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 😄


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!


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!

Find us on Instagram @to.scale.


How to Maintain a Theme in Your Portfolio

An architectural portfolio should feel put together and professional with a theme, but for architecture students in particular, it can be hard maintaining a certain theme in about 20-50 pages. You may also think a theme isn’t necessary, but it provides a personal touch to your work as well as showing the examiner that you want to present your work in the best way possible.

Let’s clarify that by ‘theme’ we don’t mean anything extravagent. A set of fonts you’re going to use along with a clear colour palette and organisation method is all you really need. The main thing is that you need to stick to it.

As architects and designers, minimal design is probably the way to go because you want the work to speak for itself. By overflowing the pages with too much colour, unnecessary graphics and unreadable fonts, you’re just distracting from the actual work.

But the theme of your portfolio is not the only thing you will be focused on, you actually have to work on your design project as well as any essays or other courses and you might not even think about the portfolio until you’re half-way through the year.

This is a common mistake people make. Leaving the portfolio design and theme till after you have pages and pages of work just adds more tasks to your list. Ideally, by the time you have a mid-year portfolio review you want it to be as organised as possible so that it gives you time later on to work on things that matter. It can also make your work unorganised when presenting to tutors for the time being. Your work doesn’t need to be in its final form and layout but having a sense of order lifts the pressure when the deadline is near.

The first step you need to take is to prepare an Adobe InDesign file for your portfolio. Adobe InDesign is your best friend when it comes to layouts and portfolio design. If you aren’t already familiar with this software, take the time to learn the basics before you start architecture school. Keep this file accessible on your laptop or hard-drive.

You can find our article on Adobe InDesign HERE. Be sure to explore our ‘Getting Started’ series for more Adobe software as well as other 3D modelling software.

Create a portfolio document in Adobe InDesign, think about what size you want your pages to be. Usually this can be A1 or A2 for the developmental work and A1 for final images but have a chat with your tutor to figure out what’s best for you. Set the orientation and add about 10 pages to begin with. Save this file even if it’s blank for the moment.

Adobe InDesign

By doing this, you’ve already done far more than others, you have a sort of template set up where all your work will end up. This will resolve the issue of retrieving certain pages from different folders each time. At the end of the project, you can export this to many different formats and keep it all together in one place.

Remember to include those key pages in your portfolio such as a Front Cover and Contents page. You could even have a Drivers page and then individual section headers later on. These don’t need to be made immediately and can even be done at the very end but leave some space for these, so you don’t forget later on.

To look at an existing portfolio, find our portfolio walkthrough HERE.

There are many great features that you can use in Adobe InDesign, we love the Master pages as well as the rulers and guides. They help make sure the contents of your page are consistent throughout and everything is lined up in a neat way.

Make sure that your pages aren’t full of information. There are styles and layouts you can explore using Pinterest or Tumblr. Look at our board of Portfolio Layouts HERE.

Keeping things simple can be hard because you may have a lot of work you want to show. If you feel like this, try splitting work within two pages. It’s hard when you’re working online through a computer because the sizes of things can appear smaller than they actually are. When adding images and text look at the dimensions of things and refer back to your ruler to see if an image really needs to be that big. With text, you don’t want it to be in your face, so stick to a sensible size such as 10pt.

Also, too much text is unnecessary because the examiner will only spend about 3 seconds per page and if they absolutely need to, will go back and check any they are interested in so don’t waste time preparing pages of texts and instead focus on your design.

A minimal black and white portfolio can seem quite boring unless you use hand drawn textures, or your photography style is bold for example. If you want to use colour, limit this to two or three colours that compliment each other.

If you really want to go for bold and bright colours, make sure it relates to your project work and programme and then use neutral tones such as grey for your accent colours. For example, a great combination of colours can be black, grey and a deep red. The grey can be used for annotation and the red can be used for specific lines or other accents.

Adding a Colour Scheme

Regarding colours, make sure to go over your choices with your tutors and see what they think and even consider printing out a few pages in a smaller size to see how they work together. Sometimes colours can look different when on a computer screen as compared to on the page. Your paper type and weights also affect this so try and choose something complimentary.

Try not to print out too many of your pages in one go. As you may have already figured out, a lot of money is wasted in printing. Unless it’s for crits, try and stick to smaller print-outs at an A3 size. This will let ou avoid having to re-print pages each time you change something.

Small details are highly noticed in design work so try and think about ways in which you could personalise your work in some way. This doesn’t have to be anything big, in fact it can be as subtle as the North symbol on your drawings. Creating your own has some benefits, it keeps the drawings in the examiner’s minds because you didn’t use a standard North symbol that will be on all the drawings. It also adds a touch of your personality and can be tailored towards your project.

Our North Symbol


Think about small ways in which you can personalise your work, whether its through symbols or fonts. The typeface you choose can also add a sense of professionality as long as it isn’t too decorative or hard to read. Keep it modern and simple, we suggest using a Sans Serif font for your titles, subheadings and annotations. You can find these on free font websites such as Google Fonts or Dafont.

*If you are using custom fonts, make sure you don’t print directly from your editing softwares like Illustrator or InDesign. Always export as a PDF.

Now that you have your template sorted, it’s time to put in the work. The usual process we like to use is to sketch out what you want the page to show, create the elements in Illustrator or AutoCAD or any other software depending on what it is, then bring it in to Adobe InDesign to add text and annotation. We’ll go over this process in another article.

Planning your pages ahead can mean your portfolio isn’t all over the place and adds a sense of order and flow to your work. You could even split up your portfolio into different sections. This maintains the theme because you’re using the same format on most of your pages and still showing the development.

The best way to do this is to constantly review your portfolio. If you don’t already have mini deadlines throughout the year such as interim reviews or even month-end presentations, set some for yourself. Create a list or diagram of the pages you want to make by a certain date and try and stick to it by planning your time ahead. Every time you complete a page, tick it off and move on to the next. This way, you’re not spending a lot of time on one page or wondering about what to do next.

Planning your Pages

Then after each deadline – as well as reviewing your work and any changes you need to make – look at how your portfolio is doing in terms of the design and layout. You can always change around the order of pages whenever you want because everything is in one place.

A good way to edit your portfolio if you have too many pages is to look at each page individually and think about whether it conveys a certain message or stage in your project. Then, look at the pages before and after because chances are, when your portfolio is presented the pages before and after will be shown as well.

Finally, don’t stress too much about your portfolio design. As long as you put in the work at the start of the project and get it out of the way, it will help you a lot in maintaining your portfolio and then you can implement the same steps in other projects you do.

Let us know what kinds of things you do to maintain a theme within your portfolio and if you have any questions or ideas for future posts then write a comment below or get in touch on our Instagram.

Portfolio Walkthrough

This is a walkthrough of a 3rd year BArch portfolio. Read more about Sana on our About page.

The front cover of any portfolio should be clear, simple and encompass what the project is. You can choose to have a front image if you wish but it isnt needed. Think about the composition of your pages, whether it’s A3, A2 or A1. The orientation can also be important so keep that in mind.

Next, an initial project can be a massive driver for the whole project and give you a base to relate back to the brief with. In this case, a movie analysis and animation project brought out some key features to focus in. Domestic spaces, a grid and the relationship between the occupant and the space became important.

Then, we take a look at site analysis, maps and other key pages. We’ve made a tutorial for creating maps. ‘How to Create Maps in Adobe Illustrator’. It’s good to unpack your site as much as you can and find something of interest whether it’s your site or not.

The next section (having sections is a great way of having structure in your portfolio) focuses more on the project programme and inital concepts. Case studies are a great way of coming up with ideas and referencing features of your building. Then, a couple of pages of inital drawings such as plans and sections.

The second iteration builds on the previous work as well as introducing other elements of the project and thinking about the ways in which to present it at the end through perspective images. This can be hand drawn, illustrated or rendered pictures that explain key parts of your project.

Lastly, the resolution is a completely new set of pages, carefully curated to include final drawings and perspective images. If you want to learn more about how to do these types of drawings, or have any specific questions, leave a comment below.