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 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

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

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

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

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

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 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!


Why You Need to Be on LinkedIn Right Now

It’s a no-brainer that LinkedIn is the platform for professionals including architects. LinkedIn is wonderful for more than just making connections. It has a great job board that links to your own profile as well as the opportunity to join groups, follow pages created by companies and show off your work. We’ve previously discussed that being on Instagram as an architecture student can be quite useful to showcase the process of your work, get it on a platform and look at other student or university accounts.

But LinkedIn is far different than Instagram in terms of content. When you look at popularity though, it is growing and may even have the potential to overtake Instagram at some point. Recently, there has been growing concern regarding employment as a whole post-pandemic. There isn’t a fixed position or route that can be taken so many fresh graduates are in an unprecedented position.

Apart from letting recruiters know that you are on the job hunt, LinkedIn is useful for a number of things. Let’s start with your profile. You have the chance to include your experiences, skills and even link or upload your portfolio. Almost every architecture firm is on LinkedIn, so make sure you’re following them and engaging in their posts. Sometimes they may even post an opening which you can apply to directly through LinkedIn.

Other types of content include 📹videos and 📝articles which could also be a good way to get your work across and create an online presence. Maybe you could write a short article about something that interests or concerns you within architecture and post it directly on to LinkedIn. If your projects involved multimedia such as videos or animations, you could upload those on to LinkedIn as well. The best way to do this though is by carefully curating the work you are posting. It’s not like Instagram where you can be carefree and informal – make sure to use key hashtags that are relevant and be professional in your captions.

Even if you do upload your portfolio to LinkedIn, it might not be a good idea to link this everywhere since employers will most likely take a look at your profile near an interview stage. Make sure that your portfolio shines 🌟 through as a PDF file.

Networking is essentially the main goal of LinkedIn. This is the perfect time for you to connect with your peers, tutors, lecturers, and their connections, respectively. Don’t go overboard with this as there is a limit of 500 connections so make sure you choose carefully. It may be a good idea to connect with architectural recruiters as they often post about new opportunities which you can talk further about through an email or call. As you grow in your career, you might find individuals with similar interests who might prove to be useful in the future.

The way the LinkedIn algorithm works is quite simple. It take a look at your existing connections, cross checks it with professions and interests and recommends other profiles and individuals who work in the same industry. It’s probably best to make connections with Part II’s if you’re a Part I or Senior Architects if you’re a Part II. Think about why they should connect with you as well. If you have something in common, it could be a starting point. If you need specific portfolio advice, look for people who may be providing this for free – yes there are people doing this on LinkedIn.

Getting your name out there is so crucial. Please do not be one of those people who doesn’t have an image attached to your profile! It is so important to connect a name to a face. It can take 10 minutes to ask someone to take a nice headshot of you or even do it yourself. Make sure that the details on your profile are accurate, especially dates. The next thing to do is to have fun with it. Make it your own and start posting content so that employers see that you are active. You can engage with other peers, find about what’s going on in architecture these days and respond or have a healthy debate with someone.

The most useful part of LinkedIn is the 👔 job board. The best thing about it is that most if not all firms will most likely post a job opening on their LinkedIn page as well as their own website. The application part will depend firm to firm, but it might be possible to apply directly or be redirected to their application portal. The way to do this in the best way is to follow all the companies you think of and make use of the ‘similar pages’. Follow hashtags as well – specifically things like #architecture #architecturejobs #cvadvice etc. This will display a series of posts on your feed that can show you the top posts within these hashtags.

If you’re looking for specific career advice, we would recommend these 4 things:

  1. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is fully completed and you are regularly active (1 post a week)
  2. Follow people who are giving out advice or a chance to review your portfolio. Kirsty Bonner creates some amazingly helpful posts about optimising your profile as well as CV tips.
  3. Join Architecture Social – a network for students, graduates, and professionals where you can network and get specialised information, events and more.
  4. Join our 💬 Discord – we try to give some general advice for students on topics like designing your CV or where to find more useful information.

Overall, we can’t stress enough how important LinkedIn is. Make it a part of your social apps, move it over to the home screen and turn on notifications. LinkedIn is the place to post your achievements, career updates and network and it is the best steppingstone for many job opportunities. Remember, it’s not enough to create a profile and leave it at that. You need to be regularly updating and optimising your page so that you have maximum exposure.

Similarly, if you have your own business or blog, tell people about it on LinkedIn. Employers are very much interested in the things you do outside of designing buildings so that they can understand what kinds of hobbies you have, identify common talking points, and see how the skills you have in other areas can get transferred over.

We hope that you found this article useful, if you have any questions or suggestions, leave them in the comments below or say hello on Instagram and Discord. P.S obviously make sure to follow our LinkedIn page!


Dealing with Rejection as Architecture Students

Rejection is not uncommon in all stages of life. But as an architecture student, it can be quite difficult to deal with at times. If you’re putting in a lot of effort, long hours, and hard work only to get rejected it can feel really frustrating and upsetting. Sometimes your drawings and designs could get rejected at a crucial stage or perhaps you might face rejection when applying for jobs. But there is a way to acknowledge and understand where the rejection is coming from and turn that into a positive action.

It’s no news that we are constantly working through iterations of our designs throughout the year. This is so that we can keep building and developing the projects until they reach an acceptable stage. Now, you need to understand that your tutors may have a different idea of acceptable than yourself. After all, it is your own work and you will have been working on it for months whereas your tutors will be seeing how the project evolves each week.

You could face some kind of rejection at any stage although the worst times by no doubt are closer to the deadline. This could take the form of your tutors not liking an aspect of the design rather than the entire thing. But remember when dealing with tutors that you need to take everything they say with a pinch of salt. They are there to help you via their own experience and advice, but it doesn’t mean they’re always right. Take other opinions, review the project yourself and come to a conclusion that can also act as a compromise between yourself and your tutors.

Doing repetitive revision is just a part of studying architecture, no matter which year you’re in. Think of it this way, by completing these iterations, you’re figuring out what worked or didn’t work in the first place as well as storing it in the back of your mind for next time so that you can design better in the future. When you have crits and presentations, it can be daunting and difficult to present your design to someone who’s never seen it before. If you don’t do this well, they might point out flaws that you’ve already solved.

However, if you do this correctly, their insight could come shaped as rejection, but after a while you might even understand why they picked up on something. Give things time and don’t face rejection with a negative reaction. Remember that there is a difference between criticism and rejection and unless there is an extremely good reason for something rejecting your work, you should definitely question it to understand better. There can also be different kinds of criticisms, harsh or constructive. If you get faced with a tutor who may not like your work out of personal preferences, try not to pay them any attention. But do write everything down so that you can go back to it at a later time and possibly try and understand or identify with the things they said.

Cooling off after being rejected is important. It can sometimes make us angry and annoyed causing us to do things in retaliation which isn’t great for the long run. If you write down your tutor’s comments then come back to it the next day, you could begin to understand why they said what they did. Don’t stop there either, take the time out to talk to them about it and ask what you can do to better. If the notes still don’t agree with you, perhaps they can spark off something new that you can work on instead.

Channelling something negative into a positive action is one of the best things you can do if faced with rejection. Try a new approach, an alternative method or even a different means of presenting your design. But this doesn’t always work in every case, especially if you don’t get an adequate reason for being rejected. For example, some firms may be too busy to reply back to you on why your application is unsuccessful. Don’t take this to heart, it happens to everyone. If you were really determined to work at this specific firm, try emailing them again asking politely if they could provide some feedback. Do the same if you gave an interview or got through to a second round of sorts but were still unsuccessful.

Have a look at this article by Gary Vee, who says rejection is the best thing that happened to him. If you treat it as a momentum force that will just drive you to grow and do better, you can achieve anything.

Rejection is unavoidable and inevitable, in architecture and in life. But it helps us grow and be tougher for the future. If you’re struggling with anything, be sure to know that :scale is here to help you out. We’ve given our Discord server a major update, introducing new channels catered for you. From advice about employment to virtual crits, there’s everything you might need. And be sure to look out for new resources in the coming weeks. Good luck!


Beginner’s Guide to Model Making

Concept model for the Sir John Soane’s Institute of the
Picturesque (3rd year’s project).
Materials: White thin card paper, PVA
All details cut by laser cut.

There have been a lot of discussions going on in terms of architectural drawing as a primarily media for architectural education. While model making seems undertaught in architectural education, it is a brilliant skill to have for your further career in architecture. Model making is one of the most effective ways to present the proposal in competition layout and is used heavily to ‘win over’ the client. As I have been working in model making previously, I would like to share some knowledge and some tips to boost your skill in model making.

Where to start?

Model making can be intimidating to a lot of students who prefer to work through drawing or 3D modelling software. It can take a lot of time and materials do cost money. I like to remember the saying, ‘think seven times before you cut’, which is one of the good principles to set your mind to in model making. 

Don’t try to fit all in one.

Similar to architectural drawing, models also serve different purposes. It can be a concept model to convey your idea, it can be a technical model, it can be a proposal model for a competition etc. It is important to understand what purpose your model will serve before you start making it. Don’t try to fit the massing model within a final proposal model.

Where to begin?

Concept model for the Royal Doulton Pottery centre.
Inspired by the geometry of Art Deco. (2nd year’s
Materials: Gray carboard, tracing paper, PVA glue.
All details cut by hand.

When you have decided what your model is for, test your idea in a sketch. I prefer to use gray cardboard for this exercise. The reason you should make test models is similar to drawing – before you make the actual model, it is important to consider if it will work. There is nothing more disappointing than starting a final model and running into unsolved issues. For instance, material thickness, joinery of the materials or change in design. As I previously mentioned, materials cost a lot of money and by making sketch models from cheap materials, it can prevent you from unnecessary expenses in architecture school.

Another reason why it is important to test ideas in sketch models is because it is a good medium to create conversation about your design. It also helps the staff of the university’s workshop to guide you if you are in doubt.


Do not underestimate the skill of constructing a model. Working in professional model making practice I have understood that model making is essentially constructing your proposal. I can agree that those students who tried to make their model for the first time without testing the idea first usually fail in this attempt as the construction part of the model was not thought through. Like building construction, you need to find the technique as well as the style of model that suits your proposal the most.

It also does not necessarily mean that you should start with the foundation. There are occasions when it is preferred to start building a model ‘inside – out’ starting with the most detailed part and moving towards peripheral details. Thisway you ensure that you can construct the parts that will be much more difficult to make after smaller parts are done. 

Come up with a good plan

Make a good, realistic plan for your model and leave some spare time daily. Constructing a model requires a lot of concentration and steady hands. Also, it is easier to make less mistakes when you are not rushing the process. Another reason to leave spare time and set realistic targets is inevitable mistakes that happen even to professional model makers. It is also less hard on your mental health if you have extra time to fix these mistakes.

How to choose the right materials? It is important to understand what materials would be suitable to your final model as well as the qualities of those materials and what you can do with it or represent.

For instance, if you would like to use concrete mix for your proposal model, you should research the ratio of mix to make sure it is structurally sound for your model. It also will need reinforcement bars as elasticity for concrete is very limited. 

Be resourceful with your materials! Being resourceful in terms of materials is very important. It becomes very important if you are assigned to make a model in your career path. If you are using laser-cut technology, which most architecture students do (to some extent), try to place your files (if not using full sheet) in a way that you can re-use the material. Talking from personal experience, it is upsetting to see students cut one small detail in the middle of a material sheet. It makes it much harder to arrange new details on the sheet if a student decides to re-use the material. 

This does not apply only to materials that students use for laser cut parts. Being resourceful of the materials will become very important if you will be assigned to make a model in your practice. 

Using technology in model making. It is common to use different technologies to speed up the process of model making. It is widely used in professional model making practices as well. Skill to know how to use this technology will become quite an important asset in your CV. Before using laser cutting machines, 3D printers or CNC, make sure you have enough knowledge in theory. Also it is a good thing to discuss your intended use of technology with workshop staff or manager. It will help you to understand the right way to model your details in software as well as what kind of 3D printing would be the most suitable to your intended outcome.

Technical model for the Royal Doulton Pottery Centre. (2nd
year’s project)
Used materials: MDF, Perspex, stainles steel tubes, brass rods,
spray paint.
All model made out of re-used MDF found University’s

Make your files ready for the workshop staff! And double check them if they are in the correct scale beforehand.If you are using the University’s workshop, make sure your files are ready if you are going to use some type of technology in your model making process. There is nothing more frustrating for workshop staff than students who come unprepared or may not have a plan or any create the model that is intended. 

For laser cut – make sure your file is “clean” – make sure there are no double lines, lines are not overlapping, file is the right scale.

Material thicknesses and tolerances. Model making and modelling your proposal in 3D software are two very different things. Even if you have modelled a ‘perfect’ 3D model it might not fit together that easily when making it. It is better to test it beforehand as different machinery is set differently as well as different material tolerances can lead you to not so ‘perfect’ outcome as you see on your screen.

Joinery and adhesion methods. One of the most important aspects of constructing a model is to work out how materials will be joined. There are different ways of the joinery and adhesion methods. 

  • MDF + MDF = Gorilla glue/ super glue
  • MDF + Perspex = super glue
  • Plywood + Plywood = PVA/ Gorilla glue
  • Plywood + MDF = PVA/ Gorilla glue
  • Plywood + Perspex – super glue
  • Perspex + Perspex = plastic weld

Thank you to Elina for giving us some awesome tips on creating amazing models. We hope current and future students can benefit from some of this insight. If you have any questions or have made models using these tips, be sure to let us know over on Instagram.


Productivity 101 for Architecture Students

It’s no secret that architecture students have a serious work ethic which involves a lot of long hours, late nights, and a constant cycle of submissions. This is where productivity comes in. What exactly is being productive? It’s basically doing more with less. Getting things done and making the most of each day let’s you achieve goals faster and effectively. It can take multiple forms but the most important part of it is finding a solution that works for you. This is just an introduction to productivity and it’s many benefits.

As an architecture student, it can get pretty stressful and difficult by the time end of year submissions come around and by this point you may have had to juggle more than one project. Productivity means that even something as simple as a timetable or a daily planner can help you map out your thoughts and make sure you’re spending time effectively to achieve your goals. We’re all about lists and organisation at :scale.

However, the biggest problem most of us face is that we often don’t stick to whatever plan we set out. Don’t worry, we’re all guilty of this and sometimes it can be alright to not stick to a schedule perfectly for a day or two. The purpose of this article is to introduce you to the idea of productive habits and how you can apply these yourself as an architecture student. Some of you may have finished university for the year or might have extended deadlines in which case you may not have the time to implement habits in your routine. However, there’s no perfect time to start learning new techniques and methods. This could be really helpful if you’re going to start university later this year or even if you just want to make some new habits.

Finding the Source of Stress

For a fair few years, I was relying on hand-written lists and notes and I actually made use of my sketchbook only after I started studying architecture. This evolved into other diaries and physical note-taking systems however recently, I’ve started using Notion, a brilliant and life-changing productivity tool. The best thing about Notion is that there are a range of possibilities and uses but the templates and other tutorials help you get started so you don’t feel overwhelmed.


First you need to figure out where you’re being least effective. Are you finding it hard to find inspiration and come up with ideas quickly? Or do you tend to get distracted easily? It could be any number of things in which case you need to figure out a way to come up with a solution. Questioning what is stressing you out and writing these things down can help you better understand what you need to do or fix. This doesn’t need to be specifically for university, it can apply to your daily life and give you a chance to keep track of hobbies or goals you want to achieve yearly.

For example, if you struggle with time-management, try out different methods like a simple timetable or a Pomodoro Timer and see which works for you. There’s no right or wrong way and you might feel like giving up if it doesn’t work. But once you find something that works, you’ll want to make it a part of your life. A good way to find new ways of working is through learning from others in which case YouTube comes in very handy. There’s a whole community of productivity nerds who put together their knowledge and ideas to provide meaningful content. Check out this video by productivity guru’s Matt D’Avella and Thomas Frank.

Building a productivity system will take some time and once it starts working for you, there’s no guarantee that you won’t have moments of burnout. Really, there’s only so much we can do in an hour, a week or a month and there’s no point setting up an organised system just to overwork yourself. Everyone has moments of feeling like their work is taking over so to avoid that you need to remember that you have a whole life other than architecture school which you can also incorporate into a productivity hub to make sure you’re still prioritising other important events and taking some time for yourself.

Avoiding Procrastination

If you’re struggling with keeping on task and often end up procrastinating, you might need to change things up in the way you work. This could be re-organising your desk and keeping some snacks and water on hand so you’re not always getting up to eat. Or, if you end up scrolling on Instagram to keep up with our stories and posts, you might want to download some apps that limit your screen time.

During the early phases of a project, students usually struggle with coming up with new ideas in which case you may need to find some inspiration or sit down and draw out all your thoughts. Allocate a specific time for this and turn off all other distractions. Currently, you might be finishing off your projects and getting your portfolio together in which case a ready-made checklist could be helpful. I like to storyboard my portfolio weeks in advance and set up a checklist in my spare time when there’s still a bit of clarity. Once you’re in deadline mode, it can be frustrating to think of the exact things you need to include, but having one set up will make your life much easier.

Introducing a work-flow and mapping out your day can help your mind feel less cluttered because all your ideas should be written out somewhere, in a diary or online application. The repetitive nature of being an architecture student and dealing with weekly tutorials or monthly crits can leave you feeling like it’s a never-ending process. If you think about it in terms of a simple day, usually it may start at 10am and finish anytime in the evening. Including other commitments like a lunch date or a weekly shop, you want to find the best use for your time. For example, I found that printing drawings or draft pages on a Friday night worked great for me. I wasn’t wasting time waiting for the printers to be free and didn’t have to spend the time in studio plus it meant I was prepared early enough to not stress out on the day of a tutorial or crit.

Productivity Habits for Architecture Students

There isn’t a need for huge steps or changes in your life but instead, if you improve upon something by a small amount, it adds up later on and you won’t even realise it, but you’ll be working much more efficiently. Set yourself achievable and desirable targets or personal deadlines that you can work to without any external pressure. When you do sit down to work or organise something, make sure the task has your full attention and cut out the smaller, non-essential stuff. By prioritising what you need to get done immediately you can direct your focus towards it but still have the benefit of keeping the less urgent tasks still in front of you.

Introducing a productive mindset over the past year has really allowed me to do the things I want to be doing and opened up doors that wouldn’t have even been in my sights if I hadn’t had organised my mind and used the technology available to me to my advantage. You may already be using some kind of productivity technique just by having a sketchbook to fill your thoughts with. Your time at university tends to go by pretty quickly since everything happens at such a fast pace. If you start introducing certain habits such as a daily schedule or take up a project to improve your skills, it can set you up very nicely for the year to come. We would recommend you take this summer to relax and get back to the other things you enjoy but also sharpen yourself for the year ahead if you’re starting work or university.

We’ve put together a list of resources that can help you take a step into productivity without it being overtly complicated.

🔵 Notion

🔵 Todoist

🔵 Skillshare

🔵 Roam

🔵 Google Calendar

🔵 Thomas Frank

🔵 Ali Abdaal

🔵 Keep Productive

🔵 Focus Keeper

🔵 Forest


Why are Mega-Drawings so Interesting?

Architectural representation is a visual method that architects use heavily to put forward their ideas and designs. It can range from something as simple as a paper model to a detailed mega-drawing. The purpose of these mediums is to create a design that can be realised for the future. You’re basically selling the idea, whether it’s to your tutors and peers or to a client. It’s all about taking the ideas in your head and putting them on paper. In university you’re given a lot of freedom to experiment with various representation styles and methods to increase your skills.

You might be asking; how do I start? Architectural representations don’t just have to be mega-drawings like we said earlier. These eye-catching visuals have been a part of architecture for a very long time which means it might be difficult to stand out and create something intriguing and new. They also rely heavily on your project and the outcome itself can be influenced by drivers in your design or certain themes. It’s essentially a work of art if you think about it. Plans, sections and even models can also transform into meticulous works of art.

Mega-drawings is the term coined for incredibly detailed images that are usually the culmination of a design project. They offer a visual look into a building without the technical detail that is found in regular drawings such as plans and sections. Many have linked this style of drawings to the likes of certain Bartlett or AA units however it is an increasingly popular style that is somehow mysterious and unachievable for most. We often find ourselves and other students asking, ‘how did they do that?’.

But these aren’t exclusive to certain schools and studios and the most important thing students need to understand is that we will eventually develop our own styles and ways of working which will be individual to each of us as a designer. Renderings or large-scale hand drawings also offer the same details and this particular graphical style normally found in mega-drawings is just a common style.

Eric Wong – Cohesion

But understanding what mega-drawings represent is crucial to being able to create your own. They don’t have to take a common form of coloured line drawings with texture and detail and can often be a series of renders, hand-drawn sketches or even a mixture of them all. We’ve got a pretty interesting Mega-Drawings board on our Pinterest that you can follow and pin. The purpose of such a drawing is to be able to gather the core values and design drivers in the project and be able to compose them in a visual way. In most cases, details such as colour, composition and even line-weights can be an important element of a drawing and there is definitely a lot of thought behind these features.

One thing we have discovered is that there is an overall lack of understanding behind these kinds of drawings and the methods or techniques used to achieve them. Bear in mind that they aren’t the only thing in your portfolio but simply a representation of the project. But really, these aren’t overly complicated to achieve, nor do they have some kind of secret formula. Creating final representations as a whole requires a lot of work, creativity, and patience. Usually we would start planning these a month or so before the final deadline and often work alongside other tasks for our portfolios. Sharing simple things such as software tips can actually lead to even more creativity and can help those who feel lost or uncertain on how to go about creating mega-drawings.

The same goes for other methods of representation. On one hand, they need solid groundwork put in beforehand as well as a high level of creativity. But they also require organisation and clarity within several ideas. Over the last few years, technology has opened up the way we represent our ideas and designs. Parametric design or virtual reality can create a different kind of response and have a spatial quality that might not be achieved through drawings. Adding in the current situation, it might be more difficult to create detailed models without access to specialist equipment and machinery or have enough space to create a huge drawing by hand. Now, we’re seeing architectural diagrams being represented through GIFs or short animations which can be an interesting way to go forward.

It’s no secret that techniques have evolved and branched off and will most likely continue to do so. However, one thing that remains is the way we approach these projects and how as a community, we can share our resources, tips, and advice to be able to give everyone the chance to try out a particular style or way of working. Mega-drawings have a wide appeal because of the level of detail, the immense thoughtfulness and perhaps the mysterious way of how it all comes together.

Personally, I have viewed these drawings as unachievable in the past and something that I might attempt during Masters, provided I have tutors who are able to guide me towards something like it. However, by taking on the task of updating my portfolio, I have realised that you don’t need to wait for action A to take place for you to be able to do action B. For me, the process of creating a relatively simple mega-drawing can be broken down into stages. If I were in university and had to work on this within 6 weeks, I would first identify each stage and estimate how long it would take and then get started on tackling each task one step at a time.

  1. Concept

By the time you get closer to deadlines, you need solid groundwork as we said before, but you also need to figure out and stick to a method of representation. Think about your project and it’s core drivers and then think which kind of representation would best suit it. For example, if materiality is an integral part of the project, you might choose to create a model that explores this. If the atmosphere or spatial qualities are of interest, you could try to replicate this through VR or a large scale composite drawing.

2. 3D Model

For mega-drawings, you will ideally need a 3D representation of the project which can act as a framework for a perspective view on the canvas. This is so that it can correspond with the other drawings and give you a place to begin. You can choose to model to a level of detail which suits you. If you just require the framework to act as a base for your hand-drawing, that’s fine. But if you’re aiming to create a realistic rendering, you will need to spend a lot of time working out the correct materials and environment settings.

3. Composition and colour

Factors such as colour and composition can play a huge role in what the final representation ends up like. For example, if your representation is influenced by illustrators or cinematographers, you could look at their colour palettes to achieve a similar result. These details need to be well thought-out and have some kind of meaning to it that adds to the overall experience of your mega-drawing.

4. Details!

Adding details to any form of representation is crucial. This might also be the stage that takes the longest but once it’s done it will give you a great satisfaction. In a mega-drawing, you might want to digitally draw in some details to give it a life-like quality.

These stages add up to make something that represents your ideas and project in a meaningful way. They will undoubtedly take a lot of time and hard-work, but the results can be so amazing. Architectural representation doesn’t need to be difficult or even set aside for later on in the project. Test out the ideas throughout and build your skills in other areas such as animation or graphical illustration.

A couple of months ago we had the delightful opportunity to work with Hamza Shaikh of Two Worlds Design in which he discussed his own series of drawings. This process was incredibly useful and so we are happy to announce that we will be curating a series called ‘Drawings Explained’ where we invite a series of emerging architects and students to take a further look into their architectural style and representation.

Hamza Shaikh – Ad Hoc Autonomy

If you’re interested in checking out how I created my own mega-drawing you can have a look on our Instagram Highlights or wait for the mega-tutorial where I take you through the exact process while explaining what worked and what didn’t. Leave a comment below if you will be attempting your own mega-drawing soon!


Why Googling is the Answer to Learning Better

Learning a new software is never easy or quick. In fact, I’m still learning how to use Adobe programs even though I consider myself quite familiar with the array of tools and workflow. But Googling things has saved me a ton of time. 3D modelling programs can seem quite intimidating especially if you’re pressed for time and balancing other tasks. There’s a common question that comes with wanting to learn a new software, what tutorials did you follow? Or which course did you buy? I’ve found that tutorials and courses can be helpful in some cases but the best way to learn is to get hands-on with something and go through a trial and error stage to make yourself comfortable with the program. In this situation, being an expert Googler can be extremely useful.

You might be wondering; how could Google possibly help with learning a new software? If you know the correct questions and have the ability to skim read quick enough, chances are you will find the answer to the small problem you face and be able to repeat the process until you’ve gained a considerable amount of knowledge about particular commands or methods of completing an action.

My Experience

Over the past year, I’ve been wanting to learn all the software I was not previously familiar with. This included Rhino, Revit, Vectorworks and building on skills in AutoCAD. I had previously searched for Rhino tutorials myself, accessed some LinkedIn courses but none of them ‘stuck’ with me. Of course, if you’re provided with all the files, it would give you a hands-on experience, but you’d only be learning according to the teacher’s methods. Fortunately, I know 3DS Max quite well so already had an idea of the kinds of commands and tools I regularly use and had knowledge of what I can do with Rhino. However, those of you in first or second year might not have that same experience and whichever software you want to tackle first will surely be unknown to you.

Once I decided to update my portfolio (which meant re-creating the 3D model of my 2nd year project) I wanted to do it in Rhino so that I could properly learn the software and use it in a familiar setting. Usually you will be starting with various windows and taskbars of which some might be of use and some will not. Over time you can figure out which ones you need and don’t based on how often they get used. But the main point of this article is to explain that by Googling ‘how to close a polyline’ or ‘how to create a cylinder’ you can learn things quicker and retain them.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that I am an expert in Rhino or that I didn’t look at any kind of tutorials at all. However, by re-creating a project that I am well acquainted with, I found it easy to search for the things I wanted to do.

Method and Logic

The term ‘Googling’ is just a fun way of saying ‘Researching’. But you need to be able to do this quickly and efficiently. If you don’t know what you’re looking for or which problem you want to solve, it’ll be quite difficult for you. You basically need to simplify the question you’re putting into the search engine. Then, you need to spend less than half a minute looking at the first few results and going back and forth on each page till you start recognizing a similar problem or an answer of sorts.

Doing research in a very smart way will let you work at your own pace without having to sit there and learn something for an hour. Once the problem is solved, you can carry on with what you’re doing and repeat the cycle if needed. This is why I always keep open a new tab on Chrome which I can switch to and search my question and get Googling. Let’s go through a few examples.

I’ve been modelling in Rhino for a couple of hours and can figure out how to create 3D shapes, but I want to punch a cylindrical hole through a cuboid. First, I’d look for tools on the relevant task bars since it might just be in front of me. If I can’t find anything, I’ll open up Google and type in ‘how to punch shapes rhino’. Your vocabulary is also important here because if ‘punch’ doesn’t work you can try alternatives like cut, ‘make holes’. Then obviously you want to add the corresponding software which is Rhino in this case.

If you look at the first 3 results, any could work for what I’m searching for. Let’s say I click on the third result which coincidentally is the McNeel forum – from the people who created Rhino. Now I find that someone has posted this question already.

Now, scrolling down, I can see that two of the answers include the command BooleanSplit. If you understand the Boolean commands which are present in other 3D modelling software too, then this might just be the aha! Moment.

If you’re not familiar with the command, you can either mess around on Rhino if you’re not on a deadline or you could go back and Google ‘Boolean Rhino’. It doesn’t need to be a long-winded question like ‘what is the Boolean command in Rhino 6’. This waste seconds of time which surprisingly adds up over the course of years. So, making it efficient and clear is key.

This method doesn’t need to just apply learning a new software. It can be a great way to expanding your knowledge on all sorts of things or just to clarify something. If you struggle with writing you could search up ‘good writing techniques’. The format you choose to consume this knowledge is up to you. It could be a short YouTube video or a simple article or you might stumble upon a website that is all about writing techniques. Skim reading and matching the keywords in the Google results page is also important so that you don’t end up clicking on things that don’t relate to your problem or issue.

Googling, and being good at it is definitely a good skill to have in my opinion. It can make you learn better, faster, and more efficiently and you don’t need to rely on paid sources just to learn something. The Internet is full of information, no doubt so you need to start taking advantage of this and use it to your advantage. There are multiple communities and resources online that are made to be used by people to learn new things. Forums like Quora can also be a good place to find people who have similar questions as you and it’s just a matter of hoping someone has already found the answer.

Recently, I realised that Googling / researching is essentially a way of active learning. We only take in about 15% of the content consumed through media such as videos, lectures and webinars and even less if you’re not taking notes. So by Googling, you’re actively searching for the answer to your problem and having a hands-on experience with a software. Give it a try, a new kind of approach or alternative to those courses you’ve been wanting to do instead.


Instagram Accounts to Follow for Architecture

Just like Pinterest, Instagram is a great resource for inspiration and is actually much more useful because you get to see exactly where the image is from. Over the years, architects, universities and architecture students have increasingly jumped on to Instagram to showcase their work. Often it becomes an online portfolio of sorts and can be a great way to share your work in progress or create an aesthetic feed for potential employers to be impressed by.

The way it is different to Pinterest is that you can trace back images to the people posting it and creating the work. You can’t forget the number of architecture firms that are also on Instagram so if you hear of one and want to see what their work is like; you can easily hop on to Instagram and find out. This is great for those wanting to potentially apply to work at these places too, and by showing a bit of enthusiasm, they might even consider you. Sometimes, these firms also post job openings on their social media first, so you don’t even have to look elsewhere. Apart from following the typical, mega-firms, it can be a good idea to follow the ones in or near your area to keep up with projects they work on.

If you’re living in a city like London, you probably know of the popular architecture schools around. But instead of just seeing their work at the end of year exhibitions, their Instagram accounts give you the chance to see work during the year. It’s also common for university accounts to feature your work, giving you more exposure. If you’re unsure of applying to architecture at university, it can be very helpful to check out a day in the life or see what kind of work students do.

Over a few months, we’ve managed to create and interact with a brilliant audience which has become a community of sorts, bringing students together from all over the world. Sign up to our Discord chat to share work, get feedback and more! In this article, we’ve put together a list of some of the architecture accounts we know and love. Of course, there’s many more, so if you want to stay in the know, then follow us on Instagram to be regularly updated or even featured.



If you’re not already following the bajillion Bartlett unit accounts out there, give this account a go. Bartlett Kiosk brings together all kinds of students works whether it’s drawings, models or installations. Run by a MArch Unit 13 student, it’s an authentic representation of works created by real students that are most often tagged. If you like a person’s work and they have a public architecture account, feel free to follow them or even give them a message if you have questions. Two of our favourites are @atelier_lai and @arinjoy.sen



Chris Precht of Studio Precht is an Instagram savvy, brilliant architect whose creations can make your mouth drop. We don’t need to say much about this individual, his works speaks in volumes! Have a look below.


We love The Architecture Student Blog (big fan) and they love to feature student work. If you want to be in the chance to get featured use their hashtag. Their account provides not only inspiration, but they have also recently come up with helpful tutorials for architecture students.



Re-Thinking the Future is a mind-blowing and informative account. Their style of posts is admirable, fast and efficient. If you need quick tips or motivational quotes to boost your day, this is the account.


Sarah Lebner, author of ‘101 Things I Didn’t Learn in Architecture School’ has been a breath of fresh air on Instagram. Her ‘Sketch Saturdays’ and ‘Follow Fridays’ are fun, unique and informative. She keeps things real about architecture.

Those were our 5 favourite architecture Instagram accounts. Which accounts would you recommend us to follow? When following accounts, think about the quality of the posts and how it might help you. It’s fine to follow Starchitects but we find it extremely useful following niche-related pages that are so easily accessible. Next time you’re on Instagram you can say it’s for work instead of endlessly scrolling! Also, a top tip is to save the ones you absolutely love, want to come back to or recreate somehow. If you have any such images, feel free to send them to us on Instagram and we can reach out to the person creating it or show you a tutorial on it ourselves.

If you’ve been thinking about creating an architecture account for yourself, go for it! Better to start now than later, and who knows, one day you might even be featured somewhere! There are many benefits to starting an architecture account apart from being open for employers to see. Some students often get featured in architecture magazines or can be inspired to enter competitions via their work. Instagram is a visual-based app and we have the upper hand with our eye-catching work and images. Whether your forte is photography or illustrations, any kind of work that goes up on Instagram gets seen by someone, somewhere.

If you haven’t read our other articles head over to our Blog page and make sure you check out our amazing Guest Articles while you’re there. We are very happy to support the accounts above, after all, we believe that expanding the architecture community is the way to go forward. Also, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram.


Why It’s Okay to Not Spend All Your Time in the Studio

There are plenty of stereotypes about the life of an architect or the hours we spend working away in the studio. But there is no real rule that all work should take place in the studio for hours on end or overnight. The purpose of the studio is to have an allocated place to work, whether that’s at a computer or simply spread out on a large desk for drawing or working on models. As an architecture student, undoubtedly you will find your comfort zone and stick to it through the course of your studies. Working in the studio makes printing more accessible, let’s you bounce ideas off of peers and can be a nice change in atmosphere.

But sometimes it’s okay not to be spending all your time in the studio. For some people, it can be counterproductive to work in the midst of others where short breaks can become hour long sessions doing no work. The temptation to end up watching a movie or go outside for a walk is fine within limits but can be distracting and unproductive. Introverts especially might not want to be completing their work around their peers where they feel they could be judged. In a time like this, where most people are working from home, we can often miss being in a studio surrounded by equipment and other resources.

Apart from working on your project there are other activities and responsibilities you may have. If it’s exercising for an hour, a part time job or even site research, there is no real need for limiting yourself to the confinements of a desk in the studio space. For students not living on campus, it can be even more challenging when thinking about the journey home and sometimes you might not be able to work in university for long hours. We want you to read the next sentence out loud.

It’s completely okay not to be making the studio my second home.

This idea can also be supported by the environment of your studio. A state-of-the-art building might have temperature issues or during deadlines there may not even be enough spaces to work. In these cases, you might want to be in the studio, but you just don’t have the means. We would suggest getting there early if you’re really desparate – not staying overnight just because you want a space to work on deadline day. You might feel like if you’re not in the studio, you’re not getting as much work done as the people who are however this is a toxic misconception that needs to be forgotten about.

On the other hand, the atmosphere in your halls or house-share might not be great either, in which case you will tend to work out of the studio but don’t let it take over your whole life. You need to move around and do other things apart from work. Re-evaluate whether it is even necessary to be in the studio. If whatever you’re doing is going to take half an hour, but you’d travel 1 hour in total to and back, you’re wasting your time. Think about the spaces in university you can use such as the workshop or the photography suite and plan your time around this so at least you can kill two birds with one stone.

While we mentioned the amount of work actually taking place and the surroundings, another thought should be given to alternatives other than your small room. For essay writing, take full use of the library and actually look around for books that you could even reference for your design project. The library can be a wonderful space to get your work done. If you prefer a quieter space or group study, the library accommodates for that. Whilst writing essays, small groups are often encouraged so that you can bounce ideas off one another. Smaller tasks such as photo editing or annotation can be done in your spare time in the kitchen whilst making food or in a quiet café just to change up the surroundings once in a while.

Think about maximising your time and still prioritising them. If you have laundry that you want to keep an eye on, take your sketchbook with you and draw out some ideas. Better than sitting there on your phone scrolling for the next 45 mins. There really isn’t any compulsion for students to spend most of their time at university bound to the studio space. But make sure you take advantage of the space too and really evaluate where you work best. Bear in mind, we’re talking about free time other than your studio days and any lectures you might have. On studio days, we definitely suggest sticking around. The way you can go about this best is to try and see your tutors first thing in the morning. Their brains are fresh and ready to provide ideas and you don’t have to wait around for others to finish. Then, take your feedback and notes and start preparing for your next tasks. For advice on what to do after a tutorial, check out our article here.

Obviously, now that you’re at home you won’t really have access to the studio and everything has moved online. Have a read of our article on ‘How to make the most out of Zoom’ if you’re not very tech-savvy. Now, you might be given certain ‘studio’ time where lectures and tutorials take place and who knows whether this will also be the case come September. You will most likely need to find a balance between sitting at the computer for hours on end and doing other things too.

Try and aim to do one of the smaller tasks you have been assigned and might seem difficult but doable. Complete it, and after lunch, ask your tutors if they can spare five minutes to look over it. This shows them you have an enthusiastic attitude but also puts you in a great momentum. The added boost can actually make you more focused and wanting to complete the rest of the tasks ASAP. We usually take the time to plan out the rest of the week up until the next tutorial so that you’re doing the work that has been given to you plus more. If you have multiple projects, this may be hard, but once you plan out your time carefully, it can be easily manageable.

Similarly, on the days you have an early morning lecture, stick around in the studio or get your printing done. The best days to print is when you know there is no one around. We’ll be covering this topic soon so keep an eye out. If you have an odd afternoon lecture that might be during lunch, get to university early, do some work in the studio, have an early lunch and attend your lecture. Productive day? Check.

Don’t be scared of the studio either. Most first years might get intimidated by the space or the people but it’s not scary at all. In fact, you’re encouraged to ask for help from other students in other years (just try not to when deadlines are near). If your unit has been allocated a space, you might find your friends there too and most of the time it can work in your favour. All we’re saying is, try and change it up and see what suits you best. Don’t think you have to be there because you’re an architecture student, no one is looking to check on you.

Hope that helped some of you guys or even potential architecture students who might be worried about the workload. As long as you plan your time well, are passionate about the subject and can give your best, there’s nothing that can stop you. This doesn’t need to rely on the environment you’re in whether it’s the studio, home office or your bedroom.


How to Make the Easiest Architectural Collage

What is an architectural collage?

An architectural collage is a no-render method of creating an image that conveys your ideas. The best thing about collages is that they are often much easier to do than final, detailed renders and illustrations and can be done in the space of a few hours (provided you have the work thought out beforehand). These can be as abstract or as detailed as you want which means they are great for when you’re in the middle stages of a project and just want to experiment with the ideas you have. Most firms are also turning to these kinds of images for ease and better understanding. A render can take hours to make and actually render, plus post-production will increase the time it takes for you to finish just one.

Essentially, it’s a bunch of shapes, images and textures carefully put together to create a seemingly coherent collage that conveys ideas of space, materiality and much more. There’s no real method to creating a collage since everyone will have a different approach, method, and style. We would suggest for you to have a look at existing collages out there like on our Pinterest board. There is so much inspiration out there and it doesn’t even need to be a collage. Look to Architectural Digest or other magazines that have stunning images. Usually you can get a sense of the composition, materials and lighting this way.

So obviously creating a collage is great for time constraints but also informal crits or presentations where you don’t want to keep rendering an image to show you tutors every week. To get your ideas across it can sometimes be better to do so in a minimal way. There’s also an increasing number of tutorials online on YouTube and other course websites. But we truly believe, once you practice a couple of times, it’s only a matter of building on the skills you already have. Another great thing about collages is that with the right resources and preparation you can get creating in a matter of minutes.

Prep / Things you need

In terms of the way to go about making a collage, you could absolutely do one by hand (usually this is done during the start of a project to get ideas flowing) but this could take some time. We like using Adobe Photoshop for this. If you’re not familiar, check out our ‘Getting Started’ series. You could also use Adobe Illustrator if you’re going for a very simple and graphical look but if you wanted to add textures and shadows, you will end up in Photoshop eventually so you might as well use that in the first place.

If you have no idea where to start, a good thing to do is to find collages out there that appeal to you. They might have the same kind of colour palette, use of textures or an interesting composition. Check out help-me-draw on Tumblr who explains composition techniques in much more detail. In this case, and for more detailed drawings, composition is quite important. Looking at photography tutorials online might help since a lot of the preparation beforehand includes composition and lighting.

After a few goes, you will see a major difference in your images and how a little bit of extra space can make an image look completely different. Next, you can come up with a quick sketch of what you want your collage to look like. Remember that this needs to be your work, relating to a brief or set of key drivers. Think about what you want the image to convey to the person looking at it and why it encompasses an element of your design.

If this is your first time practicing, find and use a photograph with bold features as a starting point. Try and recreate it as a collage but use elements that suit you or ones you might want to use in your own drawings later on. After some practice, you’ll find it much easier to come up with scenes on your own. As well as having a reference image, you may need to consider some other components that will accompany the architecture. Textures, furniture and even people can be sourced online. In the long run, if you want to have details that make sense and for your accessories to fit your drawing, you may want to model them first or create your own which is great.

But realistically you can’t do that for every single sketch, collage or render which is why people usually turn to pre-made packs that you can download and use. A great example is our own Indoor Plant Pack that has 100 cut out plant images that are ready to add into your drawings. With a bit of image manipulation in Photoshop, you can edit the sizes, perspective and even colours to suit your collage. There are also some great free texture packs that you can find online, but even a good high-quality image of a surface can work well.

Here are some we love:

Lost and Taken


We would also suggest you have a folder of the stock images or textures you use because they will come in handy over the years. You could sort these into folders and create your own organisation method. Then you can add them in whenever so you’re not always creating the same ones over and over. Remember, being organised is key when it comes to working efficiently. Really, there’s not a lot you need to get going. A collage is all about experimenting and coming up with something that has enough to give you more ideas going forward. If your first try doesn’t work, try a different combination, or just go crazy with it. Sometimes, the weirdest of things you might come up with on the fly can become the one thing your tutors end up loving.

Another key component you may or may not need is a 3D model of your design. There is no specific modelling software needed, use what you know and are comfortable with. In this case, Sketchup Pro / Rhino work great because you can export lines and use them as a base for your collage. But you don’t even need a 3D model. If this collage is about exploring ideas in the early stages, you probably won’t even have one and so the alternative might be to use a sketch or compiled sketches to understand the scene. If you’ve got a complicated scene, you could simply export the rough baseline of your building and sketch on top and scan it in.

The Process

Once you have imported your sketch, line drawing or reference image, set it on a white background and either lower the Opacity or use the Multiply blending mode. Don’t forget to lock the layer if it is an image so that you don’t accidentally select it. Now you’re ready to add in elements and start rendering the collage. Start with the actual architecture, think about what kind of materiality you want to showcase as well as the overall design. At this stage, don’t worry too much about colours or extra elements like furniture – those are simply accessories to your design. You can do this by drawing out shapes using the Pen Tool (P) or the Wand Tool (P) and fill it in. If you’re going off a sketch with no real line work, try and map out the different areas in transparent coloured layers which you can then add texture on top of and mask.

You can also edit photographs; add in models you’ve made and use parts of reference images since this is a collage of different works. Think about a main driver for this collage and stick to it. Every now and then, step back (take a break) and think about whether it is conveying that message or not. This is really the time to experiment with different textures, perspectives and basically the way in which certain components work together. Ideally, you should have a set composition, but if you’re not happy with it and need to make your canvas bigger or smaller, use the Crop (C) tool to adjust your artboard.

Make sure that as you add more elements, you’re constantly editing layer names and sorting into groups. It’ll make the way you work much more efficient if you try and stay organised. Remember to also work in a non-destructive way. This basically means that you don’t directly edit an image or paint on top of it in the same layer, thus destroying the original image. Similar to how you would separate out your line layer and your colour layer. Later on, if you make a mistake or decide to change things completely, you don’t have to start from the beginning, and it will allow you to experiment more.

Then, when you have all your elements together, you can start thinking about adding textures to certain areas or putting in detail with the Brush (B) tool. It’s completely up to you how detailed you want to make this. If you’re adding in realistic elements that you’re editing out and pasting in, it will be a good idea to transform the image to suit the perspective and scale. You don’t necessarily need to worry about colours yet. Sometimes, if there are details in the background that won’t be immediately visible to the viewer, you could paint these in yourself and add textures, highlights, and shadows. This can either save you the time of trying to find it online and editing it or take you longer if you decide to be extra detailed about it.

Try and remember that this is a collage and not a finally perspective illustration or render. The whole point of this is to get across ideas so if you make little mistakes to begin with it will only help you later on when you try tackle the big drawings. If your collage is specifically about creating the atmosphere of the space then think about extra details like sun-rays, fog, smoke to add a bit of liveliness to the image. Adding in people always helps too.

Usually adding in people is done towards the end to add life and show how the design will interact with people. If the main focus of your design involves a person doing an action then you might want to think about this much earlier on. There is no rule on what kind of materials, textures, or people you want to use. Think about the context of the drawing. For example, if your collage shows a nursery, you will obviously want to include children and think about soft, light colours.

Lastly, a good idea might be to edit the image as a whole. We like colour grading – which means adding a sort of filter on top so that the collage feels a lot more cohesive and the colours merge well together. This can be done really easily, and we suggest you watch this tutorial by PixImperfect (all of the tutorials on that channel are brilliant!).

Final thoughts

Inspiring images can be a very powerful tool when it comes to creating collages. Often, we don’t know where to start and how explorative to be but if you have a reference image or just something that you think you would like to try and emulate, it will give you a direction. We would definitely encourage students of all years to give collaging a go or even build upon previous projects in this way. If you’re regularly creating and practicing it will set some key habits that can be useful later on in your projects. For first and second years who might be a bit intimidated by large-scale, detailed drawings and illustrations, think of collage as a stepping stone and once you’ve accomplished one, there will be no stopping you.

We’d love to know your favourite collages so be sure to send them in to our Instagram and we might just feature your work! 


How to Make the Most out of Zoom

This is a guest post by Issy Spence.

Things have changed over the past few weeks and it is likely your final presentations and crits will now take place on Zoom (or whichever similar software applies to you) and this might be daunting for some people. Yes, we know that presenting your project and being a part of crits is completely normal and expected as an architecture student, but if you’re being asked to send in a video presentation or be able to explain your ideas over a webcam, it’s definitely not the same. There is definitely a lack of familiarity and physical presence that comes with these virtual meetings over Zoom.

On one hand it is harder to give an overview of the project, as you don’t get the whole wall pin-up. On the other hand, you are really in control of what the critic panel are seeing. You are the director and can control where the critic is looking, instead of them glazing over or getting focused on one particular part of your project. We would encourage you to see this as a positive opportunity where you can not only work on your presentation skills (which will come in handy for when you get some work experience) but it will also let you experiment with some digital skills that you might not have explored beforehand.

Let’s be real. You don’t have access to the workshop to make high-end models, but you could try to replicate the same with  a render. This tutorial by Archi Hacks shows you how to create a realistic looking model with a stunning result. 

You also will not be able to get the same level of interaction with your tutors. If possible, have open a drawing you’re working on set up on Photoshop which you can then screen-share with your tutors and in some cases hand over the controls to your desktop so that they can draw in notes and sketches. This idea was from the brilliant Thomas Rowntree also on YouTube – go check his videos out!

Here are some achievable tips that we would suggest for you to try and implement:

  1. Basic set-up

We’ve previously mentioned the importance of having a dedicated space for you to do work in and how this will keep you in the ‘work’ frame of mind and avoid procrastination. As well as this, you need to remember that you are still talking to your tutors and so finding a quiet space for about half an hour is key. Make sure your household members know when you will be having a call or just close your door, so you mean business.

  1. Draw a storyboard

If you’re struggling to keep your work organised or only have limited time with your tutors, try and draw out a storyboard of what you want to present. Keep it concise and think about any questions you want to ask. You can do this in your sketchbook pretty easily.

  1. Write your script. 

As you are not there in person, the words you are saying have more resonance. Plan what you want to say and practice it out loud. Time yourself. Avoid saying ‘and then’ ‘and then’… Avoid saying ‘This is the plan’. Instead, think about what you’re talking about results in, what are the consequences of it, why is it important? Keep questioning yourself so that your tutors don’t waste time trying to understand the gist of it and not get down to the actual details.

  1. Scale

Consider the scale of your drawings and how much detail will be visible. Of course, you want your drawings for your portfolios too but think about how easy it is to read your screen. Ensure you cover the Macro to the Micro. Again, by setting up a mock-up of this, you might be able to understand this better yourself.

  1. Keep it simple

Think about the design of your slides. Don’t do dissolving transitions and include extra faff that doesn’t add anything meaningful. Don’t try and cram in too much information at once either. Use your cursor to ‘point’ to things, but be careful you don’t use it as a nervous thing and move your mouse frantically all over.

  1. Practice

Call up a friend and rehearse it through with your friends over Zoom. Record yourself on your phone if necessary and just practice talking to the camera. The more you practice, it will not only make your presenting skills sharper, but it will give you more confidence too.

  1. Timing

Think about transition times. What effect do you want to create? Perhaps you are conveying research and want to show statistics to build up an image of the issue whilst you talk over. Or is it that you want to focus on a particular moment and would like to spend some time describing the image?

  1. Experiment

With a digital format, there is now an opportunity to use mixed media, inserting video clips, animated sections, GIFs. The possibilities are open to some new methods. Think about this but don’t get too fixated on adding more to your workload and trying to become an after-effects wizard on top of your degree project. Perhaps you could click through a sequence of diagrams in a simple way.

  1. Repeat your drawings. 

Utilise the digital format and repeat drawings to orientate your viewers to where you are talking about in the project. You will know your project quite well, but for fresh eyes without an overall image they may get lost. Feel free to repeat it several times. Also you can zoom into different scales.

Pro Tip* 

Your (re)viewers may have different screen proportions. Anything above 1080 pixels on the short side (screen height) will probably get chopped off. Consider and decide on the Aspect Ratio. Decide if you’re going DIN (A4, A3) or 4:3, 16:9. (Diagram) 

Hopefully, that helps you or gives you some ideas on ways to use virtual meeting methods such as Zoom to your advantage. Video presentations don’t need to be scary or seem like a chore. Try and stay proactive between tutorials. Some people tend to make a lot of effort and put in the work and once the tutorial is over, they go back to procrastinating. Use this momentum to write down a list of tasks for you to work on and get some ideas going. If you have any questions for your tutors in the meantime, write these down and after a few days, send over a quick email. It will keep the project fresh in their mind during your next call and you instantly have something to work on and talk about next time.

You might also want to ask for feedback after your presentation. It doesn’t matter if it is pre-recorded or live, finding things you can improve on will only make for a better outcome. We hope these tips might be of use to you. Do let us know what kinds of thing you’re implementing in your Zoom meetings. Stay safe.


How to Add Colour to a Line Drawing in Adobe Illustrator

Types of Architectural Images

We’ve all seen realistic renders and imaginative illustrations, but do you really know how it all comes together? Most people really underestimate the process of such images and often, first or second year students might not even have an idea how to go about doing this. This tutorial is for creative simplistic, minimal yet sometimes stunning illustrations. Of course, we explain adding colour in detail, but you still have to understand that there are two major processes before and after this stage. You may need to have a decent model to begin with in a 3D modelling program like Rhino or Sketchup. After adding colour, there’s still a lot of post-production that you can work on.

If you’re really stuck, look for some inspirational images online. You can look at Pinterest or even Instagram. We’d suggest starting in your own university, look at works of those studying masters to understand the processes behind these types of images. You could even look at units who have websites or blogs and look through the archives and find one that appeals to you and your project. It can be the colour palette, composition or small details. Personally, I like printing them out and keeping it in front of me so it’s always in my mind. Best if you have a noticeboard or plain wall in front of your desk.

Bartlett Living Laboratory – Eleni Pourdala

We’re using a 3D model as a base for this image and any other illustrations. This isn’t compulsory, but if you’re already modelling your building and are planning on using it for other purposes, it can be easier to do it this way. The other alternative is to come up with illustrations based simply off a sketch or your imagination. Usually these aren’t to scale so there aren’t any restrictions, but a model can help with overall measurements and figuring out the scales of walls or objects. If you’re here for just the adding colour part of the tutorial, skip ahead here.

The Importance of a Base Model for Line Work

At this point in the year, you should have a really solid 3D model or at least a part of your project that is decently and properly modelled. It can be a good idea to create a separate model just for your perspectives. We’ll tell you why. You don’t want to constantly be having to model things for no reason when it’s not going to be in view. So, your first step needs to be to clean up your model, save a new copy and then delete the parts you’re definitely not going to be working on.

We think this is most helpful if you have custom structures or cladding that goes around the entire building. Try and not make the mistake of overloading the model with imported objects. If you’re going for an illustrated look, you don’t actually need 3D modelled furniture, you can just add it in post-production. Remember your image is about the architecture first and the details just enhance the architecture and the project.

Keep things as simple as you can. If you have a scene or view in mind use a camera to play around till you get a good view. At this point we’d recommend you think about composition as well. Have a look at general architecture photography for real projects. You can even sketch out or clay-render different options. We often make the mistake of trying to fit as much in as possible and while this may be fine for an overhead view or axonometric projection, these kinds of images are giving a glimpse into your project and you will only have 3-4 of these in total so choose your scenes carefully.

Another thing to consider is the presentation of the image. Is your projection portrait or landscape and if either, think about why? Try and have a focal point of the image and show some kind of depth if possible. Usually during painting or photography, you think about a foreground, middle-ground and background so try and sketch this out and try a couple of different compositions. You might be able to change the composition later on, but it depends on your model.

After you’ve set a scene for your image, we would suggest doing a couple of test renders using the basic rendering engine on your software and then exporting line drawings to see what needs to be fixed or changed. This process can be the toughest bit for those starting out so don’t worry, just plan ahead of time! If you’re going to be creating 3-4 final images and they’re all illustrations, set out 2-3 weeks of time, leaving an extra week for portfolio final touches.

Test Render

Exporting Options

The line drawing is probably the most important part of this tutorial, it needs to be immaculate, trust us. If you have any gaps, awkward or missing lines, it’s just going to make the process 10 times longer later on – we’re talking from experience and frustration. Depending on your software, you need to work out whether the line drawings are clear and easy to work with. Our recommendation is to use the version of Sketchup that lets you export a line drawing as a pdf or DWG file. Sketchup is also easy to use for shadows and depth of field. The type of file to export is up to you but we’d suggest either AutoCAD or Illustrator, whichever one you’re more comfortable with, but we’ll tell you the differences later. You could also sketch in parts in Photoshop if you have access to a drawing tablet.

If you haven’t already exported or imported your model into a software where you can then export a line drawing from, do it. Then, think about the shadows. In Sketchup you can play around with this quite easily. It might be a good idea to note down the type of day or consider the location of the project to get a better understanding of this. If your project comes alive during the night, you don’t need to think about every single shadow, maybe just ones that are obvious. On the other hand, if your final image is during the day, think about the orientation of your building and where the sunlight will be coming from. Lastly, export just a shadow layer as a png. If you don’t know how to do this, we’d suggest this video that explains it perfectly.

OU Graphics

An organisation tip at this point is to create a folder specific to this one image. You’ll find you’ll end up with not just the model, but several iterations of exports that you’ve tried, and then other things so just keep it all in one place for easy access.

Folder for each image

Editing the line drawing

After exporting the saved scene as a line drawing, you need to go over and check it for any missing or extra lines. The hidden line feature in Sketchup sometimes misses over objects that haven’t been classified as a 3D object such as lines. From experience, AutoCAD is much easier and quicker than Illustrator, but both do the job in the end. The reason for this is that the ‘trim’ tool in AutoCAD makes life so much easier because you can get rid of lines efficiently. Here, you can also set up the page view. For example, in the image below, there were some elements that stuck out of the ‘border’ which made it seem a bit more 3D and gave it an edge.

Essentially, just go over every area of the line drawing. Highlighting the lines in AutoCAD works great. This is because when you try using the live paint function, you need closed shapes so that the colours aren’t spreading everywhere. It’s also good to mention, if you prefer using Photoshop directly to add colour and want to see a tutorial, tell us in the comments below. Once you’re happy, you can keep it as a dwg and import to Adobe Illustrator or save the line drawing as a pdf. Save an extra copy just in case. You can use this later on for other purposes.

Adding colour using Live Paint

Before you get started, open up the line drawing in Adobe Illustrator and check your page sizes and set the document colour mode to CMYK. Then, bring out that inspiration image and have a look at the colours used. Are they warm or cool tones? It is extremely bright or muted down? Then, think about the colours you want to use. You might already be imagining something already, but it can be a good idea to take a break and look through a few more pictures. The colours aren’t set in stone, you can change them in Illustrator and also using adjustment layers in Photoshop.

If you need some ideas, have a look at our Pinterest board for Perspective References. There’s no right or wrong way of doing things, it’s just a means of helping you start. If you have your own idea, go for it.

First, set out your core colours off to one side. Draw out small squares with the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a palette that’s visible on your workspace. You can also create swatches and palettes from this if you want to re-use it for something else. This will make your life so much easier when you’re live painting in each section. The best method would be to start with one colour and go and fill it throughout the entire image. Yes, you may miss spots or have to go back and change a few things, but it creates a workflow that is way better than having to go back and change colours each time.

Then, select your linework, and head to Object > Live Paint > Make. Click on one of your swatch squares using the Eyedropper Tool (I) and then the Live Paint Bucket Tool (K) and start painting.

Your hard work of checking the line drawing comes into play right now. The areas highlighted with a red border are the paintable areas. If you don’t see the border or if it groups together two shapes this means there is something wrong with the line work. In Adobe Illustrator, you can fix this by closing the line using the Direct Selection Tool (A). You don’t necessarily need to ‘add’ or draw in a new line, just extend the line or make it smaller so that it connects with another line and creates a closed shape.

This process can take a long time depending on how much detail there is in your drawing and the amount of colours you’re going to be using. Remember to SAVE your work every now and then. I like to set reminders every half hour on my phone so that in case of errors, I don’t lose the entire colouring process. Illustrator may act up or lag in these cases so try and not have any other big programs running in the background. Once you’re done, you will reach a fully coloured stage. In this example, I’ve left out the background where the sky would be and the insides of the apartments because this is part of my post-production.

If you’re not happy with the colours and want to drastically change it in the entire image, you can select one area with that colour, then go to Select > Same > Fill Colour. This will select all the areas with that colour and then you can change it using your colour picker. If you would prefer to lighten or darken the image, we would suggest leaving it to Photoshop where you can tweak these easier.

To import your work into Photoshop, you can easily do this as an Illustrator file so there is no need to export into different formats. To finish this drawing, it needs a sky, shadows, textures and people. At the end of this tutorial, you’ll find the final image.

Post-production in Photoshop

Now the long bit is over, relax and take a breather. Then come back and keep going! The post-production part of this tutorial is up to you as a designer and the style you’re actually going for. You’ve got the hard part done by adding colour. In Photoshop, if you’re using the coloured image as your base layer, you can very easily create masks and select different areas which is exactly what you want. Now, your options are to add some texture or overlay effects and even add people. We’ll explain briefly how to do it below, but we will be creating tutorials on this later so don’t worry.

If you’re raring to go or just want to get an idea of what post-production is, have a look at the tutorials below. We love tutorials by OU Graphics and Show it Better, they’re explained well and aren’t hours long. Once you understand how it’s done, you can repeat the steps yourself – don’t fret if it takes longer on the first try.

Show it Better
OU Graphics

Also remember, the level of realism is up to you. If you’re focused on presenting something abstract and extremely minimal, you can stop at the previous step and move on to your next task. Obviously, the amount of work you put in will give different kinds of results so take this into account. The time spent on each image also should be taken into consideration so that you’re not spending too much time on one image. Usually, after you do the first one, you’ve understood the method and then as you progress, it’ll be faster.

At this point, add in your shadows and remember to use a layer mask to get rid of or add in shadows. You can use a soft Brush to paint in the shadows if you’re going for a softer look. Decrease the Opacity and make use of the different blending modes like ‘multiply’ or ‘soft light’ and see which works best in this case. Sometimes, you might have to re-size the shadow because it’s been through a couple of programs so our tip would be to find a straight edge of something you can clearly see in both your line drawing and your shadow image and match it via that.

Adding even one simple overlay texture can make all the difference to your image. It just gives a natural looking element that isn’t there when you’re just adding colour to something. To get rid of the flat look, just add in a paper texture. You can do this by finding a high-quality image of a paper such as watercolour paper, then add it in to your image as a new layer. After that, you want to go and set the layer to ‘multiply’ and then play around with the opacity so that it looks natural. Then, you can see the difference it makes. For images with a softer and lighter colour palette, this one step makes it even more beautiful.

To add areas to specific areas, we would definitely tell you to use Layer Masks. If you’re not familiar, have a look at this tutorial below by PHLEARN. He explains layer masks very simple and you can play around with the feature to get comfortable using it in your own work. This is important because it means you’re working in a non-destructive way. You don’t want to be accidentally erasing or painting over your base layer and then having to replace it. Plus, working with multiple layers can get confusing if you don’t label or group them properly. It’s better to get in the habit now, than being confused while you’re almost done but become stuck.

Other textures might include wood, metal, leather, anything that is present in your line drawing that could use a texture. Again, make sure you’re using high-quality images. Plants and grass might be easier to add at this stage. If you don’t want to use a realistic plant – which some people do – you can open it in Illustrator and use the Image Trace function to create a vector out of it. This keeps the plant proportions and colours and you can get an illustrated effect instantly. If you want to learn how to do this, check out our ‘Adding People’ tutorial.

For post-production, lighting is a core part of the process. You don’t need to go crazy with this. Below is an example of a tutorial by OU Graphics on adding light in your images. Some soft light can be quickly added using the brush but if you have a night-time scene you might want to go for a neon light situation, in which case you can have a look at the tutorial below.

Don’t forget to add some life to your drawing! Whether it’s interior or exterior images, adding people doesn’t have to be difficult or a chore. If you struggle way too much or don’t have any time, maybe consider leaving it out.

Adding colour to your architectural drawings and perspectives doesn’t need to be overly complicated. It requires a lot of time, effort and patience. If you’re willing to give your best in order to achieve the results you want, you will surely be able to do it. Just remember that the ‘adding colour’ bit is part of a larger process overall that we’ll be breaking down in the coming weeks. Have a look at the final result below. If there is anything specific you want to learn how to do or have questions, let us know on Instagram or join our Discord chat where we encourage members of our community to share tips and ask for help.


Boosting Your Skills as an Architecture Student

Skills You Learn in Architecture School

Once graduating, you will soon realise how valuable having a range of skills is. It doesn’t have to be specifically software or even architecture-related but something that may be valuable in any kind of workplace. Now, the type of skills you learn whilst at university will depend on your teachers, workload and other resources available to you so we can’t speak for every university. Overall, there does seem to be a lack of opportunities and just a general knowledge of skills employers will be looking for.

It may not be obvious to you which kind of skills you have while you’re studying so it might be a good idea to sit down and have a think. First, think about computer skills you have such as Adobe programs, 3D modelling software and anything else. If you don’t know where to start, take some advice from your tutors or those in the year above on what to start learning. Usually, Sketchup is well recognised by many people. There are no difficult commands to memorise or lack of tutorials, you can find almost everything online on YouTube. If you’re struggling with Adobe programs, have a look at our ‘Getting Started’ Series. These programs are essential to learn if you want your work to stand out.

What you need to learn, depends on the kind of role you want after you graduate. Currently, by personal experience, there is a large amount of roles that require knowledge of Vectorworks, Rhino or Revit. These aren’t extremely hard software to learn and you might already be using it in your work anyway. In that case, you might be good to go.

Other skills like hand-drawing, model making, and architectural photography can also prove to be valuable. It might allow you to lean towards a skill that you can work on and showcase in your portfolio as a strong area of your work. But not all your skills have to be architecture related. There are many more routes and skills you can work on in your spare time that won’t take too long and will open up new possibilities for you.

Some skills might include organisation, time-management or other attributes like punctuality and professionalism. You would be surprised how many students don’t take this as seriously as they should. Leaving things to the last minute is pretty much a standard for architects because of the workload, but it doesn’t have to be that way. If you plan your time carefully and prioritise your tasks, it should all work out.

Work Experience

The architecture work experience scene is rather timid, unless you have connections and you know people, or you just manage to get lucky really. If you do end up working or interning somewhere even if it’s just for a week, it can be extremely helpful when you graduate. If you’re struggling to get architecture-related experience, try and get some kind of work experience that can relate to some of the skills you learn in architecture. Usually students go for retail jobs because they are easier to apply and get hired for. The best place to look would be on job boards like Indeed and search for something like ‘Graphic Design Assistant’ or something along the lines of whichever skill you want to build.

Ask around for work experience and network. Ask your tutors who might know of firms or work in firms where they may be able to help you get some experience. A good thing to do before you start will be to ask the employer if there is anything you can work on or get familiar with before starting. This shows you’re taking initiative and you know what to work on so when you start and therefore you’ll be less nervous or panicky because you don’t know something. Of course, you will also have to be prepared to devote time towards whichever work you decide to take up so frankly, the easiest part is applying, the hardest bit will be being able to manage your time well.

Skills to Build

Now you must be wondering, what kind of part-time jobs or hobbies can I take up to boost my skillset? We’ve got a small list below, but it’s not limited in any way. Each of these skills can lead to a job or even a business of your own. Remember, the knowledge you get from learning things whilst studying architecture is just the first step. Applying these to jobs, work experience or just as a hobby can turn into something requiring a lot of hard work that could pay off in some way in the future.

3D Modelling – product design, Lasercut products, animation, architectural rendering

Adobe Illustrator – graphic design, social media content, illustrator, typography, marketing materials, logo designing, architectural illustration work

Adobe Photoshop – retouching, photography editing, architectural images / collages, social media content, branding design, marketing materials, digital art

Adobe InDesign – Branding design, marketing materials, booklets, document creation

Architectural photography – prints of your work, freelance photography, videography

Hand-drawing – art and design, handmade art / products

Some other skills that are easy to learn include social media management, basic website design, portfolio critiques, professional photography and blogging (plus more that we can’t think of, so let us know of your ideas in the comments).


If you think about it, some skill relates to another skill which relates to another skill, and yes, you might end up being a bit further away than architecture but the skills you develop will be beneficial for you. For example, having a passion for architecture and blogging resulted in the creation of this website. We’re able to provide you with tutorials, a decent-looking and working website, archives, aesthetic feed and community reach because along the way, I’ve learnt these skills and used my existing knowledge to help me. The few years I spent studying Computing allowed me to understand basic CSS code while creating our website. So, think about the valuable skills you already possess and try build on those.

YouTube videos are definitely the way to go. If you don’t know how to do something, chances are you’ll find it on Google or through a video. Personally, it’s helped me create my own side business with ease because I have an idea of how to create websites now. It also helped me get a part time role as social media manager which benefitted the company I was working for as well as giving myself tips on how to reach more people with our blog.

Our generation is great for these things because we know exactly what kind of topics are trending and as architects we have an eye for design.  When you think about it, almost every company in this day and age will need some kind of social media branding and start-ups or small businesses don’t have the budget to be hiring experts so instead they go with the people who know it best. With a few tips from people in the same industry, you’ll understand in no time what you need to work on, and this can apply for almost anything. If you don’t really get how to capture architecture in photography, watch some videos on composition or camera management and boom, you’re improving your skills with ease.

Why Building Skills is Important

The reason for this article isn’t to persuade you into other career options. By all means, architecture is fantastic and there is a sense of satisfaction when creating and designing a space that brings joy to people. Only we can really understand the amount of hard work put into the projects we work on. Having these extra skills on the side might be the thing that sets you aside from others. For example, when applying for jobs after you graduate or even much later on, you can tell firms that you are able to go above and beyond into helping the company as a whole rather than just attending and doing your job. Being proactive and offering suggestions or improvements will only help you in the long run.

Sure, it doesn’t make you a perfect all-rounder, but if you have an interest in other things, think about how you can work on your skills to achieve results through it. We all know, students are usually tight on money, so if you offer your services on creating a few branding materials for local brands around you, you can work on using software and learning about design whilst also making a bit of money on the side.

You could most definitely add these skills to your CV. Just don’t go overboard and try keep it professional and relate back to why this has helped you overall. For example, working with a start-up usually means you’re much more involved in core projects or campaigns and you need to be able to manage your time well and do the work you’ve been assigned. Architecture (or any other course) and its prospective jobs require the same things. If an employer can see you’ve worked well in the past, managed your time and multiple projects, they will definitely see a place for you in their company.

We hope this gave you the inspiration and motivation to try do something in your spare time (if you have any!) and expand your list of skills. If you have any suggestions or recommendations of other kinds of skills, or if you have your own story to share, let us know in the comments below or DM us on Instagram.


Lockdown / Quarantine Tips for Designers

First things first, we know you’re struggling with the current circumstances whilst in lockdown or quarantine. With universities being shut and finding yourself in this grey area of uncertainty, you might feel like you have no idea how to proceed. If your unit hasn’t already set up a Whatsapp group, weekly Zoom meeting or at least an email conversation, we get why you may be worried. Don’t be afraid to initiate things. If your tutors understand your situation in any way, they may try to put in a bit more effort to help you. If not, you will need to take matters into your own hands, and don’t be afraid to email them and stay in the know about what’s going on with deadlines and submissions.

We know nothing will compare to the atmosphere and size of a studio and the lack of resources you get presented with might not help. At this point, lockdown will mean you don’t have access to the workshop, materials or even software in some cases. Don’t fret, there’s things you can do to get around this. It won’t solve your problems 100% but we all need to learn to make do and compromise during these times. Many of you who have already got some kind of set-up, whether that’s a space in your room, a make-shift desk, it might not be fully optimised for your needs.

This period might even spark some unexpected ideas and creativity (look at our WfH design challenge for example). It’s not a bad idea to envision architecture of the future or even the impacts of this situation on the projects you are designing. Although it may be a little later in the year with final deadlines creeping up, you can always add minor additions or changes that show you are actually aware of what’s going on around you. These tips aren’t just for lockdown, they can help whenever you feel stuck, isolated and out of ideas. You could also check out some of our other similar articles like ‘Why Taking Care of Yourself in the Design World is Essential’ or ‘Guaranteed Ways to Gain Inspiration Online’.

It’s okay to be stuck

In terms of coming up with ideas or staying on top of your design work, it can be extremely difficult with the current news or your current living situation. We hope you’re all safe and have necessities. If you have little to no guidance or inspiration, it’s okay. Maybe you need to take a break for a few days and take the time to clear your mind. If you have deadlines coming up, this can be very hard, but it could be better than sitting at your desk with no ideas. You need to try give it time to get adjusted to the surroundings. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re stuck, it happens to the best of us.

Having a blank mind, no ideas or motivation can be frustrating yet common for architecture students so it’s not that different in lockdown. If you feel like you don’t know how to proceed with a project or have zero ideas, try and call up a friend, read a book or watch a movie. Anything and everything can spark the smallest idea. Try and have a specific place to keep all your weird and wonderful ideas together. Personally, I like using the Notes app on my phone or the back page of my sketchbook if it is directly related to my design. Try not to feel the pressure of constantly being productive because it doesn’t work that way in reality. If you think about it, being stuck is completely normal and happens even when we aren’t working from home.

On the other hand, if you find this change in atmosphere actually working out for you then by all means keep going! Ride the wave and get your creative juices flowing. For some people, a change in surroundings can be just what they needed to take their projects further ahead. Keep thinking about what more you can do and add because there isn’t a limit to your creativity.

Find yourself a dedicated space

If you haven’t already worked out a make-shift home office, think about this carefully before you pile on every piece of equipment you think you might need. If you happen to have an extra monitor, set that up and take a seat on a comfortable (but not too comfortable) chair. There’s also ways you can use an iPad as a second screen! Try and keep your desk uncluttered (we know it’s hard for us too) as this will generally make it easier to find things and prevent you from continuously cleaning up. We would suggest taking up a corner of a room that’s away from where your family might be. If you’re living alone and have no other option, try and make sure you don’t get constantly distracted i.e. right next to the bed or the kitchen.

If you find it hard to sit at the desk for long periods, make yourself a timetable, or even stick to your existing university schedule and do the things you would normally do but inside. For example, fit in other hobbies and activities alongside your work – this will make lockdown much more bearable for those of us who may be more extroverted. Currently, the weather has been so great in England, so you could most definitely take your desk into the garden and work there for an hour or so as long as there’s no obvious distractions. A change in space, even around the home might want to make you do work that you’ve been putting off. So along with a dedicated space, plan out timings keeping in mind an hour for lunch, some exercise, a quick phone call to give yourself a break. Try your best not to work on your bed since it’ll most likely make you tired and lazy.

At your desk, make sure you have everything but don’t keep unnecessary items. For example, a monitor, keyboard and mouse are valid options, but your handheld gaming console might not be a good idea for when you’re working. A clock, some easy to eat snacks and water can be a great idea and it means you’re not constantly getting up. Have a roll of tracing, your sketchbook and a pencil case too. We would also suggest keeping a box of modelling equipment. This can include tools as well as materials and it keeps them all in one place. Then, when you feel like making a model you can do so. Also, it’s good to mention that although you don’t have access to the workshop or materials, a model doesn’t need to be overly complication and you can do so with paper, card or cardboard lying around at home. Think basic and simple for the time being.

Another great tip to make yourself keep working during lockdown is to promise to do 20% of whatever task and you can stop after that. The trick here is, once you start doing something (like 3D modelling or portfolio work) and you complete roughly 20% of it, you might just feel like you can keep going. The key is to actually start, and this eliminates the majority of the problem. You might even realise that it really isn’t that bad. If you can, keep a timer at your desk. You might be thinking, why would I need a timer? The point of this is to emulate something similar to school lessons.

Every hour change up whatever task you’re doing and stick to it. For example, this could be editing some photos, planning out a part of your building or writing an essay. Over the course of a few days you’ll be able to gauge how much you can actually do in an hour and then plan accordingly. Plan a couple of hours, spread over the week to get a big task done. You basically need to treat every day professionally, as if you were working in the studio or as if it’s just a normal day. You also don’t need to slave all day long, work for certain periods of times, stop at around 5 or 6pm and take a break for a few hours then get back to it.

Try new things

The most beneficial thing you can do during this time is to try new things or do your mundane tasks a little differently. For example, I find it useful to list 5 things I plan to do the next day, right before I go to bed. This not only makes me think about it for a while, but I don’t wake up the next day not knowing how to progress. If you’re an avid model maker but find yourself with limited tools and materials, take this as a challenge. You could use recycled cardboard or plastic, use common tools like hairdryers, blue tac, wire to make small prototype models. Yes, this might not be advantageous for those wanting a really finished and clean model, but we’re sure the examiners will understand.

Another thing you could do differently, is to try out things you haven’t been able to explore yet. We love using Pinterest here at :scale, but I’ve never tried other visual organisation methods, so I signed up for Milanote (which allows you to save pins from Pinterest too) but mixes visuals with tasks lists and other texts or links. It’s basically a large mood board and you can use this for any kind of project. Trying out something new can’t hurt right now. It doesn’t need to be something huge either, try use a different note-taking method, change up the wallpaper of your computer or phone or get yourself a new set of pencils.

If you’re finding yourself with loads of extra time to spare or just want to do something different, why not check out our design challenge? It doesn’t have to take long to do and it lets you explore your skills in a new way. If not, just take the time to check out some of the entries instead. Here’s another competition we love at the moment.

Ask for help

There may be times where you feel absolutely stuck and if you don’t have regular access to your tutors, try getting advice from your fellow students. I’ve even found that asking help from non-architects proves to be quite eye-opening if it’s something quite simple. Often, other people’s experiences can prove to be a source of inspiration too. Not to mention, we’re here to help with any kind of advice you might need. If you wanted someone to take a look at your portfolio with a new set of eyes or are struggling with presentations, layouts, general ideas, feel free to message us on social media or email us with some of your work. There are also some independent architects and universities offering this sort of thing (check LinkedIn).

Links to other articles

‘Foolproof Tips to Staying Motivated’

‘Best Things to Do After a Tutorial or Crit’

Hope you’re all managing somehow and staying safe in indoors!


The Process Behind a Successful Architecture Portfolio

Types of Portfolios

Depending on the year you are studying in, you will see different kinds of portfolios and you may not be able to judge for yourself which are successful, and which aren’t. We don’t want to focus on a specific style or type of portfolio, the possibilities are dependent on your project and the amount of work you put in.

In this article, we want to guide you on some of the necessary things you need in your portfolio as well as the extra details that can make it stand out to the examiners. By putting in a bit of extra effort, you can take your portfolio to a much higher level. First, we would suggest for you to look at as many portfolios and projects as possible. This might be in your own university or in other ones which you can usually find online through specific unit websites or at the end of year exhibitions. Ask the other students around university or even someone in your year who’s work you admire or seems to be popular with the tutors.

When you think about it, regardless of which year you’re in, putting a portfolio takes up the entire year and most students will work on it till the last second. We definitely don’t advise doing this, it not only puts pressure on you as a person but can give you a lot of stress that you could avoid by doing work in advance. If you’re in first year, you might not know where to start – this is why we’ve put together this article. But whatever the case, if you want to improve your portfolio then keep reading.

We’re going to divide this into two parts: the layout and presentation of your portfolio and the actual work you’ll be putting into your portfolio. We’ve covered some of the design part in our article ‘How to Maintain a Theme in Your Portfolio’ and we’ll be referring to it often, so if you haven’t read it yet, definitely give it a read.

What to Include in Your Portfolio

There are no real guidelines or a handbook on what you exactly need in your portfolio. This is because every university is different, the way they handle things or teach or examine your work. The following ‘pages’ or work to include are just a general idea. If, for example, you’re designing a pottery factory or workshop, you might want to experiment with various shapes in the form of physical models. This can go as in-depth as you want and is a great way to show your tutors and examiners that you’ve really thought about the materials in your project. This whole idea would require a few pages to explain what you’re going to do, images of the models you make etc.

Some units may also have smaller projects they do before the main design project. This is usually to give you an anchor point to get you inspired for your project. It has to link to the design project in some way and may even be a section of your portfolio at the beginning. Make sure that if you do have a project at the beginning that is supposed to link to your design, by the end of the project there should be a clear path of how you got there from the start. There may also be a section at the end for the final part of the design which includes plans, sections, model photographs and final perspective images or illustrations. This could be submitted separately if the university requires in which case you might want to change the size of the pages, orientation or paper quality to make it stand out as it’s the final design.

Having sections in your portfolio isn’t necessary but can break down your project into groups of work that each have some kind of purpose. For example a generic order would consist of a site study, then development, then any technical focuses followed by design experiments and finally a series of images to complete the project. This is a natural order that is simply organised well so that the examiner understands the entire process. Having 30+ pages means there is a lot to look at and remember about the project within just a couple of minutes. But if you have sections, it makes it easier for you, your tutors and the examiner to understand. The best bit is that once you finish with the first couple of sections, you can present these in crits to get feedback and improve it until it doesn’t need to be improved anymore. By the end of the year, you won’t have to work on your entire portfolio, just the areas you’re currently working on.

Let’s get down to the basics:

Title Page



Design Drivers

Mini Project (if any)

Section 1 – Brief / Site Analysis

  • Breakdown of the brief
  • Initial ideas
  • Site map 1:1000
  • Site map and route 1:500
  • Interesting areas within the site, analysing a site (can take the form of a map, collage, photographs or illustrations)
  • Site study (3D modelled, fragment, image)
  • Sun path diagram
  • Opportunities and constraints

Section 2 – Design Development

  • Initial sketches / ideas
  • Research (desktop research; articles, interviews etc. or physical research)
  • Design drivers
  • Massing studies / massing diagram (tutorial coming soon)
  • Breakdown of the building function via sketches, initial models, 3D models
  • Case studies
  • Initial plan / section

Section 3 – Initial Iteration

  • Site map with building overlay 1:200
  • Building development (depends on what you’re looking at in your project. Could be to do with the layout of the building, materials, structure, technical aspects etc)
  • Models + photographs
  • Plans and sections (these are your first iteration, so it doesn’t need to be perfect, but some annotation or sketches might help the examiner understand what you need to work on)
  • 3D model renders / physical model prototypes

Section 4 – (Optional – if you have more development to do / another iteration of drawings that are important to include. Essentially the same as section 3)

Section 5 – Resolution

  • Building Summary
  • Site plan 1:500
  • Plans (well annotated, proper line weights)
  • OPTIONAL – perspective plans, sections or axonometric views
  • Sectional drawings (showing where the section has been taken from)
  • Elevations (North, east, south, west)
  • Collages
  • Renders (if any)
  • Illustrations / perspective images (if any)
  • Hand-drawings (if any)

As we said, some of the things listed might not apply to your project depending on what kind of building you’re designing or the sort of style your prefer. There is also scope to add much more and work on certain parts in much more detail if it applies  to your project. For example, if you’re looking into a public building that is catered towards a certain community, you might want to do more research in that area or interview people. If your building revolves around a trade or craft that you don’t know about, you can explore this as models or further research.

You will also need to remember to cut down as you go. Yes, your portfolio pages need space and clarity and you really shouldn’t bombard the pages with too much text or images but at the same time, having an entire page for each of the 10 sketches you have drawn might be too much. Remember, the examiner will spend less than a few seconds on each page and will eventually focus more on the last section. If your tutors can help you to go through portfolios (extremely helpful before and after a portfolio review or crit) and go through each page, add on sticky notes or remove pages entirely so that you’re constantly editing and improving the flow of work. You can absolutely do this yourself but just make sure you’re not printing the ‘final’ version each time until you’re absolutely sure that a page is fully complete, fits well and is understood better with the pages before and after it.

Portfolio Design

We’ve covered a bit of portfolio design and the importance of having a theme or structure in your portfolio in the article ‘How to Maintain a Theme in Your Portfolio’ which I’m sure you’ve read by now. The things we covered there included a colour scheme, setting out your pages in advance and planning your pages. We’ve already given you the basic structure, so at the start of your project all you have to do is set up your portfolio on Adobe InDesign.

Usually, at the beginning of the year it takes a couple of weeks before you actually get the brief for your project or even speak to your tutors. Add in the generic introductory lectures and ‘site walks’ and you’ve pretty much wasted 3 weeks. After my first year, I realised we need to get ahead of the game. Students were often surprised to hear how my portfolio was done a couple of days before the deadline, giving me time to finalise the last few images or make sure everything works in a cohesive manner.

Setting aside an hour a day during that weird start of the year period could help you plan out your portfolio. Think about it aesthetically or practically. If you want inspiration on different layouts or themes, you can have a look at our Pinterest board. If you’re thinking budget wise, maybe moving from an A1 portfolio to an A2 portfolio seems like a wiser and lighter option. Make all these decisions now instead of getting frazzled later on when the work really begins.

If you’ve been given the brief ahead of time, definitely research the hell out of it. Make a mood board, sketches, a Pinterest board and brainstorm the different routes you could take with the brief. Look at past projects or some of the reading material you might have been recommended. Ask students in other units to see what their brief is like – anything can create a boost of inspiration as long as you’re not waiting for your tutors to tell you what to do next. Take control and stay ahead as much as possible.

Portfolio Organisation Methods

We don’t have to tell you repeatedly. Organisation is KEY. Organising your portfolio can get a bit hectic once there are other projects or essays or crits to prepare for. We would suggest keeping an online version and obviously a physical copy. For the pages you’re currently working on, it could be a good idea to print them out unfinished at a smaller scale like A3. Then, whenever you have a tutorial or crit, you can hand your tutors the page and explain what you’re doing and why. This is way better than showing them something on a computer screen because they can physically write or draw on it and give you advice that helps.

Similarly, if you’re completing your portfolio by hand, you’ll realise just how much time it’s taking up. If you’re thinking about saving money for title pages or pages with just images on them, that’s reasonable. Whenever you finish a page though, scan it in and add it to your InDesign file so you can re-order if needed or edit and actually be able to see the pages without having to take out your huge portfolio and search for the page.

Lastly, every couple of months, or even every month, sit down and go through your portfolio and see if anything can be improved. We get too stuck in the work we are presently doing that we might forget about the work we’ve already done. The entire project needs to make sense and be successful. Look for any ideas that didn’t work out and go back and edit this or comment on it at a later stage. I like to plan the pages I’ll be putting up for my crits the night before by drawing them out in my sketchbook. It saves some time because you can have a think and re-order on your sketchbook, then actually go and pick out those pages and keep them ready for the next day. Your portfolio order won’t be messed up either because you have a digital copy that reflects the physical one.

Knowing Your Portfolio

Lastly, we want to emphasise on the importance of actually knowing your portfolio, it’s something to take pride in but it also needs to be memorable in some way. At the end of the day, you know your project best, and by the time the year is over you’d have presented or explained your ideas so many times that it’s stuck in your head – which is a great thing! Write an awesome summary that is short yet descriptive and intrigues the other person to know more about it.

The decisions you made regarding the look or contents are definitely your own, but a bit of guidance never hurts and could actually lead you to better results. Studying architecture is all about getting better as you progress till you’re happy with your work and designs. If you want to see more tutorials catered towards specific portfolio pages, leave your suggestions below in the comments. Have a look at our other related topics as well. Good luck!


How to Prepare for Architectural Technology Modules

When explaining architecture to a person who knows nothing about it, usually the words ‘designing’ ‘buildings’ or ‘drawings’ come about. But not many people talk about the technological aspects of the course. This may be because if you don’t already have experience working with real projects in a firm, your main focus is on hypothetical projects that don’t need a technology viewpoint.

But to prepare architecture students for the real world, it’s important to touch on architectural technology including basic construction ideas and the knowledge of how exactly a building is made and then in turn, how that combines with the design.

This article is aimed at the undergraduate students, especially second and third years who may have no idea how to prepare for the technology modules. Usually, this comes in the second term while you’re in between design work and maybe finished with dissertation so it’s really important to be able to multi-task as best as possible.

What is the technology module / dissertation / submission?

The actual technology ‘module’ or dissertation in some universities can vary because each place will have their own education method and requirements so unfortunately, without looking directly at the brief, we can’t give guidance on each and every aspect. The deadlines, type of submission and other requirements completely depend on the university and can be better that way if you have a lot of guidance. Here, we’re going to be speaking from personal experience, so if something isn’t the same for you, just ignore it.

Now you might be thinking, I already have so many different projects and deadlines and now technology has been added to that. We’ve already explained the purpose of the submission, but the overall idea is to enhance your design project. This adds a level of detail and actually shows the examiner how the project moves from being hypothetical to reasonably realistic. By doing research about various things like case studies, detail drawings and other tests or experiments, you’re learning key skills.

From experience, the technology module or dissertation is a booklet of information that includes the project and its context as well as some tests, case studies and development of the project’s technological focus. It also includes drawings such as plans, sections and detailed construction drawings on a large scale. Check out this example on Issuu.

What are the aims and objectives?

The purpose of a technology module is for students to understand the technical aspects involved in any kind of building project, no matter how big or small. This has to integrate with your design project but focusing more on an element rather than the entire building. Often, the aims and objectives will be provided to you in the form of a brief or marking guide so make sure you read it properly and understand what it wants you to do.

Thinking from a submission and marking perspective, the examiners are just looking for an understanding of technical elements. They basically want to see that you can create and draw out basic concepts that have derived from your project. For example, when testing out an element, you don’t have to have successful outcomes. They want you to fail and learn how you failed and then what you did to correct the situation. This shows growth in your projects.

As well as this, the examiners are looking for high quality work with innovative ideas. Of course, working on a ‘simple’ technical element is difficult enough, but if you broaden your creativity and come up with unusual ideas that may very well not work, it shows that you like to experiment and think outside of the box.

How does this help you later down the line? Architects don’t work alone on a building from start the finish. There are many other professional people involved who will need to understand your thinking and ideas through your drawings. If you ever sit down with a constructional engineer you will realise the jargon and overall concepts are much more different to architecture. You will also need to make others understand how exactly your vision comes to life. It’s all good and well designing a beautiful roof structure but if you don’t have the technology behind it sorted it, no one will have an idea on how to actually construct it.

In addition, the technology module is great for prospective employers. Whilst working in a firm, you will be tasked on various things that you didn’t necessary learn in university because you were working on hypothetical projects. This is where having a technological understanding comes in handy. Although you might not be an expert in it, you have a solid base where it makes it easier for you to learn as you go rather than learning from scratch whilst on the job.

Breakdown of content

The following ‘chapters’ may not be required or could be slightly different depending on your course and university. This example is from the 3rd year technology dissertation at the University of Greenwich.

Project Context – This is all the information you have already gathered so far for your project. You have to basically think about how you would introduce the project to someone who may have not looked at your design work. This includes analysis of the site, the brief, your key drivers for the project and even where it is located. It’s basically background information.

RMS – This is a research methods statement. This is where you explain your technology focus, again with the context of the design project. The RMS is also a standalone document that gives an outline of the technology submission.

Dissertation – The dissertation is the main element of the submission. It has two parts, first the aims and technical questions that need to be answered, the case studies and the actual investigations carried out with experiments. The second part is the drawings. This includes plans, sections and detail drawings as well as a 3D view if needed.

Audit – this part explains the real-world technicalities of the project. For example, the costs, materials, building regulations and health and safety. Luckily, it doesn’t need actual figures but simply an understanding of the way it works.

Our top tips


Here at :scale we heavily emphasise on organisation. It is a lifesaver! Similarly, for the technology submission, the best thing you can do is organise yourself. Set out a couple of hours once you have the brief, to brainstorm on your project and make a template of the pages you need. We would recommend you buy a small notebook where you can keep your ideas. It will also come in handy during tutorials with your tutors regarding tech.

If your brief doesn’t already include a breakdown of the pages you need, either make one yourself or look at past projects to get a better idea of the structure. We’ve already touched on this above. Then, create a file in Adobe InDesign and set up a front cover (not the final thing), the pages, headings and subheadings and other details you know you need to include. This way you’re not creating pages one by one and slowly adding it to a folder, you can instantly lay out a page in your file and keep it all in one place, ready to go. If you have ideas for the presentation or colour scheme it makes your life much easier. Personally, we would say keep it simple but do something fun with it that doesn’t go over the top. If you need ideas, have a look on our Pinterest board ‘Layouts’.

A small but crucial part of the technology is to come up with a technical focus. This might be something new you’ve thought of or something you want to build on. Let’s use ‘natural ventilation techniques’ as an example. If you wanted to make your building more sustainable, for whichever reasons, you need to come up with ways in which you can introduce natural ventilation. An example of this can be a wind catcher or wind tunnel. Using this as one of your technical experiments, you need to think about the kinds of tests you can do to ensure you have the best model.

  1. Placement of the wind tunnel – here you can experiment where it will be placed, depending on the orientation of the building, you can do wind experiments on site, 3D model a wind tunnel and use software to understand where it will catch the most wind.
  2. Design – think about the best kind of design of a wind tunnel. Look at existing ones, the materials, the size, all kinds of factors.
  3. Efficiency – obviously, you can’t test this on site, but you could simulate conditions via a 3D software or a scaled physical model.

Essentially, the more factors you have to test, the better. But you need to make sure it makes sense with the rest of your project. Why are you testing this? Why is it important for the project as a whole? The best part is, even if some tests don’t work it, you can and should include it so that the examiners can see you tried various routes and then finally settled on the best outcome possible. This bit is probably the part where most students get stuck, they don’t know what exactly they need to ‘test’ but once you’ve got some ideas, it becomes very easy to keep going.

By planning ahead of time, you’re leaving yourself more time to work on the real stuff. You don’t want to be rushing at the end working on the layout of the dissertation even though it is an important part. Planning ahead also means thinking about printing services. For some technology dissertations, drawings are also required but these have to be to scale and therefore need to be on sheets of A3, A2 or even A1 and have to be folded and stuck in. Make sure you leave space for this and plan and scale your drawings well.

It’s also a good idea to have two copies of your dissertation, one for the submission and one for yourself or as part of your portfolio. Make sure you decide on how you will print your document and understand roughly how many days it will take. Then, count back from the day before your deadline and set it as your own deadline to finish everything. You want to leave a day or two for adding in the drawings and checking everything is good. If you can, try leave a backup option in case nothing works out. This could be a simple printed out booklet you make yourself.

Use your 3D models to your advantage. You don’t need an exquisite physical or digital model for this. Smaller, prototype models or experiment models are great. A good tip would be to duplicate your current digital model, extract out the area of focus, whether it’s a sliver of your building or a corner and use that file for the base of your technology drawings. Remember, you don’t need fancy renders or illustrations, a simple line drawing in orthogonal view is great. If possible, try and model the building with actual layers of the walls, the structure etc. so that when you draw a section out, it’s already there. Some programs like Revit or Vectorworks make it easy for you to do this.

Don’t forget

This was our breakdown on architectural technology, what it is, what you need and our top tips for getting through this module. If you want to see more useful and helpful articles or even our tutorials, make sure to check them out below or by going on to our Blog page.

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Analysing Architecture Case Studies for Beginners

What is a Case Study?

You might be at the stage in your design where you have come up with a first iteration of your building and there’s just not enough depth to it, or it looks empty, has no real meaning behind it. This is common when you’re starting out so don’t panic. At this point, your tutors might suggest looking for a case study to further enhance your project. That might sound good, but how do you even start? What even is a case study you might ask?

This small but integral part of any design project is seemingly overlooked. There aren’t many helpful guides or set of instructions out there. (Trust me, we looked.) First you need to define for yourself what a case study is. For some projects, a case study can be the starting point of a project, for others it can be a link or reference that is relatable and can be explained easily.

For example, whenever Sana is explaining her project – a Vietnamese modular community that includes housing, commercial space and a community centre, she often describes the exterior skin of the building – which is made up of building services – as a smaller scale Pompidou Centre. Most architects will be able to understand immediately, and the Pompidou Centre is so well-documented, that it made for a great case study in her project. Breaking down the components of the building skin and the way in which it is organised helped adapt the idea for a domestic project. It also makes sense for the purpose of extracting out the services and putting them on the exterior of the building.


In the same way, the case studies you choose must have some kind of purpose or addition to your project. Your building doesn’t need to be a true representation of the building, that’s not what a case study is for. By researching and understand concepts other architects have used, you can apply the same rules and ideas to your own project and take it from there.

It’s perfectly fine to be fixed on a certain project that inspires your own from the get-go, but we think having a few case studies after your first iteration of drawings allows you to shape your building when you already have a set of building blocks. When analysing case studies, you’re essentially looking for interesting parts of the project that may or may not apply to your design. By understanding what someone else has done in the past, and how it’s worked, you can aim to design better whilst you’re adding to your own creative juices.

How do I pick a Case Study?

Obviously, there are a ton of amazing projects out there and you may already have a lot of knowledge about a few, but you really have to stop and think whether this particular building is going to help you. If you get lucky, your tutor might even suggest you look at a building in more detail, which makes your life much easier. On the other hand, if you have no idea where to start, think about these next steps.

First, you need to figure out which kind of building you’re designing. For example, you need to think whether it is residential based, a public building, a private mixed-use project – basically the category your project may come under. This way, you can narrow your search and find projects with the same outline as yours. This doesn’t mean a completely unrelated building won’t come in handy. Parts of a building might be more important than it’s purpose. For example, looking at the use of glass blocks in Maison de Verre by Chareau helped inspire a project about viewing and optical elements and combining public and private spaces.


Then, you need to make sure there are parallel factors between the case study and your own project. This can be the environment or climate, something that is similar which you can relate back to. If there aren’t any, you can always choose to implement some in your project. Make sure you’re discussing this with your tutor before you do a whole case study on a project they don’t think will relate well enough. Remember, they are there to guide you and may often have better knowledge about a range of buildings. Better yet, if your brief includes buildings of interest, you can always start with these.

What to look for

Once you’ve found your case study, you need to start by doing a literature or desktop study, which in simple terms means, Google it. Look at various websites to get a full idea of the project. Usually websites like Arch Daily will have a lot of these projects outlined as fact-filled pages. We’ll leave some more useful links at the end of the article so keep reading!


Usually, your building site will be somewhere in your city. Projects you choose for a case study might not be in the same city or country even. If you have a strong connection with other parts of the building, the environment and climate might not be that essential. It can be good to see the ways in which the building has been designed to accommodate for these features. If it hasn’t, you can still explain this and propose a solution regarding your building. Think about the average type of weather, the kind of soil type and where the site is.

Interesting Structures

You may find that a part of the building appeal to you much more than any other details. If the function of the space isn’t relevant, but there is an amazing structural quality that you think you can use, focus on that. For example, the use of a type of beam or steel structure, or even the materials that they have used for the structure can be vital to turning your building into something much more interesting.

Surroundings / Access Points

As well as internal parts of the case study, you also need to evaluate how the building interacts with its surrounding. Look at transport around the building, the kinds of neighbouring buildings (if any) and in relation, the entry and exit points of the building. Eventually you can also do this for your own project, in a simpler model to understand the relationship with the area.

Building Requirements

Research further into the use of the building and all of the spaces inside. You can go into as much detail as you want, that depends on your project or brief and what exactly you want to get out of the case study. If it is possible to make a physical visit, try it and document the process as much as you can. Think carefully about the spaces inside and their purposes.

Other requirements may change as time goes by. If it is an old building, you can look at the history of the case study and if the building has changed any way, how it has changed or why. If the case study is of a broader type of project, it might also change depending on the time of day. Be sure to research into all kinds of aspects of the project and the perspective from different people and the requirements they may have.

Form + Function

Here, you need to analyse both the form and function of the building. This includes outer and interior appearances. If anything pops out at you, make sure to find different photos of it or even sketches to understand the way in which it has been designed. Then the function, which is similar to the building requirements but can perhaps be better explained coming from the architects themselves if possible.

Some buildings may have extreme aesthetical features that can be harder to achieve and design. Figure out the ways in which these forms have been created through smaller test models of your own and adapt them to your own building. Remember, the point of a case study is to enhance your own project. There’s no point doing all this research without making use of it.

Building Services

If needed, you can focus of the technical aspects of the case study. When looking into residential spaces, the HVAC systems or other hidden systems could be of interest if your project is aimed in that direction.

Lastly, make sure to have a lot of key images of the case study. Don’t opt for standard front elevations, look deeper and focus on details if possible.

Preparing your portfolio

After you have done a ton of research and compiled this all together, you need to find a way to fit it into your portfolio. We advise you to place these pages in the early part of your portfolio, when the design is being developed. We’ve put together a brief list of the kinds of pages you might present this information in. It’s not all compulsory, do the ones which fit your project best.


Don’t overload the page no matter how large your page size is. Pick 4-5 key images that you can explain further later on. Make sure they’re of good quality when printed. Text should be needed if necessary.

Site Analysis

A site analysis might be the best way to present your findings. This kind of page can be a simple diagram of the building with annotations explaining the interesting features you found and why they are important. For more information, you can read our article ‘The Beginner’s Guide to Site Analysis’

Models and Tests

If you end up doing any tests with physical or digital models, put these in. It shows you have connected with the project and taken the initiative to figure out aspects of your own building. These can be extremely helpful when coming up with later iterations of drawings.

Opportunities and Constraints

An opportunities and constraints diagram is usually for the site analysis but can be prepared for case studies too. You don’t need to go into too much detail but if you feel it is needed you can most definitely create one.

Literature Review

All the facts and figures you have gathered, as well as any historical information, you can include with images or diagrams. Try not to overload the page with too much text, you just want to get across the key points.

So, that’s our beginner’s guide for case study analysis. Hope we didn’t miss anything, but if you feel like we did, leave a comment below. Let’s also start something new: Publish your portfolio online (your own website is great, we also love Issuu) and leave a link down below, this way we can have a look at each other’s portfolios!

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Best TED Talks for Architecture Students

If you haven’t heard of a TED talk yet, what are you doing? A TED talk is basically a seminar or video created from a presentation at one of the worldwide TED events. They take place in universities, technology companies or can be part of a bigger conference.

TED talks are known for their brief yet detailed explanation on a certain topic which may or may not be related to current affairs. For architecture specifically, the sub-categories range from sustainable architecture to looking at historic architecture. The speakers themselves can be experts in that industry or in our case, well-known architects. Usually these talks are very motivational and insightful. The mix of evidence-based information and engaging speakers curates a series of videos that are relevent to a broad audience.

Why should you be interested in a TED talk though? As a student, especially an architecture student, it’s always good to be in the know about the latest technologies or concepts in architecture. Yes you can do this via books and architecture magazines which keep you updated, but these TED talks go in to a large amount of detail on various topics that may inspire you.

We are in an environment where videos online are probably more accessible and convenient to us than library books. It’s also great as background content whilst completing design work. TED talks are usually relatively short so there’s no compulsion to sit there for hours on end.

In this article, we’ve picked the latest TED talks we found interesting. There are actually over 100 TED talks for architecture alone so there is a wide range you can search through. You might find some talks becoming a little less relevant the older they are since architectural technology like 3D printing has come so far. We also try and make sure we let you know if a new one is up via our Instagram so be sure to stay updated there.

Ma Yansong – Urban architecture inspired by mountains, clouds and volcanoes

If you know MAD architects, then you know Ma Yansong. This TED talk gives a glimpse into nature-inspired architecture that is prevalent in his own work. This is great for students because it not only gives you inspiration but it provides an insight into Yansong’s thought process.

Rahul Mehrotra – The architectural wonder of impermanent cities

In this TED talk, Rahul Mehrotra talks about the Kumbh Mela that takes place in India. The temporary structures built for this massive event make up a megacity ‘that sits on the ground very lightly’. He questions whether we are actually employing permenant solutions for temporary problems. Overall, it is an interesting topic if you don’t already know anything about it.

Bjarke Ingels – Floating cities, the LEGO House and other architectural forms of the future

Bjarke Ingels is a regular on TED talks. This one in particular is all about future cities and for the inner child in all us architects, LEGO. He talks about a few projects his firm is working on or have worked on and how a floating city is actually possible. These kinds of ideas can open up your mind as an architecture student.

Majd Mashharawi – How I’m making bricks out of ashes and rubble in Gaza

A true and inspiring story, Majd Mashharawi an entrepreneur and engineer, created bricks made from destroyed building components and rubble. The interesting thing about this talk is that she explains the repetitive process she had to go through in order to finally come up with the building block she has today. This is great for students who are interested in architectural technology and how you need to have several iterations before landing on the perfect solution.

Renzo Piano – The genius behind some of the world’s most famous buildings

Renzo Piano is well-known all over the world. This TED talk briefly goes over some of his major projects from his own perspective. If you didn’t know anything about Piano and his work, this is the perfect video to get started with.

To find more architecture TED talks, you can head over to their website below. You don’t even need to watch the specific architecture ones, there are plenty of categories and motivational videos that can be useful for anyone.

Ted Talks About Architecture

If you’re looking for more informative content that is catered towards students like yourself, make sure to check out our other articles here at :scale. Leave a comment below telling us which TED talk is your favourite and whether you learnt anything new.


Real Tools You Need for Architectural Drawings

Architects are often stereotyped for their love of black clothing, the long hours or even the obsession with modelling materials. But no one actually talks about the tools of the trade. Yes, we all know about the Rotring pencils and the T-scale, but not every architecture student or architect uses them all or sticks to typical tools.

It’s common for those starting university to get overthrown by the equipment list and some people actually end up buying it all (trust me we’re talking from experience). But whether or not these tools come into use depend on each person and their way of working. In our article ‘Starting Architecture at University’ we included a list of subject-related equipment you might need. But this list wasn’t compulsory. We actually recommend holding off on buying too much until you actually start your first day.

Sure, it can seem daunting to not have the proper tools, but it isn’t a big deal. Most universities are equipped with student stores full of a range of items and sometimes even bundle packs catered for each course. You need to think logically about what you will and won’t use. For example, a roll of tracing paper is a must. Even if you’re not into hand-drawing amazing and detailed architectural masterpieces, a roll of tracing paper is perfect for working out arrangements or sketching some rough plans.

An expensive set of mechanical pencils on the other hand, might not be the best use of your money. If you think carefully, wouldn’t you rather be spending on actual model making equipment like foamboards, MDF or general printing rather than a set of pencils that do the same job as any other ordinary pencils? Saving money at each turn is a good habit and you’ll understand why very soon. As you figure out your habits while working, you will automatically realise the tools you use often.

To give you an example, someone who prefers computer modelling and occasional sketching might not need every single type of ruler or stencil. If it’s part of an exercise in university, then sure it’s something good to have. But investing too much money will be pointless.

You might be asking yourself at this point, why do I need to know all this? We don’t want to misguide you into spending too much and we also want to let you know it’s okay to not be that person who buys and brings everything they own into university. It’s for your own good. We’re going to break down 5 tools we think any kind of architect needs. Whether you’re into computational drawings or prefer the old-school methods, these tools are important for any student.


We’ve sad this before and we’ll just say it again. If you don’t have a sketchbook, not just as an architecture student but in any sort of design degree, you’re losing organisational gold. A sketchbook can be the place to go when you need to write down small pieces of important information or plan out your building. A sketchbook often tells a person more about the project than the actual portfolio. This is because as well as containing all the key information about your building, it shows the building blocks as well as any trials and errors you made along the way. Keeping a sketchbook should become a habit by the end of your first year. It might also be handy to keep one outside of university for general ideas and to jot down inspiring places or ideas.

You don’t need to invest too much into a sketchbook. Usually, your local print shop will have a selection of sketchbooks that won’t cost you too much. Buy one for each project. If it doesn’t last you the whole year, you can always get another one and stick them together to keep it in one place.

Tracing Paper

Like we said before, keeping a roll of tracing paper with you is essential. Have it with you during tutorials, after crits and basically any other time you’re doing work. It doesn’t need to be just for drawing plans and sections. You can plan out drawings or  sketch things out to see if it works. Just make sure not to lose them. Dedicate a folder where you can keep the important ones.

Making a habit of keeping tracing paper with you at all times is a good practice. When you enter the professional world, you will find yourself having to think on the spot and for that you need somewhere to let your ideas flow well. Every architect will tell you how important of a tool it is.

Decent set of pencils and pens

Again, investing in a really amazing (and expensive) set of pencils or fine-tip pens should only be necessary if you are into creating hand-drawn images. For normal use, a common set should be completely fine. You also need to make sure it’s easy for you to replace them if needed. After a few months you can gauge whether you need to buy more lead or eraser refills. Consider investing in an electrical eraser or kneaded eraser to save on time.

Another good idea is to keep a couple of highlighters or coloured markers. This can help with drawing diagrams and differentiating parts of your drawing if you are explaining things to someone else. Stick to light and easy colours, atleast 3 or 4 different ones should be enough. This way, you can have a key in your mind. For example, using a light blue marker to highlight circulation in your building or using a green marker to show any greenery or vegetation.

Computer Mouse

A computer mouse is a really great tool. Nowadays, everyone owns a personal laptop. When you’re not working in university on the computers, you can work on your projects at home with ease. A computer mouse is a real lifesaver. If you can, get a wireless one by a well-known company rather than the cheaper alternatives because you want them to last and not fail you during deadlines.

For 3D modelling or editing, a computer mouse is precise and efficient. If you wanted to go a step further, you could also look into investing in a graphics tablet for digital drawing and editing. It makes producing perspective images and illustrations much easier.

USB or Hard drive

Nothing is more frustrating than losing your work or having your personal items stolen. To avoid this, make sure to keep a USB or hard drive handy. It can also be a good idea for storing model images so that it doesn’t take up all of your computer’s space. Make a note to ‘back-up’ your work onto a USB or hard drive every week or every couple of days. This way, even if you lose all your work and need to start over elsewhere, you have a base point and don’t need to start from scratch.

Don’t be cheap with this kind of technology. Investing in a good one, that has ample amount of storage can last you until after university. Ask family or friends who might have a better idea.

The Lightbook

A bonus item we love at the moment is the Lightbook. We’re sure you’ve seen a lightbox. Usually universities keep around a handful of these. It’s what it says it is. Have you ever traced something off the computer screen and shown it off as your own drawing? A lightbox is really just that. You can easily trace plans and sections with ease and use as many layers as needed. This is a lifesaver for someone with detailed hand-drawn plans and buildings with a lot of repeated, similar levels.

The Lightbook is a collection of people and objects that you can trace to add to your drawings with ease. The best thing about it? The drawings are to scale! They’ve even got some fun well-known characters that you can sneak into your sections and elevations making your work look much neater. Plus, it saves you time on drawing out so many additional items that can take up a lot of time and stress you out during deadlines.

You can trace people on to tracing paper or your drawings directly. There are a couple of editions as well as a digital DWG version if you prefer computerised people. One thing we love about the Lightbook is that it’s completely affordable for students and we would definitely recommend it.

Have a look at their website below.

If you wanted more ideas or alternatives, have a look at our ‘How to Add People in Your Architectural Drawings’ article. We provide you with other methods of making this small but important task easier.

That concludes our list of the real tools you need for architectural drawings (and other things). We hope you make wise decisions when investing in tools for architecture. Remember, to have amazing work, you don’t need expensive equipment at all. It all depends on your skills and talents which is something to continue working on.

Make sure to follow us on Instagram, we post new tips, tutorials and features on there daily.


Dissertation Advice Series – Part 1 Rebeka Zacková

If you are currently in the midst of planning or preparing for your dissertation, I am sure you have already read many “how to” articles online, or maybe even checked out some books on dissertation writing from the library.

There is a lot of great information out there and when writing my dissertation, I have also tried to follow all kinds of suggestions. However, there is one piece of advice that I didn’t come across, that would have possibly prevented me from getting into trouble very close to the deadline. My aim with this article is to recount my experience and explain how not to make the same mistake.

When we started the dissertation module in third year I was really excited. I knew that I wanted to write about architecture in virtual reality for quite some time and had read a number of books on the topic already.

The module started with a couple of lectures regarding writing the synopsis and it was very well structured and useful. I went through the whole suggested process and, alongside with the guidance from my advisor, I wrote my synopsis and received a high mark for it.

My dissertation was named “The Chair You Can’t Sit On” and it was discussing the current trend of translating real world architecture into the virtual environment. The “Chair” or furniture in general was supposed to illustrate how redundant some objects from real life are in the virtual world. What is the point of a chair you can’t sit on?

The very first time I came across Virtual reality was in the book Ready Player One by Ernst Cline, then later, fairly close to deciding on the topic for the dissertation I read an article in AEC Magazine- “Virtual Reality for architecture: a beginner’s guide. This article , as well as many others I read afterwards, explained the possibilities of implementing this new technology in the architecture field. It was mostly presented as a tool for architects to better understand the spaces they are designing, or as a more efficient means of communication between the architect and the client (as opposed to two-dimensional drawings and renderings).

Even though I agreed that this could have a positive impact on the design and communication process, I was wondering, how much further could we take it? This was so much different from what Ernst Cline was envisioning already in the 90s. I decided to explore this topic in my dissertation.

By posing the symbolic question “What does a chair mean in the virtual environment?” I started to examine the relationship between the real and the virtual. I was wondering what impact could the exploration of this relationship have on our understanding and future evolution of virtual architecture.

As the weeks went by everything seemed to be going well, I was spending loads of time in the library, (as my dissertation was mainly theoretical) reading and writing. However, as I became really invested in the virtual reality as a whole I started “playing” Second Life or rather visiting this 3D virtual world.

Second Life as described by its creator: San Francisco -based firm Linden Lab is The Largest User-Created 3D Universe where you can Build Your Dream Reality & Live extravagantly and have Complete Creative freedom. The media sometimes defines it as a multiplayer video game, sometimes even as a social network. However, the truth lies somewhere in between – combining all the different aspects of these into a completely unique experience. You’ll find people there who treat it as a game as well as people living their next life; there are people starting businesses and making money, but also people just trying to push the limits of its design laws.

One night, my avatar was walking around the Second Life’s universe. I was hoping to strike a conversation with someone, hopefully one that would lead me to getting a quote or any other interesting material for my dissertation.

It was very busy in the “house” my avatar was in, there was a party going on. Other avatars were dancing around in crazy costumes with some techno music in the background. I tried to strike a conversation with some of them but wasn’t having any luck. Then, I noticed someone sitting on a bar chair sipping on a virtual drink. My avatar sat down next to them and we got to talking. After a while I realized why I was able to approach that avatar sitting rather people dancing or walking and at that very moment my dissertation was condemned to take a radical turn.

I excused myself and was looking around the room seeing how different avatars were interacting and started to realize that furniture did have an actual purpose in the virtual space after all. “Sitting down” was not an act to rest your legs or get comfortable as it would be in the real world.  The action was performed as a non-verbal communication. It indicated people were committed to a longer or deeper conversation or it could signal that you were open to have a conversation.

Now, this discovery led me down a path of a whole other dimension of social interactions in a virtual environment and I felt that I could no longer argue against the use of furniture as such in avatar inhabited worlds. I felt like when planning my dissertation, I completely omitted this whole layer or angle. My whole dissertation at this point was supposed to prompt people to stop designing or get rid of their virtual furniture altogether. Re-reading all the text I have written thus far I could see the narrative setting the scene for that moment. I was in trouble.

All this happened during a break so I couldn’t ask my advisor for advice. It seemed dishonest to omit the information I learned just to “stay on track with my plan”. I decided to integrate the new knowledge into my dissertation as well as I could. Unfortunately, these new findings were from a completely different field of study – my dissertation started with semiotics and then in the middle a new layer of social interactions got added it became unclear what I was trying to say.

The whole work ended up being messy and seemed obvious I didn’t spend as much time on it as the rest of my research which at the end influenced my final mark. Thinking about it now I believe this could’ve been prevented if I planned my synopsis smarter and that is the reason I am writing this article.

So, what could I have done differently to not get into this trouble?

I believe the biggest mistake I made was to perceive the conclusion I wished to get to as an actual conclusion.  Looking back now, I can see that I didn’t allow for the research to unfold naturally, rather I was searching the books for arguments to support the point I wanted to make. It would have definitely helped me to call the “conclusion” in the early process a “hypothesis” and maybe it would have been useful to come up with at least a few. This would have reminded me that I am researching a dissertation question not simply putting together a compelling set of arguments supporting my claim.

To take from my experience when preparing for your dissertation:

1 Read all the books and consider all the sources you possibly can before planning the synopsis. Even though I did read 80-90% of the material, I didn’t consider Second Life as such a valuable resource. I underestimated its value.

2 Write the conclusion as a theory rather than as a set destination.

Make sure to stop and consider all the possibilities. You could even try to ask your tutor or classmates whether they can see different outcomes.

3 Don’t try to achieve too much.

At the end of the day it’s only 10,000 words. When I found out this new layer of information I should’ve been more critical. It would’ve been good to just have a sit down with myself and take a hard-uninvested look into the matter. See that there is not enough space to explore both of these topics in depth and just leave the other one for next project.

4 Try to see the whole project.

Try to read the text in different progress stages with fresh eyes. As if it was not your work, as if you had no background in the topic you were writing about. This should help you see it there is a good flow throughout your dissertation and also that all the sections are development in a more or less same depth. If you do this correctly, the thought process supporting your research question will be clearly understood through the whole text and your dissertation more successful.

Maybe it seems pretty obvious to you where the mistake occurred. I can see it now too, but 2 years ago when I was so deeply invested in researching this topic, trying to stick to the plan and deadlines I failed to see the bigger picture. I am hoping my experience can be of use to you and good luck with your dissertation!

staying motivated

Foolproof Tips to Staying Motivated

Staying motivated can be difficult for anyone, whether its designers, artists or architects. Instead of giving up half-way, we suggest some tips and methods on staying motivated to make sure your work is always great. The journey to becoming an architect is long and difficult, and often while you are at university, you will have moments where you question your life decisions as a whole. This can throw you off slightly, but if you keep your cool and do what is neccessary, you’ll be fine.

Imagine this scenario: mid-way through the year, while you’re balancing 2 or 3 projects, keeping up with criticism and feedback you are also trying to design a space you think is great. But it’s just not working. You feel like you’re running behind and maybe it’s best to give up. You’re not able to manage your time, or keep up with your social life. Motivation seems like an impossible theory. Plus, the ‘motivational quotes’ board on Pinterest isn’t really doing it for you.

This kind of ‘scenario’ is exactly what happens at this point in the year. You may be lucky enough to have submitted some projects already but its drained your energy and motivation by this point. We’ve all felt that way somewhere along the line and it may not be the last time, but we are here to help you find ways to keep motivated and make the most of your time at university.

We also have a vast community on Instagram, so go follow us there and join in! We provide daily tips, features and general advice.

Our first tip:

Walk Away

Step back from your work, breathe, and go outside. Do something that is not architecture related and makes you happy. The best thing you need sometimes is to take a step back and take a break. This helps you take a look at the bigger picture and it doesn’t neccessarily need to be for designing spaces, it can also be for essays or model making.

If this means leaving the building to go get a coffee, do it. Take your tired friends with you too. Often, we regret afterwards some of the choices we made, or the time we wasted when it could have been put to good use. Trying to utilise every second might just push you in the opposite direction and as a result, you won’t have good quality work, if any. Sitting at the desk for hours on end and not getting anything done is pointless. So go take a break, watch a YouTube video or call a friend.

Then, ease back into your work. You might be thinking that this is a waste of time, but you will be wasting a lot more time stressing out and feeling sorry for yourself. Taking out those few minutes to look over your work will help you gauge the situation better.

You can even consider taking a break for a day or two. At this point the deadline is most likely not important enough to lose your sanity over. Reviews and crits can also make us feel this way and the only way to overcome this is to let your thoughts go astray. If you have multiple projects going on at one time, mentally switch one off (reasonably, not until the day before the deadline) and don’t think about it for a few days. This way, you open yourself up to dedicating more time to a project you’re stuck on and when you go back to the other one, you’ll have a set of fresh eyes.

We know to some architecture students it may sound stupid and impossible because we have the notion in our heads that we need to be pulling all-nighters and drinking inexplicable amounts of coffee till we drain ourselves. But this doesn’t have to be the case. As long as you have that tiny bit of motivation, whether it’s to finish that last section, to submit your work by a deadline or even to finish your degree as a whole, you’ll make sure you try your best to get it done.

Trust Your Instincts

Believe it or not but when your deadline approaches, your natural instincts will kick in. You won’t even have the free mindset to think about anything but the work you are doing at that moment in time. You will look back at that period and think “How did I even do that?”. Architecture is a unique and tiring degree, but only designers like ourselves really appreciate the hard work and creativity. Being able to get inspired often comes naturally to us, but there are most definitely times where it’s not the case.

Often times you will find that you make a list of goals to accomplish, with a set timetable but by the end of the day you find that you have only completed 2 out of 5 tasks. And then you either panic or feel down and useless. Sound familiar? Well stop.

It’s a lot easier to control these thoughts once you are conscious of them. It is really important that you start with realistic tasks so you don’t end up in that situation in the first place but if you do end up there. Do not give up. Take a look at what you need to get done, re-prioritise (if you need to), and think about how long each task can possibly take and make a new list. Set up your work before you go to bed so that when you’re up you are all ready to go.

Of course, this depends on how you work, which we’ll be discussing shortly. But something you need to ask yourself is why you’re in this position. Why are you doing the degree you’re doing. Because if there isn’t any passion behind it, it might not make sense. Our recent guest author Dimitra suggested that you should find out what you’re really passionate about. We all prefer doing the tasks that we enjoy first, so if you’re having a tough time, start with those but don’t forget about the ones you don’t like doing.

Check out Dimitra’s article HERE.

Trust your instincts telling you that it’s not worth prioritsing smaller tasks that the examiner won’t even be marking you on. Writing lists is key, even if you don’t end up finishing them, it gives a structure to every task you do and you get an idea of how far along you are in a project.

Create Your Ideal Workspace

The studio environment is something you’ll read a lot about but it’s not for everyone and you will notice that certain students only come in for tutorials. That’s not to say they are bad students, they just don’t feel comfortable there and that’s fine. Try changing your space up and see if it helps you become more motivated.

On the other hand, there are some students who treat the studios as their second home. Literally. And like we say, everyone is different. But it is important determine your workspace including the people around you. Get rid of anything that distracts you and bring in whatever helps you focus. If there are other students chatting away, you might be tempted to join in or you might be annoyed by the noise. In any case, the environment might not work for you.

Why is this effective? Because you need a set space to work in where you can focus on the tasks in front of you without wasting time. It makes the whole process much more easier and efficient. For some people, a change of workspace can also help, especially if you’re low on motivation.

For example, the team at :scale prefer to work outside of the studio but each in different ways. Raeesah can’t focus in silence and notices that she works effectively watching dark documentaries. Sana focuses alone and runs through movies she has already seen. But as the deadline draws close and Sana is ‘in the zone’ she switches to silence; whereas Raeesah switches to political podcasts.

Essentially you need to figure out what are distractions and what are some of the things that support you. If you like snacking, keep some easy to eat food near you so you’re not constantly going and getting food from the kitchen. Your workspace doesn’t just mean the environement around you, it can also refer to the apps and tabs open on your phone or computer. It might be a good idea to mute notifications and keep your phone away from you.

Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

This can be very, very difficult. You’re in an environment where you pretty much know what everyone else around you is doing and how their projects are going. But it is so important that you do not give in to comparing yourself or trying to get your work to the same place. It’s fine to give yourself some inspiration licence.

Everyone has a different style and opinion and no one is the same. If you see work that you like, it does not mean your work is bad. Don’t immediately devalue your work. Instead, take a look at different styles of work and think of it as an observation. Observe and learn to apply what you like and start tweaking it and see if it fits your style. The best way to make progress is to learn to adapt and observe without making comparisons.

Plus, if you spend time over-analysing other people’s work and trying to imitate it, you might end up wasting time and as we’ve already discussed, time is key. The best thing to do might be to develop your own style based off other works or your own ideas.

Change Your Approach

If something is taking a long time to do, then, there is most likely, another way to do it or a faster way to do it. Look online and see what different methods of working there are. There is no right or wrong way, just different ways, and everyone has a different way of working. Some methods work faster for different people and that’s alright. You just need to find your method.

Implementing a timed plan or proper structure may work best for some people. You can do this easily by sitting down every morning and planning your work for the day. Make sure you include breaks and meals and be realistic about what you want to achieve. Then, you can use a timer on your phone to keep track of the time for every hour lets say. After the time is over, you can evaluate whether you need to carry on or prioritise the next task. Let us know if you want to see an article on time management in the comments below.

Changing your style of work is also something that can help motivate you. Often, doing a task can be long and tedious so changing it up can be exciting and you learn something new on the way. Although, if you’re nearing a deadline, it is best to stick to what you know best, just because you don’t want things to mess up at this time. Just keep it together.

Find Your Passion

This may sound cheesy but, you need to take a step back and remember, why are you doing this? what do you like to do? You can’t do this course without having a passion for it… well you can, you just won’t enjoy it. Look back through your old work, listen to music you like and just think back to what brought you here and why you are doing this. Architecture students are known to be enthusiastic about their subject, not just for the grades.

We find scrolling through Pinterest or watching a video about a different style of architecture can be useful but for creators like us, the smallest things can imply us. Use your surroundings, the time you take out on a break or even by taking a quick nap!

However, during the course of the year it is easy to go crazy and at some point you’ll notice everyone is so hell bent on grades and praise, that they often lose themselves on the way. You change your style, to meet the ‘requirements’ or maybe someone makes a comment that makes you re-evaluate, or even your tutors might say something that throws you off track and eventually you find yourself with work that might be considered good, but you aren’t satisfied with it. Then, even worse, your work quality goes down and that’s the last thing you want.

So many architecture students change their style thinking that there is a ‘right’ way of working and a lot of the time it backfires because it shows in your work that you are not enjoying it. Trust in your work, obviously take crticism positively but don’t try to completely change your way of thinking, because the comments aren’t trying to suppress you, they’re to help you get better.

Overall, we hope even one of our points made an impact somehow. Changing things up or enforcing a structure isn’t difficult. By staying motivated, you’re not only increasing your creativity but also improving your work.

Have a look at our article about Ways to Gain Inspiration Online and tell us in the comments what you do to stay motivated. Remember to follow us on Instagram too! @to.scale


Tips for Writing An Incredible Architectural Essay

An architectural essay can be a bit tricky to navigate and these tips would also apply to other degrees and courses other than architecture and each course has its own layout, structure and must-haves so make sure you check these with your course leader first. University level essays can be a bit different than college or school ones and actually count towards your degree in some way.

In school / college, you were probably given a certain method or structure to follow. It’s similar in university but things are taken much more seriously. Like plagiarism. It’s just not a good idea so don’t even consider it. Neither is getting someone to write your essay for you, if thats a friend, or a paid stranger. Just follow your course outline and make sure you do the work and it’ll be fine.

Everyone has their own level of writing, some are good, some are bad but it doesn’t mean you can’t be better. Practising writing essays and getting them reviewed very often can allow you to see the changes you need to make and the areas you can work on. For some, it could be simple as grammar and spelling (although there are spell checks embedded into all writing programs, it’s always a good idea to do it manually). For others, it may be the actual content of what you’re writing.

Here in the U.K. students are provided with expert teachers who have expertise in essay writing as well as profound knowledge on most of the topics you and your peers will be writing about. Make sure you use them! After all, you’re paying so much money for a degree.

Essays can be a great way for you to explore the many different aspects of architecture apart from design. You could look into an architect, a building that interests you or an architectural movement. The topic can depend on the generic brief that you get as a part of your course but usually the essay question is up to you. After you start writing your essay, you might question the point of them.

Speaking from personal experience as someone who didn’t really know much about the world of architecture, the essays I wrote opened up a lot sources of knowledge. I was able to recognise various architects and their works, as well as implement some tried and tested ideas and theories into my own work. The essays you write in your first and second year also gear you up for your BA dissertation and eventually a Master’s thesis.

We reckon the most important part of an essay is the research. The research is the backbone of the essay because you’re essentially pulling together different references and adding your own observations and opinions. Credible references are key for any essay and making sure you pick a good article or paper can really help elevate the writing.

We suggest, before even writing those first words, you should do a bit of reading into your topic and even if you don’t want to use any articles or papers, have a quick read to understand the format and the language. We know as architecture students you don’t have a lot of ‘free time’, we get it. But there are a lot of available resources online. It can be as simple as finding the pdf of a book or article, saving it offline on your phone and reading it on your lunch break or on your way to uni.

Sometimes, if you find even one key research paper or source, it can make or break your whole essay. It’s also wise to make sure your topic is worth covering. If there are little to no sources it could get quite tricky later on in the process. Discuss this with your tutor so they can advise your further. It’s also good to mention you will be writing an abstract or a short summary at some point. Ask a non-architectural friend or family member to read it and see if it makes sense regardless of the content.

So, once you have at least a handful of resources, you need to make sure you’re saving them. The best way to do this is to download the articles and save them in a ‘References’ folder. You can do this on your laptop browser or print them and keep them in a physical folder so that you have access at all times or if you’d prefer it that way.

Then, you could create a reference list in a Word document. Don’t spend a long time writing out each reference manually. Instead, go to the References tab then find Citations & Bibliography and add a new citation.

You can also change the style of the reference according to whichever one your university wants and even create a reference list or bibliography with a simple click. Make sure you check this in your course handbook or, if it’s not listed anywhere, clarify it with your tutor or course leader. Some universities are also a bit iffy on the type of fonts you use or what information you have to include so make a note of it somewhere and try set it all out in the beginning.

Being organised about your references and articles means you don’t have to keep looking for that one article you are using a lot and it keeps the documents offline so even if you don’t have great Internet access, it’s available to you whenever and wherever. You can do this even when you’re starting out with your writing so that everything is already there for you to use. When you finish and you’re in the editing stage, you can easily go back and delete any you didn’t end up using. It’s basically better to have more than have none and be struggling to add your references in nearer to the deadline.

The type of references you use is also important because the markers will be looking at whether you just stuck to using the Internet or actually went and found some books or physical material to support your essay. The worst thing you could do to yourself is not use the resources given to you. Some tutors may give you reading material or a list of article to give you a start. Ask if you can include these or not!

Remember, you’re paying for the library and the Internet access as well as all your classes, so make the most of them. Markers will want to see you use books, and some will have a strong opinion if you don’t. Most universities will also allow for student logins to well-known websites that can provide specific articles and research papers with tons of filters.

The Wiley Online Library is great for this sort of thing. Find it HERE.

If you’re struggling, speak to a member of the library staff or if your university has a dedicated team for help with essays (don’t get this confused, they can’t write anything for you) then try get in touch with them or ask a student support officer or your tutors. We can’t stress how important it is to use all the tools given to you. If for any reason, you don’t have access to anything try speak to a staff member who can help you out.

The content and quality of the essay depends on the writer so make sure you have some basic tips and method down before you get stuck in. It also helps a lot if you’re passionate or have an interest in the topic because realistically, why would you be writing about something that doesn’t interest you? It can be very difficult to write about something that a. you know nothing about and b. something you’re not interested in. The topic doesn’t need to relate to you directly, it can be a small aspect or link that you identify with and want to know more about. Remember, it also has to make sense with the brief / theory / topic you’ve been given.

The most daunting task of writing an essay is getting started. Writing the first word. Yes, a blank page is terrifying but what’s more terrifying is writing a 2000 word essay the night before the hand-in. Nobody is saying you have to start with the introduction (although it would make sense) but you can start with the area you’re most interested in. We often take for granted the small wonders of our computers. Everything is going to get edited at some point, so even if you write something you don’t like or you think it would fit better someplace else, you can do it!

After you write the first few sentences you should be good to go. After that, you just need to keep your articles on hand and some notes or a plan of your essay. The environment you’re in should be tailored to you. Where do you work best? A quiet room or in the library is usually the best place. Whether you’re listening to music or watching Friends, it’s up to you as long as you don’t get distracted.

Take breaks! Not only while you’re dedicating time to writing your essay – this is also important – but also every few days. Take a day or two to not focus on your essay and work on your other pile of design work that has accumulated. Then, when you come back to read through what you have written, it will be with semi-fresh eyes. Having a balance between the essay and other commitments is difficult but not impossible. Plan your time, have a schedule, it’s things you’ve already been told so we won’t dwell on it.

After you have written your essay, it can be the best time to come up with your essay title. A 6-8 worded sentence that summarises what you will be looking into is perfect. Coming to such perfection takes time. You could always create a few options and ask yourself or your peers which ones reads best. It could be a standout winner or a mix of a few.

But before you think you’re done, you have to take the time to read over your essay, then read it again, and then read it again. Keep doing this till you’re fully happy with it. A good trick can be to print out the essay so that you have something physical to read. Grab a coloured pen or highlighter and be amazed by how many spelling or grammar mistakes you could find.

Don’t always rely on the spelling checker in whichever program you are using. It can also be helpful if you want to move around chunks of your essay or figure out where you want pictures to be added. Creating physical notes for yourself is far different to seeing the same words on a screen.

Lastly, an architecture essay has got to have some visuals because after all, we are visual thinkers and designers. The most important tip is that the images should be absolutely relevant to the essay and add to it. If the images are just there to look pretty, then don’t bother putting them in because it won’t make any sense and the marker won’t like it either.

You could even scan in some sketches you do to explain features of a building for example. It adds a personal touch that shows you had a real interest in the topic. Don’t forget to add captions to your images and the sources for images you’ve taken from the Internet.

Lastly, the presentation of your essay is also important. As designers, we’re expected, in a way, to create our work to the best visual standard possible. So why not get rid of the standard template essay cover (unless your university asks for something plain) and create a visual yourself. Customise the accent colours or apply a cool format – something that helps you stand out. Check out some cool layouts on Pinterest.

To summarise, the few things that will help you write a great architectural essay are to do your research, save the articles and papers you want to use, make sure you take full advantage of the university resources, proofread your work multiple times and add those useful images at the end.

Let us know what some of the things you do for essays are and if you have a foolproof method for getting through writing an essay. You can leave a comment below or contact us through our social media.

how to add people

How to Add People in Your Architectural Drawings

Adding people to your architectural drawings at any stage can be a great way to communicate how the spaces in your building will interact with the occupants. They show how the building will be used and it’s target audience. The design of these people can be as minimal as a simple line drawing all the way to a fully-fledged character.

Usually this is the last thing you would think of during any project. But it’s better to get the smaller tasks out of the way first so that you can focus on creating drawings and images nearer to your deadline.

  1. Hand Drawn
  2. Vector People
  3. Photographs
  4. Custom

They should synchronise with the style of drawing and yet not overpower it completely. After all, you want people to focus on your drawings instead of being distracted by static or odd-looking people. We’re going to show you four ways you can add people to your drawings. This includes plans, sections, elevations and final illustrations or renders. We will even show you some great and not so great examples.

You don’t need to spend a great deal of time creating people to fit inside your drawings. During a deadline, this is probably the last thing you will think about (as well as annotation) and there isn’t a need to get stressed over it. If your project focuses deeply on the relationship of people and the building you are creating, you could take some time beforehand and create a resource or library of such people that can be fit in to any of your drawings.

These techniques are great for any level whether you’re an architecture student, graduate or an architect. It’s always good to learn new techniques that can enhance your drawings and design.

Hand Drawn

If your style of drawing is more focused towards the art of creating amazing scenes by hand, or even if you want to express an area through simple sketching, then hand-drawn people are perfectly fine. As we said, these can be as minimal as you want, just make sure they don’t look out of place or too simple in the sense that you didn’t try so hard.

Going for a ‘sketch’ style can be great to add some life to simple, clean spaces so you can experiment with the actions of the people, for example. Have a look at some of the kinds of people that are used in drawings or renders by firms and well-known architects. Some even have a signature style which they implement in most of their drawings. This doesn’t even need to be something overly complicated. We love these people by SANAA.

SANAA Architects

To practice this kind of style, you could draw from life in your sketchbook and look at the way in which people actually move in various settings. If you’re wanting to have a hand-drawn style but keep things digital you can always scan in images of multiple people and edit them on Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator.

Tip: Use the Image Trace function in Illustrator and make sure Ignore White is checked so that you can create a person that has no background, making it easy to place on top of coloured illustrations. Then you can save each one as a .png and create a library of resources.

To learn how to use the Image Trace function, check out our article ’10 Essential Tools to Master in Adobe Illustrator’

Alternatively, you could even create digital people in Adobe Photoshop with a textured brush pack if you have access to a graphics tablet or in Adobe Illustrator if you just want a cleaner outline silhouette. Don’t forget to scale the people accordingly so that it’s ready to go when the deadline is near.

You can figure this out by figuring out the scale that you use the most i.e. 1:100 and convert roughly 170cm. This means each ‘person’ will need to be about 1.7cm tall.

We’ve linked our Pinterest board below, specifically catered to different styles of people for such drawings. Give it a follow for regular updates.

Vector People

Stock Images

A very easy way for adding people to drawings are – as we like to call them, ‘vector people’. These can work great in Adobe Illustrator, but we’ll show you that in a bit. If you have final perspectives that are in an illustrative style or if you want to add colour and life to a simple line section then these can be great. Usually, you will find people that are positioned in multiple ways such as a side profile or sitting down so there isn’t much to work on.

Once again, having a resource of these people can make your life so much easier and it isn’t hard to customise these as you wish. You can find such images on Pinterest or free stock websites. If possible, try and find images that are in a .png format so you don’t have to worry about getting rid of the background each time.

We love using Freepik for free, high quality stock images. There is no download limit once you sign in and you can easily create a folder of however many you wish.

Customising Stock Images

To customise stock images, we like using Adobe Illustrator. Since it is a vector program, you can adjust the shape, colour and size without losing any quality. If you have a particular colour scheme, it can be nice to implement those colours into your people to make the drawing seem more cohesive. You can watch the video or read the instructions below.

Start off by downloading a stock vector image of people. We’ve used this one, so if you want to give it a go, try it along with us.

<a href=””>People vector created by –</a>

Click on the Free Download button and save it somewhere on your computer.

download the image from Freepik

Since we only want to use one to begin with we need to crop the picture. First place the image by going to File > Place and then click on Crop in the top toolbar.

place it in Illustrator
Crop to find the one you want to customise

Choose one person depending on what kind of action they are doing or whichever suits you best. We’ve chosen this one from the second row. Now, we’re going to re-size this so we can see it better. Use the Selection Tool (V) and click and drag the corners to make it bigger. So that you don’t lose the ratio of the image, hold down the Shift key while you are re-sizing.

make the image bigger and image trace

Next, open the Image Trace Panel and don’t stress if your image turns black and white, we can now work with the settings so that it becomes a vector you can work with.

edit colours

Click on the Advanced arrow to open up more features. Then in Mode, select Colour. Check the Ignore White checkbox at the bottom and move the Colours slider to about 4 or 5 depending on how many colours you want in the image.

play around with the options

Next, click on the Expand button in the top toolbar. Now we can edit each shape as well as colours. Let’s alter the face shape so that there isn’t a white gap in between. We can also get rid of the shadow below by selecting it using the Direct Selection Tool (A).

fix any areas

Then, adjust any anomalies that might not look great. Now we can colour this as we want. Use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to click on a colour. Then go to Select > Same > Fill Colour. This selects that brown colour wherever it is present in the image, so you don’t have to go in and select or change each one.

Then, use the colour palette to select a new colour. Repeat this for others until you have a theme you want.

change colours

Now we’ve changed the colours to be a bit more minimal. To save the file for use later, you can save as a .png to add it directly to other drawings or save as a .ai (Illustrator) file to edit in the future. Go to File > Export As for a .png and File > Save As for a .ai file.

save the file

Make sure you select a transparent background for a .png file!

make sure the image has a transparent background

Vector people are a great and easy resource. You could even search for ‘isometric vector people’ if you’re doing that kind of an illustration or for isometric / axonometric drawings.


For renders are more life-like drawings, you may want to use actual people to make your project seem as real as possible and actually understand how that space would be inhabited. This doesn’t necessarily need to be a long process. Some people might want to use their own images with people which is totally fine. You could also use stock images that you find online.

There are essentially two routes you can take. Either use Adobe Photoshop to manually edit photographs and cut out the people you want or use .png images that are already edited with no background. Depending on the level of customisation either one is perfectly fine to use.

To find free stock images you can search on Freepik, or simply type in ‘people png.’ into Google Images.

Some firms even blur out the images to make it look like there is a moving blur or darken the image so that it turns into a silhouette. Have a look around at what kinds of styles there are and try not to copy it completely but use some of those techniques and apply it to your own drawings.

Usually this type of style is best for rendering as you can work with the lighting and make it look more natural with the addition of actual people. Try not to go overboard as less is more. You can also try scaling the people by figuring out the height and corresponding it with the scale of your drawing.

Custom People

Creating a custom set of people could be the way to go. We don’t recommend doing this close to your deadlines so if you do want to create your own people try do it in whichever spare time you get. The art style of this depends completely on your preference. It can be a simple squiggle, a detailed person or a character inspired by your building or your ideal occupant.

We suggest you experiment with whatever your comfortable with. You don’t need a variety of tools and gadgets and make sure that your scanner and Adobe programs are ready to go to edit and play with your drawings.

Having a set of custom resources can provide an advantage if you’re a student. It shows your tutors and even the examiner that you really want to show pride in your creations, drawings and people. If you’re an architect, there may already be a style your firm prefers but there is no harm in experimenting.

Finally, remember, the people in your drawings aren’t more important than the actual drawing or render or illustration itself. Think of it as an accessory to your work and a tool to help your drawings showcase some life. We would love to see some of your work where you have utilised the styles mentioned or even created your own custom people.

Use the hashtag #toscalearch on Instagram and Twitter and tag us @to.scale. We also want to feature student work and share more techniques and styles.