The Bubble diagram consists of drawing different sized bubbles for each programme depending on the amount of space required or importance, they are grouped and laid out like an abstract plan of the building and help you to understand which programmes may sit next to each other and which can be apart. The hierarchy diagram used in this tutorial is useful for grouping programmes into larger zones and then breaking down the smaller spaces required for each. The size of the ‘stack’ again depends on the amount of space it needs. The Spider diagram is very similar to a mindmap except for the linking lines between the programmes show which spaces need to be connected and can be physically linked in the building.

Using CAD Modelling Software as a Tool for Thinking

Once you have established your programme you can begin to think about massing and the form of your building and begin modelling your ideas in CAD software. The software we will use for this tutorial is Sketchup as it is geometry-based and lends well for modelling simple forms easily and quickly. The key to using CAD software for massing models is not being too precious about your models and using a few tools to extrude and distort forms and not being caught up in walls or floors. Working from home for the past year has proven that CAD modelling CAN be used as a thinking tool in the way that wood and foam models were used before and is equally useful and easy.

Learning the Basic Tools 

To get started creating massing models in Sketch up you need to learn a few main basic tools: The line tools, Shape tools, Push Pull tool and Scale tool. If you are not yet familiar with using SketchUp it may be useful to watch a tutorial such as this one from The Sketchup Essentials to get to grips with the software before you begin.

The way you model will depend on which is most important to you: specific form, or programme. In this tutorial, we will be following a specific form concept and then building the programme into it, but if you wish to build your form around the programmatic elements and the spaces they need then you may wish to start with the next step and work backwards. Massing models don’t have to fit a certain mould after all!

In our case, we will begin by drawing a basic shape using the shape and line tools, and then the push-pull tool to begin pulling the shape into three dimensions. You can then continue to divide and extrude the shape to form different masses.

Dividing the Form into Programme Zones

Once you have established some forms you like you can begin to play around and divide them into floors and programmatic zones. The way I did this is by selecting the top plane of the form [by double clicking] and using Ctrl + the move tool to drag a copy to the side.

Then using the line tools I divided the form into different areas and extruded them to fill single or double-storey heights. Before extruding each area I grouped them to prevent them from merging with other geometry so that they can be isolated and copied into other iterations. To do this simply double click the plane and right-click → Group.

Once in a group, you can edit these shapes by double-clicking into the group and pressing Esc to exit it after editing. I also pulled up the cores of my building along the blue axis to emphasise their location.

Exporting your Final Massing Models

Once you are happy with your massing models and their zoned copy you can begin to export the forms to turn into a comprehensive set of iterative diagrams. To do so, set up a scene on the Scenes tab. Check out this tutorial on setting up Scenes in Sketchup.

To set up the right isometric view make sure to select the Parallel Projection Camera from the Camera tab, and then highlight the model and click Iso on the camera angles tab.

You may want to draw a small line as a marker so that you can move each new iteration to the same point to ensure each screengrab is consistent. To get three different views for form, zones and circulations you need to export three different images. Firstly capture an isometric view of the entire form before dividing up, do so on the Hidden Line Style with Model Axes and Guides unchecked.

Then go to File > Export > 2D Graphic. When exporting your images choose PDF and be careful to name the images as it can be easy to mix up very similar iterations, it can be useful to also create a separate folder for the images to make them easier to locate.

Repeat these Exports with the zoned model in the Hidden Line style and also in the Wireframe style, all as PDFs, not JPEG.

Doing Post Production in Adobe IIllustrator 

Now it is time to produce a diagram from the models you have made. It is worth mentioning first if you are unfamiliar with Adobe Illustrator it may be worth watching a tutorial series to getting started. Check out our 10 Essential Tools in Adobe Illustrator for some helpful tips.

First open your PDF Straight into Adobe using File > Open and selecting the chosen image. You can open all three styles of the mass and work on them in parallel. Firstly with the zoned form, select all the lines and go to Object > Live Paint > Make to begin adding colour. Live Paint is one of the best tools in Illustrator!

Now you can use the Live Paint tool to begin adding colour to each zone of the building. Once you have added colour you can select all the lines and change them to white should you want them to blend into the page colour. 

Now lock this layer and start a new one and use the Pen tool to draw a shadow extending from the cores to their origins and lower the opacity.

For the entire form models, repeat these steps adding one single chosen colour or create shadows using shades to show the entire form and again change the lines to white. 

For the Wireframe images:

  1. Thicken and change the colour of the lines that go around the perimeter of each zone to indicate where they are but allow view through the entire form.
  2. Then using the Pen tool draw a path into and around these zones depicting circulation in and through the space. In the diagram below I used four different lines to correspond with the four main zones.
  3. Then using the Polygon tool placing small triangles to indicate the direction of the route.

 Bringing the Image Together

Once you have edited each iteration and each of its layers you can begin to assemble a final set of diagrams.

  1. First open a New Illustrator Document in the page size you wish, I recommend A2 or A3, then Select and Group each iteration layer and Copy onto the new document.
  2. Using the rulers drag out some Grid lines for the rows and columns and align each layer on a specific point.
  3. Now using the Pen tool you can add lines to connect a path from each iteration and each type of diagram, using the Scissors tool to trim around the models. Repat for the other iterations and add text.
  4. Finally export your image as a JPEG making sure to Select Artboards and you are finished! Here is the final result below.


What is the Architecture Apprenticeship?

👋 Hi, my name is Sundeep Bhudia and I’m an Architectural Assistant Apprentice at Jacobs. The Architecture Apprenticeship is something I wanted to share with more people!

I remember being in the uncertain position that thousands of students find themselves in every year – trying to decide their career path with various opportunities but often lacking a clear direction. At school, I was always passionate about Graphic Design. This developed into an enthusiasm for Architecture, becoming increasingly intrigued with the forms, purposes, and influences of buildings on the environment and on our lives.

Throughout my later years at school and Sixth Form I applied for work experience at various Architecture practices to try and obtain a feel for the industry I wanted to progress into. I secured a placement at Scott Brownrigg, where I interacted with several architects to gain an insight into architecture beyond the drawing board. I also spent a few weeks at LTS Architects where I was able to work on multiple projects with a team of architects.

After progressing into Sixth Form, I found the University education route was being heavily promoted. As a result of this, together with the fact that to become an accredited Architect required a full-time 7-year University education (with 2 years’ work placement included), I felt pressured to apply.

Deep down, I did not want to progress to University, although I realised to reach my full potential this was the only way. My biggest concern was financial – whether it was worth investing large amounts of time and money into full-time education with no guarantee of a job at the end. I was also worried about fitting in and enjoying the University environment. I have always been someone who thrives off the more hands-on environment rather than academic.

After Securing a place to study Architecture at The University of Manchester, I still felt that this was not the route I wanted to take. Even after my A level Results Day I had held off the offer from the University of Manchester.

After some persistent searching for an apprenticeship, I managed to find a needle in the haystack – a job role advertised by Jacobs for an Architectural Assistant Apprentice, an extremely rare find at the time, the apprenticeship was new and only one university offering the degree. After going through the application process, I was informed I was successful and would be taken on as an apprentice.

What is an architecture apprenticeship?

A Level 6 Apprenticeship within the Architecture community is incredibly new, with only a handful of people in the UK on such a unique course. This University backed Architecture Degree Level Apprenticeship, was the perfect solution for me, taking me all the way from undergraduate to the completion of Part I (accreditation). There are also Level 7 Apprenticeships on offer which include Part II and Part III. Essentially, I work full-time (4 days a week) with Jacobs in their London Office, with a day release every week to attend London Southbank University.

My experience as an Apprentice

Starting my apprenticeship with Jacobs was like starting artwork on a fresh canvas. I did not have extensive knowledge or skills in the built environment sector, but plenty of enthusiasm and an eagerness to learn. With any job, if you do not have the enthusiasm and willingness to learn and build yourself then are you making the right choice?

In contrast to other students, I can earn during my education whilst also gaining invaluable experience in a practice setting. This is by no means easy; the combination of work and University pushes my time management to the limits, and it is incredibly demanding but equally very rewarding. Working 8 hours a day and then having to put in hours towards the university aspect to prepare for crits and submission requires lots of time management.

I am not only gaining practical experience while being nurtured by the professionals at Jacobs but being educated on a course with the required accreditation. I believe this combination is a brilliant platform for me to grow within my current role and progress in the future. Being able to learn from tutors who have a wealth of practical experience has been very beneficial as they themselves understand the ever-changing industry and the world around them. Having the opportunity to get feedback on university design work from colleagues has also been very helpful. Moreover, there is lots of cross over in terms of the technical skills learnt in practice and design briefs given in university.

Jacobs have been great in supporting my development. I have been exposed to many scenarios on a wide range of projects, being pushed and challenged to improve my new and existing skills in and out of the office. Most of the projects I work on are within the infrastructure sector such as railway station/ depots designs as well as a mix of schools and aviation. This is where I learn a great deal about the technical side of architecture.

The team have all been incredibly kind, patient, and attentive. I think it is important that all employers respect, value and help develop young people; at Jacobs this is one of the core principles. At no point have I been restricted; I regularly participate in design and development and am always allowed to express myself.

Jacobs have given me this incredible platform from which I can grow, personally and professionally whilst continuing to help progress the business. Long term, my goal is to become a fully accredited Architect.

Architecture is an incredibly rewarding profession, witnessing your design ideas being built, and how they transform the lives of those who interact with them. Problem-solving is the heart of Architecture, with every project having its own set of challenges, with us as aspiring architects trying to unlock the full potential of the clients brief while considering the potential environmental and technological impacts.

What advice would I give?

Work experience is a must in any industry, employers look for candidates who are keen on learning and willing to get some experience. This does not have to be at a big firm, in fact, many smaller architectural firms offer more work experience and are less competitive.

Do not be afraid to apply and do not be disheartened when rejected (Do not give up after being rejected by one company). When I was on the hunt for an apprenticeship, I had to apply to a few companies. Keep an eye out by regularly checking for any job openings they might have.

Most importantly, keep your CV and Portfolio up to date. There is never a point in your career where you stop updating your portfolio and CV, be proud of what you have produced, it’s your work. You must remember you are not the only one applying for this role, think about what you can offer to the company and what makes you stand out from the crowd.

Networking in a world we live in now due to Covid 19 is key. The benefits of using online platforms such as LinkedIn help put your name out there if used correctly.

I hope this has helped anyone who is still unsure or lost in the pursuit of their ideal career path. I’d say that being able to earn and learn at the same time is a massive plus. I would urge everyone to do what you enjoy, there are many opportunities out there but do not let anyone try and make the decision for you.

If you have any questions, want to know more, or want some advice on the apprenticeship, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or Instagram

Connect with Sundeep on LinkedIn and follow on Instagram

Below are some useful links for the Level 6 Architecture Degree Apprenticeship:






The Easiest Way to Add Textures in Photoshop

Adding textures in Photoshop doesn’t need to be a long, complicated process. In fact, it’s a simple case of image manipulation. In this tutorial we’ll be learning how to:

→ import and adjust images
→ using clipping masks and blending options
→ working in a non-destructive way

But what does adding textures to our images do?

Well, illustrations, sketches and post-produced styled images can produce an array of creative outcomes that a normal render wouldn’t be able to do. Textures allow us to provide a sense of materiality, show context and add a layer of interest within our images. Photoshop is a great tool for this because it can perfectly manipulate images meaning that you don’t even need the finished material to begin with – opening up a range of possibilities and chances for exploration.

In this tutorial, we’ll be using a white Sketchup model as the base for our image. You could apply new textures to simple line work, clay renders and even on top of existing photographs – there isn’t any limit! Textures are also great when creating simple digital collages; something that can convey key ideas of your project.

Before We Begin

First of all, let me start by saying if you are working on intricate files with a lot of detail you need to be saving constantly and keeping your layers in order! There have been a countless number of times I’ve kicked myself for merging layers or not naming them. If you need to remind yourself to do a little clean-up every now and then, set a ⏰reminder or alarm on your phone.

Working non-destructively means that you’re not erasing or permanently altering original images. If it does come down to doing so, make sure that you make a copy by hitting Ctrl + J and just hiding it. You never know what could go wrong or if you wanted to change something in the future, you don’t lose the original image.

Similarly, it can be a good idea to keep a 📂 library of resources or assets that you can use regularly. There are some amazing texture libraries and websites out there with free images to download – but you don’t necessarily need them all! I’d suggest starting off with your own or even downloading some from other architecture content creators. My good friend Oliver from Learn Upstairs has some awesome packs you can buy and keep forever.

How to Add Textures

💡 I’ve gone ahead and imported my Sketchup image into Photoshop. If you wanted to add base colours like I’ve done, you’re absolutely welcome to do so. If you want a texture only collage with no linework then you don’t need to add any colour and can use the Sketchup model as a base or guide.

  1. When selecting areas to fill with the Magic Wand Tool (W) you can achieve a seamless fill by expanding the selection by a few pixels so that it selects the area underneath the linework too. Just go to Select > Modify > Expand. Then, make sure that both layers are set to the Multiply blending mode and the linework layer is at the top.

2. Find the kind of texture image you’re looking for. Since this image is more of an illustration and not a realistic render, we can use a digitally-made texture. Alternatively, you could also draw in an element, watercolour or hatch and even use a photograph – it all depends on the style you’re going for.

I love using Architextures for all my collages and sketch images. The website has an easy interface and a whole bunch of options to adjust the image according to your liking. There are even pre-made textures for you to choose from. Here’s the brick texture I’ve downloaded:

3. After importing into Photoshop, you’ll obviously realise that at a reasonable scale, the texture won’t fit both walls. In this case, we need to Duplicate and scale the image accordingly. You can do this by clicking on the image with the Move Tool (V) and with Transform Controls on, click on one of the control points and drag. ❗ Try not to distort the scale of the image by either pressing Shift or making sure the link icon is clicked in the top toolbar.

Now you will need to duplicate the image (Copy / Paste works fine here) and create a large enough image that will cover one side of the wall. Then, select all the layers and Right Click > Merge Layers. Rename this to Brick Texture and create a hidden copy.

4. Now we can distort the image to fit the correct perspective. It’s a little tricky to see the wall and lines behind so you could either move the layer behind the linework or reduce the opacity for the time being.

Then, select the corner control point, Right Click and select Distort. Now you just need to drag the corners to roughly match one of the walls. Don’t worry about going over the edges either, just make sure to cover as much as you can. Now, we can repeat the same process for the other side of the wall.

5. Then, select both layers by holding down Shift and Right Click. Here you have to make sure that both texture layers are on top of our previous colour fill. Click ‘Create Clipping Mask’.

Et voilà! You’ve successfully added in your texture. The best thing about this is that you can always go back to adjust the scale, colour and position of the texture images. I personally like a rough, imperfect look to it.

6. Additional adjustments. In the image below, I’ve lowered the opacity slightly and created a new Layer Mask which I’ve then painted over with the Brush Tool (B) to make some areas appear even fainter. You could layer the image with more textures, paint in some weathered details and repeat the process for the other parts of the image.

You also don’t have to stick to the lines. Think about the surrounding white space and how that could be used to enhance the perspective. If you also wanted to turn off the linework altogether, that’s also an option. The great thing about using Photoshop and working non-destructively is that you can always go back and experiment.

For more awesome tutorials like this one, check out our 🌞 3D Sun Path Diagram or How to Make Maps articles too.


How to Maintain Your Computer

Is your computer running slower than usual or want to start an easy maintenance routine? then look no further 😉

As architecture students, the work we produce requires a large amount of memory to perform particular tasks on most applications. We come across many different types of issues with our computers during our studies. From applications crashing, and tasks taking longer than they should be to hearing about laptops being stolen in the library. Ultimately there are two important things we need to protect. The years of work we produce and the lifespan of our laptops/computers, considering the amount we invest in them.

This blog will discuss a few examples of essential maintenance that you can do without expert help, both digitally and hardware. I believe they work hand in hand, will make your computer run faster, efficient and safer.

Before performing any steps I recommend creating a backup of your laptop/computer. To ensure you are able to retrieve any files you may have accidentally removed. This doesn’t tend to happen usually, but it is up to you. You can always create an additional backup or replace the one you created after you have cleaned your computer.

This can be skipped but if you would like to, check out the links below for both Windows & macOS if you are unsure how to do so:

Windows 10 backup

MacOS backup

Computer Maintenance – Digital

Firstly, when it comes to digital maintenance, we tend to start off by going through and removing files stored on our computers that we no longer need. Storage is one of the most common issues we face and there many ways to get around this.

1: Freeing up storage space on your hard drive

Our hard drives tend to store more than just our work, but also our personal files including music, photos, videos and others. So it would be a great idea to go through these and delete any unwanted files or duplicates you can find.

Take your time by going through your files. Make sure to avoid important folders that your computer uses to run. They are mostly found in the System32 folder for Windows. However for macOS, Apple tends to hide them but generally, a great start would be the downloads folder. Here you tend to find old install files, photos and videos.

2: Consider using a digital cleaning/maintenance software

There are many applications on the web and app stores that clean your computer to make it run the best it can. However, the two that I use, found effective are by IObit and Macpaw. Both enable you to use some or all features for free but also have premium plans that unlock more storage or features for you to use.

For Windows users, the application from IObit is called Advanced Systemcare 14. It supports 10/8/7/Vista/XP and the size of the installation file is 47.8Mb. The main features, as well as many others included in the version, are:

  • AI mode: This intelligently cleans and speeds up your computer according to your optimised habits and pc performance status.
  • Software health: Here you can see if there are any software updates available.
  • Real-time tuneup: Monitors your computer performance and releases more RAM and disk space automatically.
  • Large-file cleaner: Locate large files and remove them with ease.

However, if you have an Apple computer, IObit has a macOS version that performs similar tasks called MacBooster 8. The interactive standby by menu bar shows you the memory usage, network status and firewall. Alongside these, you can clean your memory, trash, cache and optimize your DNS settings with one click.

Lastly, the lightning booster rocket is a mode that can make your online surfing feel faster. The application requires OS X 10.9 or later and is compatible with macOS Big Sur.

Another application I became familiar with for Apple computers is CleanMyMac x, by Macpaw. The installation file is around 67.7Mb, the application runs on most of the up to date versions of macOS, including Big Sur. I feel this application offers more features and shows more information about your computer. However, you are limited to how much cleaning you can do without having to purchase a license. In addition, they also have an application for Windows users called CleanMypC. It’s great but I found Advanced Systemcare 14 offers similar features for free without being restricted to a certain amount of usage before having to pay for the license.

In comparison, I found that using Advanced Systemcare 14 for Windows and CleanMyMac for macOS were the right choices to go for. For each of them, you are able to do basic cleaning and even more if you wish to.

In addition, there are a lot more features, system information available for you to use and find out about your computer with ease. Macbooster 8 is also great, I would recommend it if you are not too bothered about the extra information and features to clean your computer.

With all the applications, there may be a certain amount of cleaning, features or digital maintenance you can do or access before having to purchase a licence. They offer deals year-round and have different payment methods from monthly to one-off year subscriptions.

Computer Maintenance – Hardware

1. Cleaning your keyboard, openings and mouse

These devices can stop working if you don’t clean them. From crumbs in your keyboard to greasy mouses with stuck scroll wheels. Replacing these can cost you from around £20 and that money can be spent instead towards other things. Cleaning your keyboard surfaces and mouse can be easily done with a damp lint-free cloth.

Spray the water onto the cloth not directly onto the keyboard as this will only cause further damage. You can use scented antibacterial wipes on the sides and back if you would like to leave a nice smell but I would gently wipe over it again with a dry cloth. Whereas, for harder to reach areas such as in between the keyboard, compressed air cans are great for this and can be purchased for only a couple of pounds.

Laptop/computer ports and other crevices also need to be cleaned. Not doing so the dusty clogged ports will reduce the airflow that goes in and out of the device, increasing the chances of it overheating. Don’t use compressed air as you don’t want to be putting the dust back inside your computer. Instead, gently clean them using a microfibre cloth too and if you see any clumps of dirt stuck instead, use a plastic tweezer to carefully remove it. Avoid using metal tweezers as they can cause static issues to your device.

2. Keeping your monitor clean

As much as your keyboard and mouse gets dirty, so does your monitor. We might not realise this until you see dust, fingerprints all over the screen and frame. To clean your monitor, you need to use a microfiber cloth. If there are tough stains, this is where screen cleaner wipes come into hand. Stick to specific LCD computer cleaning products, not doing so may damage your screen and make it expensive for you to repair. Do bear in mind that monitors, especially the LCD can be thin so be gentle when cleaning.

For users who get their monitors dirty quite often, there are smart inexpensive tools you can invest in. I personally use the OXO Good Grips Sweep & Swipe Laptop cleaner. I keep this in my bag and on my desk whenever I need to quickly remove a fingerprint on the screen or dust on my keyboard.

OXO Good Grips Sweep & Swipe Laptop cleaner 
Oxo Electronics Cleaning Brush

Bonus tips & habits

1. Food & beverages – Keep away from your computers/laptops

Whether you’re watching your favourite Netflix show or reading an article – stop having drinks or your lunch near your device, it will make a great change to keeping your device clean for much longer. Yes, all of you all-nighter fanatics, I’m looking at you. This is easier said than done but even if you spill a small amount of your drink on to your keyboard, that can be enough to destroy it. If it goes in any deeper you can cause further or future long term damage to other components.

I suggest implementing a rule of having nothing on your desk but water. Water can also be as dangerous to your device as anything else. Make sure to place it on the corner or furthest part of your desk on a drink coaster. As long as it is placed away from your elbows and hands, you will reduce the chance of you knocking the drink over.

When it comes to your 5* meals, having crunchy greasy keyboards is not the best feeling to work with after you have eaten. Therefore, I would strictly eat in the dining/living room. The additional benefit of implementing this habit if you are able to do so is that will mentally help with the stress of staying indoors.

Due to lockdown measures in place and having multifunctional spaces is that, as students especially we find ourselves doing everything in our room. Doing so can destroy the relaxation or feeling of the room. Just imagine working from home then having a pizza for dinner and shortly you want to take a nap. The smell leftover becomes associated with that space and won’t make you feel great. If you don’t do something about it then you’re going to be dreaming of more pizzas or feeling sick, so it’s up to you.

2. Computer/laptop cases & screen protectors

Investing in cases or covers for your devices can be inexpensive and offer great protection. For computers, you can buy a sleeve or cover for your monitor that protects it from dusk building upon it.

Whereas for laptop users, there is a wide range of cases and sleeves to invest in. They can be tough durable plastic that will protect the casing especially when it encounters any knocks or even drops. Some people may not like the chunkiness or look of them and prefer to keep their devices as slim as possible. That’s why you can also buy different types of laptop sleeves that can offer similar types of protection and they can also sometimes come with a pouch for your charger. In the end, either option would be great as it will protect your device for longer and it’s better than nothing.

3. Software Update hunting

Lastly, keeping your software up to date shouldn’t be something to avoid and doesn’t take much to do. Most updates can be installed on a scheduled time you like or the next time you restart your device. Avoid doing so when you plan to start using your device and make it the last thing to do. They can range in time, you wouldn’t want to do it if you were planning to work and find out it will take some time to finish.

I hope this blog has helped you start thinking about taking care of your device without making it seem like a long process. By doing so you are saving yourself from expensive costs but also rewarding your device for all the work it has helped you produce.

If you have any further questions or love to have a chat, feel free to connect with me via Linkedin and Instagram.


How I Use Notion

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know that I am obsessed with Notion and all its applications. I first started using Notion in March 2020 – just as we went into lockdown (so it’s fair to say I had a lot of time on my hands). I truly think that using Notion can be absolutely game-changing for architects, students and all kinds of designers and content creators.

The reason for this is that Notion is a workspace tool. If you’ve used Google Drive and it’s other apps like Docs or Slides, it’s sort of the same idea but on steroids. Notion is essentially ‘an application that provides components such as databases, kanban boards, wikis, calendars and reminders. Users can connect these components to create their own systems for knowledge management, note-taking, data management, project management, among others. These components and systems can be used individually, or in collaboration with others.’

Notion is free and has a student / educational plan for you guys to not only create your own workspaces without limits but share them with friends and peers too. This means that you can create an organised system of your own but also share it with other people to track and create projects or areas of your life.

My Notion Workspace

Before I started using Notion, I was using various different notebooks for several things. I hadn’t ridden the productivity wave yet so there was a lot I wasn’t exposed to either. Now, there is no problem with keeping notebooks and I’m definitely not saying that Notion should replace these things, but instead it gives you a digital version that can be filtered, sorted, organised and expanded in several ways – something a regular notebook can’t give you.

I’ll give you an example. Content creating has been amplified by 10 since I started using Notion. Before this, I was still using a pretty organised system, tracking ideas for blog posts on a Google Sheet, planning out my writing in my notebook and writing any sort of idea down on any page that I probably wasn’t going to go back to again. There was stuff that I had to keep going back to such as my branding elements (think fonts and hex codes) but sometimes didn’t have my notebook on me. This caused some friction. With Notion, there is a dedicated space where I’ve kept this information and it can be easily accessed through search by hitting Ctrl + P. I can do the same on the Notion app, share it with other people I am working with or just have a record of my branding elements.

The way I use Notion has changed a lot over the past year. I’ve ‘re-done’ my workspace / wiki / dashboard a handful of times so far and just tried to keep the things I really do use. Most people go two ways of creating their workspace.

  1. They use the sidebar to create pages and pages – all separated. Then they link back to these occasionally and as needed
  2. They create one page and make sub-pages within them

So what I’ve done is a mix of both. Initially, I didn’t even bother with a ‘Home’ dashboard because I wasn’t really using it since I jumped from page to page or just focused on one thing at a time. I then realised that my main use of Notion was to track my tasks so I made my Task Box the opening tab and really where I spent 90% of my time on Notion.

Now, I have 6 key areas that are their own dashboards. Inside, there are sub-pages, databases and links but overall, it covers the 4 key areas I need and stuff I was previously using which has been archived. By simplifying the sidebar, it makes it so much easier to jump if needed and hide it completely (to maximise screen space). Very recently, I archived my task box and switched to Todoist. I was finding there was an increase in friction and due to my timings at work, I just wasn’t inputting tasks because there was a lot of extra information to fill in. The Notion app is good, but it’s not that useful for inputting tasks (in my opinion). Todoist is just pretty easy to see on my phone and sort and has built-in features like priority and labelling which you don’t need to worry about keeping a track of.

In the ‘home’ dashboard, there are mainly links and personal pages that don’t really need to have their own dashboard as well as my frequent pages list. This is more than often a subpage of a project that I’m working on and it makes it easier to have this in front of me so that I can start working as soon as I open my window.

The :scale section is where all of my writing, organising and planning happens. I’ve got stuff like ideas and goals for the coming months as well as general guidelines I can send to guest authors. 90% of my content creating happens in Notion – in fact, I’ve recently switched over the writing portion from Google Docs into Notion too. The table view is AMAZING by itself because you can add in all kinds of fields and sort and filter them and the best feature in Notion is the ‘Create Linked Database’. It allows you to replicate any kind of database in any view and apply a completely different set of filters meaning you only need one master database that holds all the information.

You can also build your own templates to optimise your workflow as I’ve done in the Ultimate Archi Student Hub. This means whenever you add a new project in there will be a set of headings and blocks already in there so that you don’t have to rebuild everything every time you create a new page.

The Possibilities of Notion

It’s been a year since I first started on Notion and in that timeframe, they have released a number of updates and new features. It’s also not a secret that the API is due to release soon 🤫 which is going to bring even more integrations and connections to other platforms and applications. I think this will be an amazing step forward because it’s almost like re-discovering Notion and getting to build or edit your workspace.

You should also keep in mind that there are numerous other productivity applications like Trello or Asana as well as phone applications that might even do a better job than Notion for specific things. I keep a close eye on the Keep Productive YouTube channel to find out about updates or new releases of interesting apps and occasionally give them a try – that’s how I found Todoist!

Another great part of Notion is its community. There is an awesome Discord server, subreddit and a bunch of cool content creators, template makers and bloggers who love Notion as much as I do. This means there will surely be new ideas and uses for Notion that could influence how your workspace takes shape and you can learn almost everything from these guys. We’ve linked our Resources page where we’ve got a dedicated Notion section for you to check out!

Architecture Students

As a working Part 1 Architectural Assistant and content creator, I love Notion for its wide range of applications to what I do. I really think that students will benefit most from an organised system they can build and keep track of. The open-ended structure means that you don’t have to try and cram things into one place nor is there a limit on what you use Notion for.

Notion would be great for the design side as well as a wiki or organisational tool. Here are a couple of examples:

  1. Keeping track of multiple projects and deadlines at the same time. By linking this to a task management system you can also re-surface pending tasks depending on the priority level of the project. If your dissertation is due in 4 weeks, you can plan out each day or week and assign tasks that will help you stay on track throughout.
  2. A reference library for precedents, articles, helpful resources that you’ve used or interest you. Think about how Pinterest works except in Notion you can clip entire webpages including the text and images as your own personal copy. It’s like bookmarks but you’re able to sort, filter and favourite ones you regularly use.
  3. Portfolio planning; you can track the status of which pages you’ve completed or need to work on as well as creating a library of pages that you want to create and include in your portfolio. The best thing about creating instances in a database is that each one will have its own page.

If you want to learn more about the applications of productivity and using Notion as an architecture student, you can find out more in our 🧠 Building an Archi Brain course.

The most important takeaway from this is that organisation is the key to being more productive, having a set workflow and direction and this can be achieved with Notion – but not exclusively! Remember, it’s not the tool that magically makes you more productive, you need to put in the work to create the habits and systems as well as the Notion pages and databases and then keep testing and adapting in order to find the correct balance.

Plus, who knows where Notion can take us aspiring architects right?


How to Expand your Social Media Skills

It’s no secret that we’re the generation who are supposed to be knowledgeable and in-sync with the quirks and requirements of social media. But as aspiring architects how can we use it to our advantage? Social media is much more than just posting pics of your dog (no matter how cute) and using it as a dump box for architectural images and models that don’t really mean anything.

Social media could mean Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn even TikTok 🤮. There isn’t any obligation to be on these platforms if you don’t wish to do so. An alternative could be a portfolio website that showcases your projects and style if you wish to do so.

person holding black samsung android smartphone

Your Instagram or LinkedIn pages could serve to become a portfolio of sorts for yourself if you see it as a personal brand. As architects we tend to overthink elements or disregard social media because we’re too shy to put up our work. Let me tell you the top 3 mistakes architecture students make with their social media pages.

  1. Not posting! The first step of mastering social media and creating a beautiful, elegant and professional social profile is to actually post content. But I don’t just mean every sketch or every failed model. It has to be a carefully curated collection of images (and sometimes text) that represents who you are an an individual as well as a creative. Sometimes we hae a fear of getting negative comments but what many students don’t realise is that the archi-community is a really positive and powerful space. Personally, I’ve never received or even seen negativity because we’re all on the same journey more or less. We all know what it’s like going through critiques every week and putting in long hours for our creations. No one is here to judge you, so be bold and show off your work!
  2. Being detatched from your social profile. If you are going to jump on the bandwagon and put in the effort to create a social profile, make sure you’re not being a robot about it. There’s one thing about firms being professional and posting clean, minimal images because they have other media and clients to rely on – their Instagram’s probably aren’t their number one source. I’ve seen far too many students try and be all fancy and post one image a month with the simplest of all captions. The whole point of being on social media is to be social. Challenge others around you by asking questions related to your projects and images. Although we do love to see a intricate, detailed drawing – we want to know more about it! This could inspire someone down the line so try and explain yourself as best you can in the comments and be real about it – we don’t want to see a mundane, boring explanation.
  3. Not engaging enough. There are several ways you can get your name out there and turn some heads. But for those of you starting out it can be tough. So make sure you’re engaging with content creators, communities, collectives and inspiring individuals to learn from them and support them. The more you do this, you will not only be exposed to similar content, you will also be inspired and the more people you follow the better chance of them following you back right? Other ways of engaging is to be really active in the community, interact with firms or blogs 😉 and don’t be afraid to have real conversations. It really isn’t good enough to post and then forget that Instagram exists, it makes your page effectively dead and defeats the purpose of being on their in the first place.

There are many other ways you can make your content stand out. Apart from having high quality images, experiment with the layout of your feed, the colour palette or even adding your own flair and style. You could turn your social profile into a brand and make it look pretty professional. One great way I saw of experimenting with your feed is by Esmae Abigail on LinkedIn. She essentially added captions within the images and separated each post into it’s own little section, making it a visual CV on Instagram!

At the end of the day, you want to make it work for you 🤍. If you’re not comfortable with having your name out there, post under an alias. Or, if you’re super keen on building a personal brand make sure to be consistent and authentic!


The Truth About my Year Out

Disclaimer: I didn’t LOVE my Part 1 Year Out… and that’s okay…

I left university having been sold the idea that my year out would be this fabulous year of relaxation, inspiration and rainbows and, after a very trying third year, I could not wait! Who would have thought that in a job you would get to bed before 3am and wouldn’t have to spend crit day watching some overzealous tutor ripping apart your work? And you’d get paid?!

Flash forward 12 months and yes, I was working for a well known firm, getting paid better than most of my peers from university, and feeling overly cosmopolitan and lush. But, I absolutely hated my job. I’d applied in a panic after spending the summer travelling and rather naively thought that getting a job with a large, well known firm was the be-all-and-end-all, only to arrive and find that the firm really didn’t suit me, my design style or my way of working as I personally like (and need) to do a lot of research to keep myself motivated rather than working deadline to deadline.

Not only that but large firm office politics are a completely different ballgame to anything I was used to…(you think University culture is bad? Just wait!) I arrived back at University for my Part 2 slightly disheartened by the whole process, having admittedly lost a lot of confidence over the course of the year. However, much like everyone else, during the Covid-19 lockdown I have had a lot of time for reflection, in particular on what lessons I learnt during my year out that have really helped me for my future employment;

1. Money isn’t everything. Yes you need enough to eat, pay your rent, etc, but you shouldn’t solely think with your purse when applying for jobs as sometimes the lesser paid routes provide benefits in other ways.

2. If you get weird vibes at your interview – don’t accept the job! Your intuition is generally right and sometimes you just don’t click with people – that’s okay! For example, on one occasion I arrived at my interview to find that the whole office was abnormally messy. Although that would suit some people, I would have definitely found myself scuttling around the office feeling the need to tidy things, and luckily I recognised that before my first day. In contrast, I’ve arrived at an office before and felt inspired and at home just by seeing the amount of samples and books lining the shelves!

3. You have a lot to learn about architecture in your part 2 so if you’re in a job that is expecting too much from you in an area you didn’t learn in the first 3 years, it’s okay to say so. Architecture school is very different now to how it was 40 years ago, so not all architects know what skills to expect from a part 1. Adversely, if you’re working for a small firm that aren’t very clued-up in areas you are, like social media, or Photoshop, don’t be scared to make suggestions, they’ll most likely be relieved to pass those aspects on to you. There are skills and aesthetic styles you will have that, although fairly common within your University cohort, will excite and benefit the firm you work for, so don’t be afraid to show them off.

4. Everyone has a different style of working and designing – use this as an opportunity to learn more about methods that aren’t your own and take that back to your part 2 studies.

The architect I worked with loved to make a material palette to show to clients and sell her vision, and this was one of the first things I thought of when presenting my final presentation of fourth year, and it was really effective in solidifying my ideas.

5. Detailing doesn’t have to be scary… on your year out there will be a lot of people that know more than you about detailing – take notes on what they’re teaching you as you go and have that at the back of your mind for your part 2! Same goes for attending CPDs, some of which are just a sales pitch, whilst others are really beneficial for understanding the application of architectural design.

6. A year out is as much about personal growth and re-centering as it is about becoming a better architect – use your evenings wisely!

7. As a follow on, there are ways outside of the office to get architectural experience during your year out – you could attend lectures at your local art school, or join an education programme like the Mass Timber Academy!

(…cue self-plug…) The Mass Timber Academy is a recently released life-long education programme for architects and engineers, aiding in a specialism in mass timber systems like CLT. As student members, (applicable to your year out) you are encouraged to engage with a more environmentally sustainable method of construction in a way that you, unfortunately, don’t have in architecture school; competitions, awards, workshops and monthly newsletter.

Of course, there are many other opportunities for learning and designing on your year out, but uniquely the Mass Timber Academy’s programme aims to de-mystify the use of mass timber systems so that, hopefully, you will return to University for your part 2 with knowledge in this area that will surpass even your tutors. You’ve never had so much spare time so why not use it?

8. Network network network – even if there’s ONE architect or part 2 at your job that you really connect with, having the opportunity to ask them questions (in particular about going back to University and sitting your part 3) can prove really valuable. I also cannot press enough the benefit of online networking through platforms such as LinkedIn if used correctly, and this is something that if initiated on your year out will be of great benefit when applying for your jobs post-part 2.

I realise that some of this advice might seem completely useless, particularly if you are spending your year out in the architects firm of your dreams, but I know that if I had read this when working I would have felt relieved about the sort of experience I was getting. Don’t get me wrong, I learnt loads about architecture too and had loads of fun in the office, but when I arrived back at University everyone wanted to use their year out work as an opportunity for competition and I didn’t exactly feel like I was in the race. However, I then found that a lot of the people that loved their year out job actually struggled in the transition back to academia (especially since a lot of the projects are hypothetical…) whereas I was feeling very grateful to return and learn more in preparation for the big bad world of employment after graduating from my part 2.

Upon graduation, and due to my part 1, it has been infinitely useful to know what I DON’T want for my future career, and indeed provided some incentive to look elsewhere for my part 2 jobs which not only improves my CV, but also gives me a much broader perspective of the industry and its future. You’ll perhaps be glad to know that I have now found my interests lie in architectural activism and innovation, and I am working for a company that encourages and compliments me in these areas whilst also providing daily opportunities for a continuation of my learning down a non-conventional route (which suits me perfectly).

I believe that without my part 1 experience I would be in no way ready, both in character and experience, to have such a strong indication as to where my future is leading, even if at the time I was not so optimistic. Please know that your part 1 year out, although invaluable, is not the peak of your career and so if it does not meet your expectations should not be the end of the line, but instead an opportunity to further engage with the wild world of architecture and take some time for yourself.

This article was written by our lovely guest author Kirsty Watt!


Podcasts You Need to Check Out


Recently, I’ve been trying to listen to more podcasts and expanding my knowledge about architecture, productivity and anything interesting. You’ll find that since the pandemic began, there has been an influx in online content – especially in the architectural space. Podcasts can be great to listen to while you do your university work and want to steer away from binge watching movies or tv shows. They’re obviously an audio format so that can work well if you’re cooking or exercising and allow you to learn something new.

To start off with, I’d recommend you start off with a couple of explorations. Suggestions can be great but not everyone’s taste is the same so don’t feel like you have to listen to a particular podcast because someone recommended it. Similarly, not every podcast will be relevant to your interests, In fact, I’ve only listened to a couple of episodes of The Ground Up Show by Matt D’Avella – not all of them pique my interest and that’s okay!

My Current Podcast List [2020]

Not Overthinking

Not Overthinking by Ali & Taimur Abdaal

An interesting podcast hosted by two brothers on social concepts, their personal lives and book discussions. I follow Ali’s YouTube channel where he creates content on productivity.

Business of Architecture UK Podcast | Libsyn Directory

The Business of Architecture by Rion Willard

Although I’m not a fully qualified architect and don’t necessarily have the aspiration to start my own architectural firm, the conversations Rion has with his guests are simply incredible! You’ll learn a lot in these podcasts and I can definitely say I’ve gone back more than one to listen to an episode.

Two Worlds Design Podcast

Two Worlds Design Podcast by Hamza Shaikh

Hamza is probably the most relatable podcast host for architecture students. The guest list is also very interesting as he speaks to notable figures on topics you wouldn’t necessarily think of. The best thing about these are that they are also available on his YouTube channel in video format.

The Student Podcast – Podcast – Podtail

The Student Podcast by Thomas Rowntree

I’d definitely recommend The Student Podcast to aspiring architecture students and first years who may feel a little lost and unsure of how to navigate their time at university.

The Midnight Charette Design and Architecture Show | Listen via Stitcher  for Podcasts

The Midnight Charette by David Lee and Marina Bouh

The Midnight Charette podcast is an interesting one especially being based in the UK, it’s been interesting to listen to the similarities and differences of how architecture works in America. David and Marina have on all sorts of guests which makes for a diverse range of topics. It’s also been fabulous to hear them reflect on their own journeys making the experience quite personal.

The Archiologist Campaign - YouTube

The Archiologist by Maria Flores

This podcast explores all kinds of topics and emerging ideas in the field of architecture. I can guarantee there will be something that appeals to you!

Architecture Social (podcast) - Stephen Drew | Listen Notes

The Architecture Social by Stephen Drew

This amazing community has conquered the podcast realm with a range of talks and advice episodes so if you’re a recent graduate, these will be episodes that you keep going back to.

1:100 Architecture Podcast (@1to100podcast) | Twitter

1:100 Architecture Podcast

This is a down-to-earth podcast hosted by a collective of funny, knowledgable women. After attending Oxford Brookes, the founded this podcast which has a host of relatable topics for any architecture student.

Suggestions from you!

I love hearing about suggestions from all of you too, architecture or not! Check out these recommended podcasts if you’re keen on broadening your library.

  1. The Green Urbanist
  2. Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend
  3. The M Word
  4. 2 Dope Queens
  5. Best Friends with Nicole Byer
  6. 99% Invisible
  7. Still Processing
  8. Crime Junkie
  9. No Country for Young Women
  10. Philosophize This

The Art of Moodboards

Moodboards are a great way to collect resources and images that can inspire your design projects. There’s many types of moodboards; physical printed images, digital collections or through apps like Pinterest and Milanote. It’s safe to say as architecture students moodboards will be one of the more enjoyable aspects of the course.

In this article we’re going to show you the best practices of putting together a moodboard and how you can take it a step further by just putting in a little more effort. Even finding one amazing reference can change the nature of your project and help you understand a bit more about what you want to design, your preferred style of architecture or could be useful as a future reference.

‘Good artists copy, great artists steal’

What does that quote mean exactly? Essentially, anyone can copy a set of plans, elevations and diagrams and pass it off as their own. Ideas too can be completely copied exactly but that doesn’t mean that the person copying is a good artist – or in this case architect. The benefit of studying architecture is all about going through the design process, figuring out what works and doesn’t and coming up with solutions to problems. In this context, ‘stealing’ means analysing someone else’s work and interpreting multiple ideas and concepts and creating something new from it. Inspiration is never a bad thing.

The image above is an example of a ‘murder board’ style I created for my second year project. It’s a mix of images, diagrams and text that are all interconnected in some way. This can be a good way of viewing all the initial ideas in one place. The benefit of a moodboard is that if you ever feel like your mind goes blank or you run out of ideas, you can always look back to your moodboard or collection of images to spark any new thoughts.



Pinterest is the place for creating such boards. I make one for each of my projects and honestly, once I start pinning, I don’t stop! The beauty of the way Pinterest works is that once you pin something, it shows you similar images straight after as well as on your home-feed. That way, once you pin one thing, you get 10 similar ones after it. I suggest using Pinterest as simply as possible – there’s no need to faff around with sections because you’d want to keep it pretty general.

Think about the stages of your project aswell. As it comes to the end of the year, you might want to think about creating a board of reference images for final illustrations and renders. This way it’s separate from general architecture projects and gives you a streamlined view of styles and colour palettes you might think of using.

Pinterest is free, has no limits and can be used on desktop and the mobile app.

Other Methods for Moodboards

There are many ways of creating moodboards, in fact, it doesn’t even need to be a collection of images. Literature, music and media can inspire the best of us. As part of your portfolio, you could also create a collage of the inspirations which can help you work out aspects of the design or understand how two ideas can merge together.

A collection of images stored on your computer or external hard-drive could also be another option if you wanted to curate the collection to be minimal. In fact, if you do enough research on specific projects, they can be used later on as case studies where you can show the example of a design aspect and explain that you’d like to re-create it or adjust it to suit your brief. For technical research, references could also be a great way to find specific details or newer materials that you may want to use in your building.

There are multiple tools online to help you create moodboards, mind-maps and collections of references that you can use for your projects. Check out this article on How to Make a Moodboard. Creating a moodboard should be pretty high up on your list when you start a new project, don’t wait for yout tutors to tell you to create one or start looking for projects that inspire you. Take the initiative and create one yourself.

Back in my 2nd year, we were prompted to keep a Tumblr blog of our progress – nothing formal but it was a way of recording our progress and keeping in touch with our tutors outside of tutorials. You could also think about doing the same thing. A moodboard doesn’t need to be constricted to anything specific and the idea is for you to use it along the various stages of your design.

Let us know how you use moodboards and collages and your preferred method of keeping a record!


3D Sun Path Diagram

I know so many of you have been waiting for a 3D sun path diagram since our first tutorial on a regular, simple sun pathwhich by the way is to this date our most popular article ever! The difference between the two is simply a case of aesthetics. This diagram takes a little bit more effort but the key principles are the same.

A 🌞 Sun Path Diagram is one of the pages usually included in your Site Analysis section of your portfolio. After you are given a site, you go around and note things about the surroundings such as the opportunites and constraints, the adjacent buildings and think about what kinds of effects they will have on your site. Similarly, the orientation of the site is important to note if you’re keen on building a sustainable building or you want natural lighting to have a specific purpose in the programme.

Software tools you will need for this diagram include:

  • CAD Mapper or some kind of Ordnance Survey Map where you can download 3D building topography – if you can’t find any, I suggest you make it up based on site photos
  • Adobe Illustrator
  • Sketchup is best for this but any 3D modelling software should do the same trick

The Steps

  1. Download a simple line map of your site. It would be very wise to keep in mind a certain road or even the postcode of your site if you can so that it is easy to access.

Set a false height in case there is no building data – some applications like Digimap have this for most UK areas but if you can’t find any, just go by site photographs and estimates.

  1. Open up the file in Sketchup and start playing with the model itself. You can get rid of the placement building that is on your site as we will be using a simple dashed red line to highlight this. Adjust the heights of the other buildings and figure out where your ‘boundary’ will be. It’s always best to have more buildings modelled than to have gaps later on. If your chosen location doesn’t have the data for building heights you might need to rely on your site knowledge and photographs or you could even look at documents in the area’s Planning Portal.
  1. Now you need to fix the scene. For a cooler look, I suggest increasing the field of depth. You can do this by going to Camera > Field of View and drag until you think it looks alright from a top, perspective view. Usually this is about 120 degrees.
  1. Exporting the file can take two roads. If you have access to Sketchup Pro, you can export the line PDF itself or you can take a simple screenshot of the scene and re-create it in Illustrator so that you have the freedom to play with line weights and colours.
  1. Now we will go into Illustrator and set up our page. From a workflow angle, I would suggest using Illustrator to create the diagram itself, refining it in Photoshop if you wanted to add in textures and other rasterised assets. Then, importing into your master InDesign file of your portfolio. That is where you can add your text and page headings.

** Sometimes the PDF can seem quite scary and completely black. In this instance you will need to select everything and reduce the stroke width to about 0.01. Then you can scale it up by holding the Shift key and dragging.

  1. Adding the details. You can follow the steps in our original sun path diagram tutorial to know how to add the 2D elements. Now we can begin Live Painting. Select everything (Ctrl + A) and go to Object > Live Paint > Make. Check to see that you’re able to select most of the buildings individually by using the Live Paint Bucket Tool.

At this point, if you wanted to also paint the road or the edges of the map, you might want to draw in the lines and add it to the live paint selection. You can now begin painting. I usually choose a muted palette and differentiate between adjacent buildings, noteworthy buildings (like train stations or museums) and the others by doing gradients of grey. Don’t forget to expand the Live Paint when you’re done!

  1. Keeping the site as your centre point, draw a circle on top and select everything then Right Click and choose Make Clipping Mask. If you wanted to add in shadows, you can export it as a separate .png image and mask it out in the same way. Usually you would need to resize and adjust according to your current scale.

Final Notes

For the buildings coming out of the circle boundary, you might want to trace them on a separate layer and put them on top of your clipped image. It’s always nice to stroke the entire silhouette with a thicker line to make everything look a bit more cohesive.

If you wanted to take it a step further, you could include screenshots of actual shadow analysis using the shadows tool in Sketchup and making sure the location, date and timings are correct. Most of the other steps are in the previous tutorial as well so be sure to check those out.

Let me know if this tutorial was helpful in the comments below or find us on Instagram!


How To Present Better as an Architecture Student

I’ve been working with students at an international university for the last few months where English is not the students first language. I’m teaching English for Architecture communication, and I’ve learnt some valuable things about how students organise and present their ideas in their studio presentations or crits. I believe the things I’ve noticed and the advice I’ve accumulated could be useful to everyone – ESL students (English as a second language), students, and architects regardless of whether English is your first or second language. 

Firstly, something I’ve felt essential to focus on is cultural differences and making my students aware of the styles that different cultures, in general, tend to adopt. Why? As Erin Meyer describes in her book, The Culture Map different cultures have different ways of communicating. Being aware of these differences can help to make your presentations more successful and you more confident. 

Three of the most critical points I’ve learnt from reading the culture map and communicate with my students:

1. In English speaking countries, we are more likely to give explicit instruction which means we say what we mean with minimal hidden messages. We also tend to value concise presentations that are to the point. Feedback can also be a balance between positive and negative feedback.  

2. It’s okay to express opinions and disagree. Tutors and lecturers will often ask you to expand on points or to defend your ideas so it’s okay to question and disagree as long as you can explain why. It’s not the end of the world when they challenge you; it’s just part of their job to push you, to test you and get the best out of you. 

3. English being your second language doesn’t have to be the reason you should feel held back from succeeding in your studio crits. 

ESL students can feel held back as they believe they lack the technical vocabulary or don’t have the same skills and expertise as their peers who are native English speakers. However, lacking the technical language doesn’t necessarily mean your presentation can’t still be excellent. 

So what can you do? Structure your ideas. 

How to structure and organise your ideas 

One thing I’ve found is that students can over-complicate their ideas and go off on tangents. They may feel that more complex ideas and solutions show better understanding, but this isn’t always the case. They can question themselves and their ideas and compare themselves to their peers.  One way to be confident of your ideas is to go back to the fundamentals of your concept by knowing and presenting your thoughts in this order: 

  1. What is it? 
  2. Why is it like that? 
  3. How does it work?

It sounds so simple, but one thing I’ve noticed is as soon as a presentation lacks structure, the message becomes lost. Sometimes I understand what the student was going for; however, without the organisation and those three key points, I’m lost and feeling frustrated that the student’s great ideas are disintegrating before my eyes.    

ArchiMarathon makes an excellent video which explains just how you can do this. The main point they discuss is to keep the structure of your ideas simple by answering the following questions: 

What is it? 

Don’t just say what the thing is. It’s not a house or a school or a library – it’s more than that. As Kevin from ArchiMarathon points out – it’s the things you can draw –  the forms, the pieces of the puzzle and how the elements and features come together. It’s the parti diagram you would draw if someone asked you to explain your concept on the back of a stamp or a napkin. It’s the program, the shapes, the road map of your idea. When you start your presentation with the what, you’re starting to tell the story to your audience.  Knowing the ‘what’ terminology will help you to explain how your concept works later. 


  • The concept takes the form of intersecting rectangular forms with a box subtracted. 
  • The form of the envelope is a series of staggered boxes in the shape of a curve. 
  • The overall shape is radial/spiral with a series of rectangles projected from the centre.  

Why is it like that?

Once you’ve explained the ‘What’ you can start to explain why you made some of the decisions to include different forms, you can then explain things like how the site context and surroundings or other external factors influenced your choices. When you do this, you can start to see how certain things affect your concept, and if you can’t explain this, then you might need to go back to the drawing board. 


  • I chose to use the radial form with projecting rectangles because I wanted to emphasise the centre as a gathering point. 
  • I chose to use the simple rectangular form oriented east to west because I wanted all the windows to face south (or north if you’re in the southern hemisphere).
  • Go back to your parti diagram to help you explain your overall concept, the program, the features. 

How does it work?

Finally – explain how it works as an overall concept. The tendency with some students can be to explain how the idea works first and the tiny details. 

However, when you do this, you’ve missed the valuable opportunity to ease your audience into your concept and to tell them the story. Kevin explains and demonstrates this in the ‘What, Why, How’ video using Frank Gehry’s Bilbao museum. He tells the story by starting with the Where, and Who (to give more context and understanding) and then continues with the What, Why and How formula. By telling the story with that formula, I gained a much better appreciation for the building and the story behind it. 

The how is, how it works as an overall concept. How do people circulate through space? How does the concept respond to the surrounding environment? For example, the light, the shadows, the prevailing winds and the landscape. 


  • “People circulate through the spaces which radiate from the centre, and the form of the spaces guides them back to the central gathering space.” 
  • In summary, when you follow the formula, it’s easy to see there are no right or wrong ideas. People may disagree with you. However, it’s up to you to defend those ideas, but how can you do that well? 

Practice Practice Practice 

Once you have answered, these three key ideas write your answer under these subheadings. Then practice, practice, practice your presentation out loud.  When you practice, think about the delivery of your presentation. Being clear and concise doesn’t mean saying it quickly and getting it over and done with.

Use the expressions and terminology you already know well. Like I always say to my students using sophisticated language doesn’t necessarily mean more exceptional communication. The key to being clear and concise is using structure. 

For example, use signposting language, you already know well. When you know your structure well, you have a better chance of standing your ground and having the answers for when your tutors and lecturers question you. Practice your presentation with your peers or friends and family. Ask them to tell you if the what, why and how is clear and obvious. 

Examples of signposting language:  

Remember too that not all questions and feedback will be negative even if they are questioning you or disagreeing with you. ArchiMarathon makes another great video to explain why it’s essential to know your main idea well so you can defend it in a studio crit.  Another reason why knowing your what, why and how will put you in a better position to defend your main idea. 

English might be your second language, but it doesn’t need to hold you back. Just keep it simple and structured and don’t forget to practice. 

Why You Should be Updating Your Portfolio

Why You Should be Updating Your Portfolio

This time last year I was constantly thinking about ways I could improve my portfolio to increase my chances of employment. Updating my portfolio was on my mind constantly. In my third year, I always had the regret of not being able to complete my second year design work to it’s full potential. The narrative and driving elements behind the project were well thought out and I had spent a lot of time on research but didn’t give myself enough time to refine the final details.

Why do I need to work on it?

Sketchbook, Pencil, Pink, Portfolio, Creative, Design

No one really tells you to update your portfolio – in fact, looking back, I didn’t get any kind of guidance regarding your portfolio for applications. This is very different to the portfolio you submit at the end of the year but if you want some tips on that, read our post The Process Behind a Successful Architecture Portfolio. Your applicant portfolio is a much more refined, concise and informative set of pages. Now, this particular blog post is not about how to put together the perfect portfolio (but let me know if that is something you’d like to see!). Today, I want to convince those of you currently seeking employment that the best use of your time is to update your portfolio.

This process is best done in combination with your CV as well because making sure both these things compliment each other gives off a very professional look to your approach. So I’ll tell you the reason for this un-called portfolio update. The time we get during university is never enough and I truly believe that each project can go much further than the way it gets submitted.

The key here is not to add to your existing project, it’s to demonstrate skills that you are currently learning and creating a meaningful output from it which you can still add to your portfolio.

After graduating, I was itching to get back to university – I still look at the new briefs that come out hoping to get inspired or just to think ‘what would I have done?’. The process of starting a project excites me to the core and I think why not continue that after graduating? Making the best use of your time is to:

a. learn a skill that is in demand,
b. show your creative application of that skill and
c. creating beneficial additions to your portfolio.

A lot of firms in the UK ask for software experience in Revit and Vectorworks (these have been the most popular in my opinion). AutoCAD is a must, but I feel it is something we’re all used to and doesn’t require too much effort as compared to the others. Usually we don’t focus on extremely detailed, technically sound drawings because our job is to design and our projects are hypothetical. Now, if you can show that you can not only use the software well and efficiently, but you understand the technical thought behind the building – you’ve just scored double points with the hiring manager.

After many months of applying for jobs (which I hope you don’t have to face!), you begin to see commonalities between job advertisements and a standard set of skills and requirements. Updating your portfolio can tick many of those boxes – plus give you something to do.

How do I begin?

Bear in mind, I’m also not suggesting you go re-design the entire project! Instead, build on certain aspect you felt were weak. For example, in my micro-community project there were essentially two parts, the housing and retail and the community centre. I spent a huge amount of my time working on the housing part of things because it was essentially the main part. But somewhere, the community centre / temple got lost in a sense which contributed to my final result.

Nevertheless, I felt that it had a lot of room to grow. Similarly, my second year project was well thought out, but the internal arrangements didn’t work as I wanted them to. I focused too much on hypothetical aspects because I hadn’t applied my research to my design. When planning for my ‘mega-drawing’ I wanted to take a look at the entire set of drawings once again. So I went back, asked myself what works and what doesn’t, and re-designed the plans up to a point I was happy with.

The purpose there wasn’t to produce amazing final plans, but it was to give me a base to curate a mega-drawing. Of course, this was a side project and so the mega-drawing is on the back burner for now – but believe me when I say it’s not gone. I’ve set aside some time to work on it and hopefully finish it, so make sure you stay with :scale long enough to see that final outcome.

I suggest for this kind of project, don’t bust out the timetable, don’t treat it as a chore or job because you won’t be able to take advantage of the creative spirit that comes with doing something you enjoy. It’s pretty difficult and stressful – even more so now, constantly applying to jobs. Sometimes it can get pretty monotonous and you might begin to question yourself. I assure you it’s not you! It happens to everyone and the employment market is pretty unstable right now so there’s no saying which firms are hiring and which aren’t. Everyone is in this middle-ground where no one is quite sure how to proceed.

Highlighting your skills

Making your portfolio and CV the best it can be is crucial in avoiding those bubbles of self-doubt. In fact, it can be very interesting to update your professional image every now and then according to the experiences you’ve had. For example, if you’ve written for a blog I would recommend adding it to your CV (for the time being) to show some kind of initiative and interest in other areas. If you’re thinking of entering a competition, use some of the images in your portfolio. These can be more than just images, they’re a series of skills applicable to the workplace.

Think about stuff like time-management; which can come with competition deadlines, managing multiple projects or something as simple as software skills. Essentially you are trying to show employers that you have a diverse range of skills. A portfolio update can also be beneficial for learning something new and that never hurt anyone!

In this Medium article, number 9 on the list of micro-habits that are life-changing is to write everything down. This is so underrated, especially in architecture. Since we are visual thinkers and designers, we tend not to use text to convey our ideas and thoughts, but I’ve always found it a great way of keeping a track of data. Using Notion has been an integral part of writing more, in fact I’m writing this on Notion itself! In second and third year, we were also encouraged to create a Tumblr account to record our progress and findings and for our tutors to be able to see our projects outside of tutorials. This could prove to be an alternative solution for online classes and allows you to keep a virtual diary of your thoughts and ideas without the commitment of articles or longer text.

Writing things down for your portfolio update can be important for when you get round to doing the work. If you’re in education right now, it could be great to write little notes about possible explorations that aren’t suited for the current moment but could be useful in the future.

So, if you have some time on your hands, take a look at your past projects. I guarantee you there will be aspects you will look back on and think ‘what happened there?!’. It’s because unknowingly, we learn so much and it’s only when we look back on things is when we realise the little mistakes.

Part III The Basics

Part III – The Basics

So, you have finally made it through the first five years of your journey to become an Architect in the UK. You are a Part II graduate, who is either looking for a job or already has one, and are considering undertaking Part III but have no clue what it involves. Hopefully this post can help. 

Before actually enrolling on my Part III course I had no idea what was expected. To make matters more confusing the course criteria and assessment varies depending on the institution you decide to take the course with! The focus of this post will be on the RIBA North West (NW) Part III course, as that is the one I undertook. While courses differ slightly, a majority of the information below is still relevant.

Firstly, Part III is all about the profession, your professional experience, competence and ability to meet the prescribed criteria set by the ARB (Architects Registration Board). These include demonstrating you can meet the following Professional Criteria: 

  • PC1 Professionalism, 
  • PC2 Clients, users and delivery of services, 
  • PC3 Legal framework and processes, 
  • PC4 Practice and management, and 
  • PC5 Building procurement 

Before enrolling on a course it is a good idea to have some professional experience. At a minimum you will need at least 24 months experience before you can apply to sit the exam, 12 of which has to be from within the UK. But do not worry if you do not have enough experience just yet, you can still sign up on the RIBA NW course and take the exam when you are ready (you have up to three years to do so). However, do check the course your applying for as some do require you to sit the exam within a year of enrolment.

The RIBA NW course teaching time is limited to two intensive seminars, generally held over the weekends (Saturday – Tuesday). During these seminars you will attend lecture after lecture, it is hectic and you will be exhausted from it (although due to COVID-19 this may all be online now). Most other courses I am aware of run weekly lectures instead. Other than the two seminars there is not much teaching or tutor time. There are the optional drop-in sessions held every month. Other than this you are assigned study groups with other members on the course that you can arrange to meet up with in your own time. 

The elements used to assess your ability to meet the Professional Criteria by the RIBA NW course consists of a documentary submission, exam and professional interview. 

The documentary submission is comprised of the following:

  1. CV [2 pages max]

Treat this as your professional CV. It should be clear, concise and up-to-date. Plus make it visual, include images of projects you have worked on!

  1. Self-Evaluation [3,000-5,000 words]

Treat this as a reflection on your experience to date, include your architectural schooling, professional experience and future aspirations. Remember this is an appraisal so make sure to reflect on the good and bad parts of your experiences, and what you have learnt looking back. It is easier to split this into headings and work chronologically. For example, ‘Path into Architecture’, ‘RIBA Part I Architectural Education’, ‘RIBA Part I Professional Placement’, ‘RIBA Part II Architectural Education’, ‘RIBA Part II Professional Placement’, and ‘Evaluation and Future Aspirations’. Again, do not forget to include pictures and add a timeline to map out your career path.

  1. PEDRs (Professional Experience and Development Record) [min 24 months]

I know everyone says this and then does not necessarily do it, but try to keep on top of your PEDRs and make sure you get feedback from your mentor. Although PEDRs are painful, they are a really good tool and opportunity to get your office to give you more varied experience and cover all the RIBA Work Stages. Plus, they are even more painful when left to last minute and you are left scratching your head trying to figure out what you have done for the last 24 months!

  1. Case Study [8,000, or 10,000 if you are using dual project case studies]

This is one of the main components of your submission and involves you writing about a project you have been involved in, reviewing it from inception to completion. If you have not been involved on a project through the majority of RIBA Work Stages you can choose to shadow a project. This will require having good access to project material and someone you can talk to who has worked on the project. 

The key to the case study is to write about what happened and then critically analyse this in relation to ‘best practice’ (basically what the textbooks tell us should be happening). For example, if the project you picked had no formal appointment with the client, you could highlight this and mention best practice would be to have one; and then identify the risks of not having this to show you understand why it is needed. If things follow best practice you can also compare how different procurement routes would impact the project. 

For ease pick a project that is not too complex, where you can access all the information, and know a few things that happened which did not follow ‘best practice’. 

  1. Practice Problems 

In this section you include your answers to the exam questions. The exam itself is two full days of answering five questions a day and then one day to review. Questions are scenario-based and usually presented as the director in the office needs your assistance with an issue. Answers to the questions will either include drafting a letter, writing a memo with your thoughts on the matter, or filling in a standard form depending on the question. On the third day you are able to correct any spelling or grammar mistakes, and finish formatting your answers to form part of the whole document submission. 

It is an open book exam, but you do not have much time to flick through and find information. By knowing ‘best practice’ for your case study you will already have covered quite a lot of the material, and this will form part of your revision. That said, I would advise trying to do as many past practice problems as possible beforehand. By doing so you will notice similar topics coming up, get a better idea of the format of the exam, and how to approach questions. Plus, by doing this you can set up some template letters, memos, project programmes and resource schedules. 

Also, please remember the following: You are not expected to know everything! Instead you are expected to be able to show how you would professionally approach the problem. Be logical, there is no right or wrong answer!

The CV, Self-Evaluation, PEDRs, Case Study and your response to the Practice Problems make up the physical submission. You will need to upload these as one complete document to an online portal and send two spiral bound copies in the post to their offices before 17:30 on the day after the exam.

A month later is the final step, the interview! Use this time wisely to review your exam answers. Pick a few questions you felt you did not do as well on and make some notes on what you could have done. The interview is a perfect time to correct these answers. You will also find that some questions do not have an obvious answer, so it is useful to speak to your peers, study group and people in the office for an idea of how they might have approached the questions. Also do not forget to review and refresh yourself on your whole submission before the interview.

The interview itself consists of two examiners asking questions about your submission for 45 minutes. Do not worry it does go by quickly! They will most likely go through each section and ask a couple of questions, and then focus on the case study and practice problems. Try to relax they are not there to catch you out, but instead to check your knowledge and give you the opportunity to correct any mistakes. If anything, they will likely try and prompt you until you get the right answer. After all they are not trying to fail you!

The workload is high and no easy feat when you are also working full time. The best way to tackle everything is to plan, plan and plan. Be realistic with your time, break down the document submission, and leave yourself time to revise for the exam! Get out your calendar and plan out the months working backwards, set goals for completing sections of the document submission and areas to revise, and factor in if you miss them. As soon as you do this, you will realise you need a good amount of time before the exam to prepare. I am not talking weeks, more like months!

As part of your planning, I would recommend setting up your document, placing in a contents page and sections for each element of the submission, which you can fill as you go along. I would also select the fonts, graphic style and colour scheme you want to use and keep this consistent throughout each part. Start with the easy wins like the CV and Self-evaluation, these are not weighted the same as the rest of the submission so do not get too caught up on them. With the case study the structure is typically broken into sections, such as ‘Project Summary’, ‘Introduction’, ‘Project Environment’, ‘Legislative Framework’, ‘Procurement Contract Choice and Tendering’, and ‘Post-mobilisation’. To be able to get through the case study I found it helpful to work on one section or sub-section per week, reviewing relevant lecture notes form the seminar weekends and doing additional reading around best practice. 

Typically, you will find people who finish the document submission in advance and leave themselves plenty of revision time for the exam. As my time management skills are not the best, I factored in I would still be working on my case study close to the exam. Therefore, I decided to make sure I spent two evenings a week attempting practice problems, alone and with my study group.

This worked well for me, although I would recommend completing each part of the submission as you go! You will feel much better knowing you do not need to keep going back to finish things when the exam is looming closer. Closer to the exam aim to set up regular meetings with your study group. As there are no published past answers to the practice problems it helps to go through these with your study group to have an idea if you are on the right lines. A good idea is to set five questions for everyone to attempt before you meet up and then go through these together. I found this to be extremely helpful.

woman reading book while sitting on chair

Some other tips for Part III:

  • Do not leave any of the document submission to last minute. The process is stressful enough whilst working a full-time job! Aim to have all the document submission done a month ahead of the exam date at an absolute minimum.
  • For the case study do not fret about being involved in the whole of the project, as long as you can access all the relevant information, records, and have someone to discuss it with you will be able to fill in the gaps. 
  • Study groups and senior colleagues are a really good resource when it comes to running through practice problems. Try to get your study group to meet regularly and stick to these meetings.
  • Add a page in your submission which shows how you have met the ARB criteria. You could do this by using a diagram or coding system and link it to the relevant sections within your submission. The examiners can hardly let you fail if you spell out for them how you met all the criteria!
  • Do not be afraid to ask your firm, or in job interviews, what support they offer for Part IIs undertaking their Part III. I know firms who will pay the course fees, and designate mentors to read through your submission and give you pointers. Likewise, try to soak up conversations in your office and do not be afraid to ask questions!
  • Speak to friends who have recently completed their Part III. Ask if you can see a copy of their submission and if they have any resources they can share. It helps to see what you need to produce when it comes to having to put your submission together. 

Yes, doing your Part III is daunting. But as soon as you sign up and start the process it does come together. Even if you do not presently have a job, do not let this put you off from thinking about undertaking your Part III. There is nothing to stop you getting ahead of the game and starting some of the submission elements before enrolling. But when it does come to enrolling one thing you need to get in order, other than scheduling time in, is to let your firm know you are planning on doing your Part III and need their support to place you on a suitable project for the case study. 

If you have any questions, want to know more, or just want some advice about your Part III feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn. All the best to anyone who is thinking of or undertaking their Part III! 

This article was written by a community member!

Learn more about Samya Kako on our Writers page.

How to Use a Laser Cutter

How to Use a Laser Cutter – The Essentials

How does a Laser Cutter Work?
Preparing Your File
Setting Up Your Work

Hand-made models are great but at some point, precision becomes very important. There are some people who are very good at making models by hand quickly and precisely, but using the laser cutter can help save time, if you know what you’re doing. This article will go over some essential steps you need to know to prepare your file for laser cutting. 

Where to start

Laser cutting machines work by reading vector files. The technician will help you to use the software for the laser cutter but before that you need to prepare the file as a DWG. You can use AutoCAD, Sketchup, Rhino, Illustrator etc. Any vector program that lets you draw 2D. Check out our CAD 101 post to understand file types. 

How Does a Laser Cutter Work?

A focused laser beam follows ‘instructions’ from the computer to cut shapes, engrave and scribe. The beam goes through a lens/mirror which helps to focus the beam and get the precise cut you want. The intensity, heat output and length of the beam can be controlled and set according to the material you are using. Speak to the technician regarding the material as not all machines are the same. 

If you are interested in all the details about these, this is a great post which explains it in more detail.

There are three types of laser cutters:
– CO2 laser cutting
– Crystal laser cutting
– Fibre laser cutting

Preparing Your File

You can do this in most CAD programs, Sketchup, Autocad, Rhino, Illustrator etc. For this example we will be using Rhino.

1.Scale your work

If you are drawing out pieces for a model then your work is fine at a 1:1 scale e.g 200mm on the drawing, is 200mm. However if you have a site plan thats at 1:1 you need to scale everything down to the scale you plan to make your model. e.g 1:50

2.Organise your layers

Make 3 new layers: Board, Cut, Engrave. Select the objects and move them onto the correct layerSelect the objects and move them onto the relevant layer 

3. Set up your board

First of all; you need to know the dimensions of the laser cutting machine. The maximum of the one we use is 590X820. This will help you to figure out the dimensions of your drawing board. You obviously can’t go over that, and if you decide to have your board as the full size; it’s recommended that you leave a tolerance of a few mm, around 2/5. This depends on your machine- speak to the technician before you sort out your board.

Place your line work on the board that you have drawn. Things can get a little complicated and you are likely to get confused with your pieces so it is recommend that you mark them. It might be a little time consuming but it is worth it. Put the markings on a different layer and call it ‘engraving’

Select and export as a DWG or DXF
Need to recapture

2.Preparing to cut

The following may differ for different systmes, so make sure you speak to the technician about templates and settings for the laser cutter. However in general you print from Adobe Illustrator.

1. Fix the colour of the lines, they should be RGB- RED cut and BLUE Engrave
2. Select all and place on to a single layer

Move all objects on to one layer
Delete the empty layers

3. Change lineweight to 0.1pt

File is ready to cut. Save it as an .ai (Adobe Illustrator file) and also make sure to back up as a DWG/DXF file.

Note: Remember to remove the board out line once you have the correct artboard size.


  • Mark your work after it has been cut out so you know where to place your pieces
  • Make sure your material is clean and to try minimise burn marks cover the surface with a specific type of backing paper (workshops usually offer this) but if they don’t you can use low tack masking tape.

*this can be a bit time consuming if you have a lot of detailed engravings as the machine will cut them but you can weigh the benefits*

Usually you will have a workshop technician to guide you through the process and make sure you’re allowed to use that machine so if you have any doubts you can always ask them.

Leave a comment below letting us know what you think the best ways of using a laser cutting machine are, and tag us on Instagram with photos of your laser cut models to get featured!

A First Years’ Experience in Architecture

A First Year Student Experience in Architecture

Hi everyone! I am currently in my 2nd year of Architecture studying at the Liverpool School of Art and Design – LJMU. Before coming to University, I attended Sale Grammar School Sixth Form to complete my A Levels in Mathematics, Physics and History, plus an Extended Project Qualification. 2 Years and a Results Day later, I was heading to Liverpool to begin my Architecture journey!

Despite really enjoying my 1st Year of University, I did sometimes find myself with sudden extraordinary challenges. However, this is a normal feeling that many students experience studying architecture for the first time. The majority of us come into university with little knowledge of what to expect starting the course. Suddenly, in a matter of months or even weeks, most of us become absorbed into this universal ‘Architecture Student Lifestyle’. Unfortunately, this is inevitable as Architecture is associated with long days, long nights, and many hours of hard work. However, how you manage this, can make what is considered to be an intensive experience; a fun and enjoyable one!

In this article, I will share what helped in my first Year of Architecture school; emphasising the importance in balancing academia with other aspects of university life. I hope this will be helpful for those starting university soon! I understand how both nerve-wracking and exciting this new beginning can be, especially if you are moving to a new city and living with new people. Hopefully, the following tips will give you a head start in terms of what to expect in your first year as an architecture student. 

  1. Prepare for Tutorials & Reviews/Crits 

Coming in straight from A-levels, tutorials and crits, were a brand new experience compared to the standard learning structure. Presenting ideas was something I did not do much before. However, it becomes a very frequent activity in architecture school so you eventually get used to it very quickly. 

Tutorials 🡪 A weekly session, where you discuss your project with your tutor. This is an opportunity to get feedback on your work, discuss ideas and ask questions. 

Review/Crits 🡪 This is considered to be the most important day in your design process. This is where you pin up your work and present your design proposal to reviewers, including guests (depending on the University). It can be considered to be a very formal and sometimes difficult process or a casual experience (the experience varies between design units and universities). 

Ultimately, how you come out of these sessions is dependent on the quality of work and preparations you have done. Before a tutorial session, be sure to prepare what you want to show to your tutor and list some questions you have, to make the most of the sessions. Before a review/crit, be sure to prepare a pin-up which showcases your hard work and understanding of the project. Prepare what you are going to say during the review/crit, even if that means writing up some notes and presenting to yourself in your room the night before.   

  1. Get to know studio mates 

These are the people who will change your experience in architecture for the better! Architecture is an intensive experience, but who you surround yourself with can make that experience enjoyable. During my first year, I was lucky enough not only to find a group of people who are passionate and good at what they are doing, but also, looks out for one another. You will find that people have different skill sets and are open to sharing opinions and tips. Be sure to get to know the older years as well! They are more experienced and are eager to help when you are struggling with something as they understand what it is like being in your place.

  1. Keep involved in your hobbies through University Societies, Clubs, or Personal

University is the perfect opportunity to either try something new or enhance skills you already have. Before coming in September, I knew that I wanted to keep fit and continue playing sports at university. Therefore, I attended badminton training sessions and now play for the university badminton team, as well as selected for varsity. 

I always tell people that balancing architecture and badminton was a struggle, which in most cases, it was. However, the pros outweigh the cons. Getting involved taught me to have a balance and to organise my time properly. This helped me become more productive and I found when I came back from training or competitions, I was refreshed, and ready to start work again. 

  1. Start early – Wake up early 

This was something I struggled with in first year. Waking up early to start my work was only achieved the day before a review/crit. This was so that I could do as much work in the day and prevent working through the night. Unfortunately, I failed to recognise just how effective this could have been if I incorporated it into my everyday life.

Waking up early is really efficient in terms of productivity. It allows you to get a lot more work done. This is definitely something I want to do more often, and I would encourage others to try and do the same. Start early, finish early, and then you are free to enjoy the rest of your day! 

  1. Take breaks 

Breaks are very important, both short and long. When spending a day in the studio, make sure to take breaks! Go on walks with your friends, go to the local café, or sit outside for a bit. This may sound obvious but remember to eat! The Architecture Society at my University did an architecture-type ‘Bingo’ and one box read ‘Forgot to eat all day because you were too busy doing uni work’. It seemed as though the majority of students from all years ticked it off, proving this habit to be quite common among Architecture Students. 

Lastly, breaks are important due to the fact that Architecture consists of many projects and reports. In some Universities, there are few exams, however for others, it may be 100% coursework. The fact that coursework is significant in Architecture makes the workload quite intense. However, do not feel as though you need to constantly work on your project from the day you have been given the brief, to review/crit or submission day. Manage your time properly, allocate breaks, even if that includes days where you will not do any architecture work. Be productive in a healthy way and remember: quality over quantity! 

The main point for first year architecture is to enjoy yourself! Especially for 1st years where the university experience is so much more than the course. It is about trying new things, getting to know new people, and enjoy exploring the city you are in. As you progress in your architectural studies, you will start to appreciate the architecture around you more. My perspective of Liverpool in my first month of living there compared to my last month has completely changed. I am really excited to continue my Part 1 Architecture degree there. Whether you will be starting architecture in Liverpool, a different city, the UK or a different country, I am sure the city you will be in, will be a city you love, and if not, you will learn to love. Best of luck this year, and be sure to ask me anything you are unsure about  🙂 

This article was written by a community member!

Learn more about Elyza Yunus on our Writers page.

Towards a Sustainable Studio

Towards a Sustainable Studio

Over recent years, sustainability has been a recurring subject in studio, practice, education, and research. People want to take part in creating a more sustainable world to live in, but there are times where taking on sustainability feels as a small but difficult task to do.

This is especially prevalent  in studio and academia, since it might seem as if there is no significant impact when the project – or discussion – stays as a conceptual idea. But, what if instead of talking about sustainable methods, one can find a way to practice it? Instead of leaving it at a conceptual state, there are ways where one can start making small, easy decisions that would expand how we understand and talk about sustainability.

Reuse, Reduce, Recycle

Almost every person knows about the ‘three R’s’; Reuse, Reduce and Recycle, which is what sustainability consists of, but there is another verb, to repurpose, which essentially sums up what these three words intend to do. Even though adding ‘repurposing’ to the repertoire does not change the scale or outcome of the projects, it serves as an active process of taking action on sustainability. 

When referring to an active process, instead of a passive process, it means that one is automatically looking for a reason to repurpose. Instead of recycling or reducing materials, if you actively decide to repurpose something, you are challenged to think on how something will be transformed and given another use or meaning. When using the phrase “to repurpose”, one explicitly determines what will happen, where it starts and what is the outcome.

That mindset would start the groundwork for a different perspective on how to take on sustainability. Although, in academia, there may still not be a big or realistic result, it serves as an exercise for oneself that can, again, create a basis for a different mindset.The concept of repurposing already exists, be it remodeling a building, or historical preservation, those are ways in which architects take on sustainability by repurposing what they are working with.  

In the studio

How can students themselves act on sustainability within the circumstances or pressures the studio or academia puts on them. The immediate thought when it comes to architecture studios, is the fun, but sometimes dreadful and expensive model making. One thing students sometimes underthink or do not analyze much is how model making can actually serve as an experimental tool for the design.

Most of the time, students imagine and tell themselves that the models need to be an exact physical representation of what the project is. Which, really is not the point. Instead, students should re-imagine and experiment with the different ways things can be represented. And this is a great example of where one can repurpose materials or objects. 

On a more personal note, one of my previous studios had a big part of the semester concentrated in models for the sake of models. This allowed me, together with my other architecture students to experiment freely without many limitations other than the ones that exist when modelmaking, resources, money, and of course, gravity.

It also let me create models of materials that are not that common or standard in architecture studios. This allowed me to create the model that I am most proud of; a model made out of more than 3,000 toothpicks. Yes, it does not actually serve an architectural purpose, but the possibilities are endless. 

So what can we do to be sustainable?

Now, before deviating from the main purpose of this article, what I want for readers to take from this anecdote is that if you want an opportunity to act, or a sustainable approach, try creating a model out of repurposed materials. Look at the resources you have, and ask yourself how this can turn into a representation of the project.

The toothpicks idea was far from representing architecture. But that is where you need to challenge yourself on how you can transform or use something to your advantage. And simply enough, that is repurposing. And if the start of this article did resonate with you, then you already know that repurposing is just the start of acting sustainably and there are a million ways to take it further.

This article was written by a community member!

Learn more about José Alfredo López Villalobos on our Writers page.

Workflow Tips You Need to Implement Right Now

Workflow Tips You Need to Implement Right Now

A solid workflow is important when you have deadlines to meet and projects to finish. First let’s make sure we know what workflow is. Workflow as described in the dictionary is ‘the sequence of industrial, administrative, or other processes through which a piece of work passes from initiation to completion’. This is the part where you are being productive, not planning for it, not refining it, but the actual process.

Over the course of your studies, you might build up a workflow that works for you, a method that ensures you are working to the best of your ability. If you’re a newer architecture student, it can get very overwhelming very quickly. By the time Christmas rolls around, you have deadlines, crits, weekly tutorials and a project to be working on so your workflow could change over time.

Implementing some good habits and creating systems is the best thing you can do right now. If you’ve just graduated, this could be a way to prepare for work or to make sure you are using your time as well as you can and sending out applications. If you’re in between years, creating a workflow that suits you can be the best thing you do over summer.

🟢 Keep a sketchbook

A sketchbook is a must and you will have heard that multiple times on our website and from other architects. Having online productivity tools like Notion is great for note-taking or collecting links and resources but there is something different about drawing out your ideas. You can also do this on some trace, and scan it in, but remember that these are simply tools for you to output your thoughts and creativity.

You will inevitably be using a sketchbook in university and in practice, so try and make sure that you keep it on hand at all times. You could even have multiple sketchbooks that you use for individual purposes. Make sure you keep track of important details of your projects so that you can refer back to them. Sometimes your sketchbook can be much more informative of your design approach and decisions than your final portfolio.

🟢 Organise your tasks

This point links to the previous point. How you use your sketchbook is up to you at the end of the day. But it might be better to keep a separate planner or online system that can allow you to organise your tasks. If you didn’t know already, we’ve been using Notion, and it has been a gamechanger. There are many possibilities and uses but to start out, a simple to-do list can work. If you often end up giving yourself too many tasks or don’t always check off tasks, Notion can provide multiple views such as a table or Kanban board to make it more interactive.

The purpose of organising your tasks is so that you have a clear set of actions to complete in an hour, in a day or in a week. This is especially helpful if you often find yourself stuck and don’t know how to proceed. It also lets procrastination sneak in which you will end up regretting later on.

🟢 Work in small chunks

The pomodoro technique is possibly the best and easiest way to get started with time management. Think about what kinds of tasks you want to accomplish and be very specific. By writing down ‘make a model’ you’re not thinking about the logistics involved. What if you need to go buy materials first? Or you need to wait for your 3D printed elements to finish printing. Being specific means that you’re also being realistic and can fit those tasks into small chunks.

If the 25 minutes seems a bit too short for you, try 50 minutes and a 10 minute break afterwards. As you progress, you will start understanding how much you can do in under an hour. This blog article has taken me 26 minutes up till now and I know that I can finish it within in hour because over time, I have gotten used to the workflow of writing an article and once I am in the correct mindset, the words flow a lot easier. But having a rough outline helps too.

Basically, if you incorporate this into your daily schedule it can work out great and push away the pressure of having to work for long hours on end or think about staying up all night to finish something.

🟢 Finish your current task before starting a new one

This is something that people often don’t consider. Obviously, procrastination can be detrimental in the long-run, but if you tend to skip on to the next task or switch in-between different things without finishing something, it might confuse you or you might not even finish at all! Usually this happens if we don’t enjoy the task that we are doing. So it’s not a matter of not doing what you don’t enjoy but instead, making those tasks enjoyable in some way. For example, if you’re going to be doing a mundane task like annotation, pop open a second screen and put on an episode of something you’ve already watched but enjoy.

You will end up linking these two tasks together and will actually start to do these things naturally. If you’re struggling with being productive, have a look at Ali Abdaal’s class on Skillshare. Here you can get an idea of what productivity is and how it links to workflow.

🟢 Keep goals in front of you

Goals can give you motivation. We often say that as designers, we tend to think visually. So if it means keeping a photoshopped image of yourself at graduation, do it! It isn’t uncommon for students to think about dropping out if things aren’t going as well as planned. But by having your goals either written down or in front of you, it will give you that motivation to keep on going. Over time, this motivation for short term goals can also turn into a drive for longer term achievements. If you can positively visualise them happening and if you have the determination to see it through till the end, there should be nothing stopping you.

Although this is an article on workflow tips, we shouldn’t get bogged down with what tools will make us work better. We have to also think about what we want out of having a better workflow and what are the end goals.

🟢 Switch up your workspace

If you have a quiet study room with an adequate amount of space, then you might not even want to switch up your environment. But through lockdown, we know that it can be difficult to stay on task if there are others around you. Sometimes, you might need to take your laptop and sit on the couch, take your model and work in the garden in order to get a fresh perspective. We work long hours anyway and nobody wants to be sitting in front of a screen for the entire day.

Make sure you take breaks in between. These can be your social media breaks, a coffee break or something quick, but make sure you stick to your time and get back to work when you need to.

🟢 Plan in detail

Similar to being specific when you plan tasks, you need to remember that the same can apply to other aspects of your workflow. Take the time to invest in the proper tools for your desk, plan out exactly what you need and want and get rid of any distracting clutter. Plan out the next couple of months and what you want to be achieving each month. This way, you will avoid being stuck or clueless as to how to proceed. If you’re applying for jobs, plan out the kind of firms you want to apply to (but apply to them all), plan out a cover letter template in advance – you get the gist.

Having a good workflow can prepare you for a lot of things, not just in architecture. Hopefully, you can being to implement these things yourself and become a bit more proactive. If you didn’t know already, we often share advice like this on our Discord server as well as our Instagram. If you’re struggling with something specific, don’t hesitate to contact us and make sure to leave a comment below!

6 Tips For Your Year Out

6 Tips For Your Year Out

Leaving the somewhat safety of being an architecture undergrad can be a daunting experience for anyone, especially if you haven’t worked in a practice before. But we all start somewhere – hence the year out, and it’s something that I try to remember every time I feel disheartened by my own lack of knowledge and experience.

In light of this, it’s important to pass on what we’ve learned through our experiences and hopefully help dispel the myths of what it’s like being a part 1 in an architecture practice. I’ve been fortunate enough to work in both a large high-profile studio, and a small practice and here are a few things that I learned along the way:

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions

I know it may feel like you’re being annoying by asking questions but it’s important to look for help rather than sitting there unsure. Saying this though, Google can be your best friend. Any time you don’t know something, Google it first and if you can’t find it, ask someone on your team. Unless of course like me, you arrive on your first day, sit in front of a new computer you’ve never seen before and have no idea how it turns on, then you can bypass Google!

2. Try to find what you enjoy doing

Show some interest in things you have absolutely no knowledge about. Alongside learning something new, you might find that you end up becoming even more intrigued.

With that being said, it’s always great to stick to your strong suits and take part in things you know you enjoy. The sense of familiarity will help and won’t leave you feeling bored or unmotivated. Your year out isn’t supposed to be like university, it’s meant to challenge you and let you have a practical experience. If you’re open to having a go at everything you can, you’re more likely to find your niche. Which leads on to my 3rd point.

3. Be open to admitting your weaknesses to yourself and try to work on them

Part 1 is a learning experience, no one expects you to be good at everything right from the get go. My personal weak spot was model making, so I often tried to go to the workshop that we had in the studio and learn something new to familiarise myself with different making processes. It doesn’t detract from the fact that I still love making visuals but increases my skill set to be more flexible, which can only be a plus in our current predicament.

4. Connect with the other Part 1s and 2s

Under ‘normal’ circumstances I’d suggest going to the pub or going for lunch as a group, but right now we’re more isolated than ever. If you’re in a studio that has more than one of either part 1 or 2, try and find ways to reach out to them. The Part 1’s in my studio have a WhatsApp group to keep in contact. The other Part 1’s are in the same situation as you, and the Part 2’s will have gone through it recently so they’re a great support to have. Learn from them and don’t be afraid to ask questions, they will be more than happy to help.

5. Make your voice heard, you are important

If you have reviews within your studio, your opinion on subjective design matters is just as valuable as someone who has been working in the industry for 20 years, so don’t be afraid to comment if you think something doesn’t work. If your studio is interested in staying contemporary and innovative, they will appreciate your input and fresh ideas.

6. Attitude!

Such a huge part of getting the most out of your year out is having a great attitude towards everything. I found I contributed and learned the most when I had a positive attitude, and if I felt tired or overworked, everything seemed like a chore and took longer to do. So take care of yourself! Maintain a work/life balance so that you can contribute and learn at a higher standard.

And lastly, enjoy yourself. You’re blessed with the position of learning without the responsibility and accountability of being an architect. Of course it goes without saying, my words are not law, simply take what you need from each point and go out there and smash it.

P.S. Here‘s another article that explains some of the more logistical aspects of a year out if that’s what you came here for.

This article was written by a community member!

Learn more about Nathalie Harris on our Writers page.

The Importance of Sketching

The Importance Of Sketching

What are the benefits of sketching?

As digital tools and software become increasingly popular with time, sketching is losing its relevance. However, it has its own benefits and advantages which a digital tool may not. Sketching is one of the best ways to put out our initial ideas when starting a new project. In addition, it is also a quick way to record ideas, memories and observations. When opening a laptop and starting a software can seem long or we don’t have those tools near us at times, sketching can be a quick way to get down our ideas on paper. It is also a more convenient way as we can always keep a sketchbook with us in our bag or even carry a pocket sized sketchbook in our pockets, instead of having to carry a laptop. 

Sketching is one step closer to thinking like a true designer. You see, you think, you visualise and you sketch to test out the idea, then, you change it and add to it. It is a great way to communicate your ideas to another person. 

Based on the National Center of Biotechnology Information, sketching is a great way to stimulate creativity and open-ended thoughts, making the mind think in a different manner, forcing it to problem solve.

My experience

Over the past three years in university if I have to describe my journey of sketching, I would describe it as a ‘rollercoaster’. In my first year, I was told to have three different sketchbooks for different purposes. However, at the end of the year, I found myself not even completing one fully and even so, most of the pages were filled with calculations and scribbles which were attempts at drawing sketches. This was mainly because I didn’t understand the importance of sketching or even know how to start sketching and do it properly. 

Often, I would look at examples of sketches and question them as at first I failed to understand why some people would decide to draw roughly instead of using digital tools straight away. Later I learned and realized that most of the sketches we see or do are not worth showing off, because sketches are not about looking good, their main purpose is to communicate ideas or record them.  

Once I understood this, in my second year, I started to sketch a lot more.  I would show them to my tutors, but I wouldn’t receive the reaction I had expected. Turned out, they weren’t able to clearly interpret whatever it was I was trying to convey. However, as my project developed, I found myself going back to those sketches and using them to further develop my project, allowing it to become  an important part of the process. Later – as advised by my tutors – I ended up including some of the sketches in my portfolio, which at first I thought were rubbish. 

Often, the sketches we do are not meant to be presented to other people, as they might not communicate the same ideas for them as they would to us, making a lot more sense as we are the ones drawing them. 

In my third year of university, I lost interest in doing sketches as I got better and enjoyed digital drawing a lot more. However, looking back at my portfolio, I regret doing that as I realise that it would have helped me to document my ideas before I started drawing something in digital software or in the process of it, when I changed ideas. 

I do not think I am particularly gifted in sketching, but I did realise that over the years, my technique in sketching has changed. These days, I am practicing it a lot in my free time and I am trying to find my own style so it becomes recognizable as my own.

Tips on sketching well 

Truth is, there is no right way to sketch. While with digital drawing we are unable to draw freely, with sketching there are no restrictions. Sketching is not drawing with straight lines and makes things perfect, but is meant to be quick, light and, well, sketchy. 

Some of my personal tips for sketching:

  • Don’t try to draw a straight line all in one go, stop in the middle if you can’t draw it all in one go. You will be surprised how straight the lines come out that way compared to a line you attempt to draw all at once.
  • Leave the intersect lines, don’t rub them off. These will allow you to show the very nature of sketching as it is. 
  • Use different line weights. Create depths, shadows and contrast by using different line weights. 
  • Use tracing paper. Don’t hesitate on using multiple layers of tracing paper. Don’t worry, they won’t make your sketch look ugly. Play with ideas and show the design process. 
  • Be careful not to smudge the page. I used to get annoyed whenever I drew in pencil because I would smudge a lot of the page, ruining the sketch. At some point, I learned that starting the drawing from upwards and in the opposite direction of the drawing hand, can help prevent smudges. In addition, a lot of the time, a drawing can be smudged even after finishing it, depending where you place it. For this, I was advised by one of my tutors during university, to use a fixative spray to set the drawing. But remember to only use it at the end, because you can’t erase the drawing afterwards. 

Get sketching

Some of the best ideas start with sketching. Sketch when you are on the road and you suddenly see something interesting. Sketch when the tutor is speaking and suddenly an idea pops up into your mind. Sketch when you don’t know how to start a project and you need inspiration. Sketch to document the process of a project. Sketch whatever comes into your mind, chances are they would become the start of something amazing. Have different sketchbooks for different things. Most importantly, get sketching!! 

This article was written by a community member!

Learn more about Tamanna Tahera on our Writers page.

Actual Interview Questions You Should be Prepared for

Actual Interview Questions You Should be Prepared For

We’re sure you’ve heard of the standard questions that every interviewer will supposedly ask you. In fact, I was given a list of such questions in order to prepare for an interview. Let me tell you that the list didn’t come in use at all. Something I realised very early on was that in an interview (for Part I’s at least), is that the employer is more interested in your work rather than logistical details or cringe questions 😬.

They want to get to know you as a person and understand your journey throughout university. This includes your design decisions or interests that can show through in the type of buildings you design or the topics for your written works. We can’t speak for every single employer and it will most likely vary depending on the size of the firm, which person is interviewing you and if you even make it past the initial impression in order to get an interview.

Over the course of a year, I’ve given 10 such interviews – the last one being successful. Apart from two, they were all for a Part I Architectural Assistant role. What I learnt at the beginning was that my 💼 portfolio was the star of the show. This meant it had to be immaculate and interesting, and I had to know every little detail about it.

If you’ve had previous experience, take some time to think about what your role involved, what you enjoyed there and what you think could have been better about the experience. Similarly, what are you expecting from this firm? Is it just a year-out experience, are you hoping to understand their sector better or do you want to just get a feel for office culture.

There is no right and wrong here. Every answer will depend on you as a person, as a student and consider all your experiences and skills. Sometimes, the person interviewing you might have only looked at your CV moments before they meet you. If this is the case, take the time out to go through your CV slowly, explaining more than what is shown. Usually they will ask for you to give a brief introduction, who you are, where you’re from, what you’ve been doing recently. In this case, I usually like to say that I am a recent graduate. But this doesn’t define who I am.

I would then go on to say, I’ve been utilising my time to learn Revit and run :scale blog. These are talking points. They don’t need to be some expert level achievement, but something that will intrigue to interviewer. You could mention a hobby you started, a volunteering experience, academic achievement you’re proud of and so on.

Popular Questions

🔴Why did you decide to make this decision in your portfolio?

When going through your portfolio, it is common for the employer to ask questions so don’t fly through the entire thing, take your time, and explain everything slowly. To give you an example, I had an interviewer who was very interested in one of my projects because they recognised the site and actually had worked near there in the past. Then, they were interested in the sustainable elements of my project which also happened to be the basis of my technology report. The question on their mind was why was I including sustainable solutions in a residential project in the middle of London?

‘It’s because the current situation of overcrowded back alleyways needed to be eradicated, especially the influx of unnecessary building systems. I proposed a series of sustainable elements (which were very creative and realistically not possible) in order to introduce natural ventilation and allow for better interior organisation.’

The employer might pick on the smallest detail that you didn’t even think about. So go through your portfolio several times. Present it to a parent or sibling acting as if you’re in the interview. It will allow you to see how much you actually know about your work and help you understand what areas are of most interest to you. Your portfolio should support whatever you are saying. If you want to highlight that you have spent the time working on your CAD skills, showcase this in your portfolio.

🔴 What would the people around you say is your best and worst quality?

I quite like this one. You don’t have to sound vain or make something up on the spot because they want to see how others feel about you. Think about the times your peers and tutors may have praised you for a skill like organisation or punctuality. Think about what you would like to be better at such as communication and presenting in front of an audience.

Switch it up and tell them what you think your worst quality is first. This might surprise them because we often tend to not talk bad about ourselves in an interview. ⭐ But being honest is the best thing you can do ⭐. Tell them that you’re working on this but be specific. For example, if you’ve been wanting to get more hands on with software, take the time to start a course or simply mention that you’ve been actively learning a specific software. It will show them that you’re all about bettering yourself, reaching for your goals and building skills.

It’s important for an employer to see that you are proactive. If you’re doing all these things for the simple purpose of learning something new, it’s obvious that you will apply the same mindset to work.

🔴 Has there ever been a time where you were faced with criticism?

This might seem like a challenging one at first if your mind goes to formal experience or other circumstances. But you’re an architecture student. Crits are full of criticism! If you think about it, we’re faced with some form of criticism every week. Your tutors will definitely support and help you, but a big part of their role is to make us question our design choices and dive deeper into why you’re designing in a specific way.

Really, the interviewer wants to know how you deal with it. I love the idea of taking something usually construed as 😕 negative and turning it into a 😁 positive. Look for the silver lining. If you’ve faced criticism regarding your designs or the wording of your essay, think about how you can take what the person has said and turn it onto something positive. The best way to do this is to write down what’s been said and coming back to it at a later date. If you had a crit yesterday and don’t want to face what’s been said just yet, leave it for tomorrow.

When you sit down to start your tasks, think with a positive and open mind and address the criticism. If it’s something really small, you will need to ask yourself if it’s feasible to make the changes that are being suggested at this stage, and if it is, why wouldn’t you make them? If you don’t have an answer to that, it might be something to consider.

🔴 How do you handle multi-tasking and deadlines?

Let’s be real. No one is perfect at multi-tasking every single hour of every single day. But essentially, the interviewer will want to know how you manage your time best in time-pressured situations. Everyone works to a deadline and you need to explain that you’ve been doing these skills throughout university and will definitely carry that into your professional life. In the interview, it could be hard to think of such ideas on the spot, but if you take the time to think about it and be honest, it shouldn’t be difficult.

To give you an example, I’ve answered this question by explaining that I pride myself on a different kind of workflow. I set myself deadlines slightly earlier than the actual deadline so that when the time comes around, I am ready and can utilise the time between my personal deadline and the actual deadline to do extra things. This also allows me to have a stricter timetable so that even if I don’t complete all my tasks and everything I want to do, there is still some leeway towards the end.

Balancing several projects can be tricky for some people and as an architecture student, I’ve found that after graduating it was very difficult to switch off my brain and get out of the designing mindset. This skill is important when multi-tasking because you need to constantly switch between your design project to your dissertation, to thinking about employment prospects.

The secret to this, is to be doing things that you enjoy. If you aren’t interested in the dissertation topic you’ve chosen, you will be more likely to avoid doing it at all. So while you think you are multi-tasking, you’re probably not. Another great habit to have is to schedule in days for certain tasks. For example, I liked to save Friday for all the extraneous and lower priority tasks that needed doing. I could catch up on that drawing I was supposed to annotate or write a list of drawings.

All the small things would happen on that day. Then, the other days would be dedicated to each project that was happening. This can get you into an automatic workflow where the boundaries are clear. It also doesn’t need to be set in stone and will need to change as deadlines approach where you might need to allocate more time to one project.

🔴 What is your strongest skill?

I won’t give you a script for this question. This is something you need to consider yourself. Think about what you were terrible at when you first started university and whether or not that skill has become your strongest yet.

Don’t be afraid to expand on your answers in the interview. Obviously, the interviewer isn’t looking for an essay-length response, but it might be good to explain why you feel a certain way.

🔴 What kinds of software have you learnt?

Again, being truthful in your responses is key 😇. This doesn’t necessarily mean that it will show weaknesses or put the interviewer off from going forward. If you tell them honestly that you’ve never worked with a software, it can save you a lot of trouble and embarrassment in the future. Similarly, don’t tell them you are an expert in Rhino when you’re just a beginner. Some employers might invite you back for a second interview that could include a surprise test!

The best way to go about answering this question, is to tell them you are using your free time to learn new software (in particular whichever one the firm works in). This will do many things for you; it will show them that you’re putting in the effort to learn whatever software that firm uses, making sure you are ready for the role. It also shows that you are being proactive.

It will also allow you to respond with a question. Ask them why they prefer this software, what kinds of things do they do with it primarily and how you would be using it on a day-to-day basis.

🔴 What did you enjoy about university?

I received this question a couple of times which actually threw me. I hadn’t actually thought about my experience at university as a whole and how it had shaped me as a designer. Of course, I enjoyed the course, had some realisations after graduating, so overall I felt that it was what I signed up for and more.

🔴 Do you have any questions for us?

This is the best and most important one in my mind. Before an interview, I like to go through the firms website, any articles, and publications about them and write down a list of questions. Another good way to do this is to look at the job description and highlight the bits you don’t fully understand. For me, I was often asking how does a Part I fit in within the entire firm. I usually got the answer that I’d be working in a team or be multi-tasking on multiple projects but would usually have some kind of guidance throughout the process.

Definitely make it a point to ask at least one question. If you feel like whatever you were going to ask has been answered in their description of the firm, let them know.

Another topic I haven’t mentioned yet is salary. Obviously, this will depend on the firm and their approach but in an initial interview, I’ve never discussed salary apart from a generic range. But a good thing might be to talk to your peers or those who have already completed their year out and get a feel for this area.

Hopefully, this article will help you to be a little bit more prepared and allow you to understand actual questions that are usually asked in an interview. Let us know what kind of questions you’ve been asked and think could be helpful for fresh graduates! Make sure to keep up with us on Instagram as well 😄

Setting Up a WfH Workspace

Setting Up a WFH Space

First of all, well done to everyone who managed to complete their studies online this year. It was an interesting experience, wouldn’t you say?  Due to the pandemic, cities went into lockdown, compelling educational institutes and public workspaces to be closed. This didn’t mean the world stopped functioning; we just had to adapt our lifestyle and carry on. For some people, it was easy, but for others, it was a little bit more than just typing on the computer. 

The architecture facilities at university are an essential part of education, it is not only the large studio space, but the computer labs, workshops and many other amenities other amenities that students need to access to. There are students who are already comfortable working from home. However, for a lot of students this was a new experience, which took some time getting used to. Let me assure you that none of us have experienced working from home quite like this.  

It is safe to say that, architecture students went into a slight mode of ‘uncertain panic’? Confused about how we were going to make models, how we were going to scan work, how tutorials would work etc. etc.  Nonetheless, we have finished and made it through; again, well done.  

With no vaccine, and a confused government, there is still much uncertainty in educational institutes. Many universities are considering to have everything done online for the 2020/21 academic year and many are considering to start online and then transition back to irl (‘in real life’) teaching. Watch our space for a guest post coming up to discuss the upcoming changes in September!

For the moment, the best and only thing you can do is prepare for the worst or best outcome. During this period, I would say I have made myself quite at home. To help you prepare for university, here are some tips that I picked up from my experience of studying architecture at home.

Set Up Your Space

Since you will be working from home, you need to find a space that is comfortable and suitable for your work. You are free to move around and it can become chaotic if you don’t settle on a general area. Make sure you keep all your equipment and materials organised and clean. Avoid working on the bed, it just won’t work out.

Drawing Space

It goes without saying that drawing is a fundemental part of who you are. You need to make sure you have a place to produce your large drawings since you won’t have access to the studios.

Drawing Table – The large drawings we produce, require large tables, (preferably with straight edges to hook on your t-square). You don’t need to buy a new table. As an architecture student, you learn to adapt and modify what you already have. The best way I found working was by using an A1/A0 MDF board. Anywhere between 10-20mm is thick enough to tape down your paper and hook your t-square. You can buy a board from almost any home depot construction stores like Wickes or even on Ebay and Amazon.  

If you have a large table you can place your MDF board on that. If you don’t, you can buy blocks to place under the board or place the board on a few large text books on the floor. Nothing beats working on the floor on your favourite rug. Have a look at our post for recommended drafting and modelling equipment.

Digital Space

This is the space, for most students, once you develop your skills from first year. Most students from 2nd year will spend a lot more time on the computer using CAD software for drawing, rendering, portfolio set up etc. Using your laptop to check emails and casual work is totally different from spending 12 hours setting up drawings and rendering. It is really important you have a set up that you are comfortable to work with. 

Here are a few factors to consider: 


You will be sitting for a long time, try to take a break every 15 minutes, but you, as well as I know, that it can be very easy to be sucked into work. Especially during deadlines. 

This can cause serious damage to your body, and you don’t want to be feeling like a grandparent before you have even started your life. I am no physio therapist, but this is an excellent post which will help you with posture. You don’t need to buy anything extra, everything is possible with what you have already. Certain devices can make a difference. I really suggest to buy an ‘Ergonomic’ mouse; a game changer. They are available at most tech stores and online.

Wrist support You can buy a support cushion for your ‘mouse wrist’ and a keyboard rest as well. Or as an architecture student why not make one yourself? There are plenty of tutorials out there.


Take. Care. Of. Your. Eyes. It goes without saying that you need to take care of your eyes, but we all need that reminder now and again. I highly recommend either installing a blue light filter or buying a pair of anti blue light glasses, these are widely available anywhere and are not prescription glasses. Here is a post which summarises what is blue light and how it affects us. 

Dry eyes -Staring at screens can also dry your eyes, I found that my eyes would sting or itch after long hours of work. Two simple things that helped me were to use a cool eye gel under the eyes or leave two tea spoons in the fridge and just place that over your eyes. As alien as it sounds, it does work. Alternatively you can also look into hydrating eye sprays that are widely available from opticians and pharmacies. 


Without getting too technical, a good desktop or laptop is  essential if you are going to be working from home.  The software you will be need a lot of power and doing all your work on a computer that’s not built for it may put you at a disadvantage. The core factors to consider are: RAM, Graphics card, Processor, Hard Drive and Screen Size. 

You don’t need to buy a super expensive ultimate PC or laptop, there are plenty of laptops within a reasonable price range, which will get the job done.  This is quite important and I can’t cover everything here, we’ll go into the details of computers in a later post. But in the mean time there are a lot of other articles out there for suggestions, be sure to have a browse and reach out to us if you have any questions! 

Screen Extension Having a screen extension is super useful but not everyone has the space or the funds for an additional screen. If you have a tablet, there are screen extension programs such as Spacedesk that connect your device to your computer. Since it is wireless, expect it to lag slightly but it works great if you need to have a reference image to the side while you draw or model work. 

Headset – you don’t need a super headset; just make sure you have a good pair of headphones and a mic that works so you can have productive online tutorials and meetings 


Don’t panic if you don’t have a high tech camera. You can always buy a standard DSLR or use your phone. If you don’t know anything about cameras, this post will help you get started.

Next, you might ask how do I use a camera? There are several important features to consider when taking photographs. Below we’ve linked a brilliant video which explains how to use your camera and what to consider. These principles can also be applied with phone photography and will significantly improve the quality of your photos if you understand them.


Table lamps work fine, I tend to use two or even the phone torch in some cases.  But nothing beats natural sunlight. Note the time of day you take photographs – because natural lighting can often work best when photographing models. If you set up a reflector you can create soft shadows. You can use white card, foam board or even a bed sheet as a reflector. 


The backdrop is very important. If you have a clean background, it will minimise the post editing process and you will have more control over the shadows. Most models are photographed with either a white or black background; you might be tempted to use different colours or textures but that all depends on your concept.

In general the background should be plain so the focus on the image is your model. Setting up a backdrop depends on the size of your model and on the space around you. Your usual options are to photograph your model on the floor or on a table.

For the backdrop you could:

  1. Get a large sheet of paper or a bed sheet which can be taped/pinned to the wall- this should be long enough to provide a base and backdrop
  2.  Use A1 Card as a background and base

If you have small models you could also make yourself a photography booth.


Make sure you have some way of setting your camera in a stable position. It makes all the difference.  Tri-pods are made exactly for this reason. If you plan to only use your phone for photography, then you could purchse a phone tripod; however you will be constricted by height and position. It’s good for minituare models but you might struggle to capture larger models.

I suggest you have a regular tripod (you can buy an additional phone mount to attach) and a phone tripod, so you have the best of both. It doesnt have to be an industry level tripod- The Hama Star 700 tripod available on Amazon or Ebay is a standard tripod, easy to use and can be packed away easily. Alternatively, you can place your camera or phone on a pile of books. 

Model Making

Your MDF board will come to use yet again. You can use one side for drawing and one side for model making. Essentials you need for general model making include:

  • Scalpel with 10A blades
  • Heavy duty glue
  • Glue gun + glue sticks
  • Masking tape + double sided tape
  • Set square
  • Metal ruler
  • Cutting mat

Printing and scanning

Even though you are not required to have a printed portfolio, don’t feel that your hand drawing or sketches can’t be used or have to be done on a4/3. You don’t need an A1 plotter. To scan larger drawings at home, you can use a scanning app on your phone. I tend to use CamScanner, which has no watermarks on the free version and gives you a lot of editing options. 

Alternatively, print shops have opened up. Their services maybe limited due to COVID-19 regulations, so it is worth calling to check.  If you are around Central London, Panopus Prints provides an amazing service for students – I highly recommend them.

All Set

You are probably sick and tired of hearing this, but it is true. We are living through ‘unprecedented’ times and at this point our generation don’t even know what to expect next; we just have to adapt to whatever comes our way. On that note, this guide should help to prepare your home-work space for the academic year ahead. Good luck!