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This page features an overview of how architects communicate their ideas

A key skill of an architect is to communicate ideas to fellow students, teachers, architects, clients, specialist industry professionals and other project stakeholders using these skills.

  • Archi-speak

  • Quick sketches and detailed drawings

  • Physical models

  • Design boards

  • 2D CAD digital drawings

  • 3D modelling

  • Rendered digital images

  • VR + AR 3D models

  • AI prompt engineering images

  • Videos

  • Presentation board


There is very specific terminology in the architecture and building industry that relates to design and all the parts of a building. You need to learn the terminology and how 'archi-speak' like an architect to communicate your ideas to others. 

You will need to use archi-speak skills in your university crit's when you present your ideas, drawings, models and designs images in public to your fellow students, your university professors and guest architects.

Here are 64 of the most common architectural terms, from simple terms to more complex. Learn what they mean and integrate them into your speaking.


Refer to the Archi-speak page to learn how to speak like an architect. 

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What should you draw with?

All architects have their favourite pencils and pens to draw with. You need to decide what yours are.

I prefer to draw with...

  • Commemorative HB pencils from the gift shops of famous buildings 


The way to improve your drawing skills is simple, practice this 30 second drawing activity of the basic geometric shapes of architecture; lines, circle, square and triangle.


All architecture drawings are combinations of these shapes.

  • Use A4 sheet of paper, portrait

  • Draw these shapes across the page

  • Repeat down the page about 8 times to fill the page 

  • Focus on straight lines

  • Draw circles not egg shapes

  • Draw squares not rectangles

  • Your triangles should be 3 equal sides

  • The X should be 2 equal straight lines

  • The 3 wavey lines should be 3 concentric lines with equal gaps   

More drawing practice: draw any shape, then draw concentric parallel lines with consistent gaps between the lines. Try drawing concentric 5 point stars, turns out I'm budget at drawing these stars, lol.  


Most students say: 'I cant draw". I say... just focus on practicing drawing lines and the simple circle, square and triangle geometric shapes. Have the confidence to draw the basic's then use your skills to draw your ideas. Check out my advice below about how to draw your ideas with 2 minute drawings. 


Frank Gehry is a world famous architect who designed Disney Concert Hall, the first 4 drawings are his original sketch drawings of the building.     

Sir Norman Foster is the founder of Foster + Partners, his right-hand-man is Ken Shuttleworth, also known as Ken the Pen, is a "quickest-thinking designer", rumour has it that he sketched out the unprecedented form of London's City Hall in about 10 seconds. "I find sketching and designing quite easy, It's something that comes quite naturally, at college they called me Ken the Pen because I drew twice as fast as anyone else."   

Practice 2 minute drawings to draw your ideas. 

  • Fold an A4 sheet of paper into 4 rectangles

  • Do 2 minute drawings per 4 rectangles

  • Think about an idea first, then draw it

  • Draw quick doodles of ideas

  • Draw geometric shapes to make a drawing

  • Draw parts of buildings

  • Draw plans, elevations, sections & perspectives

Check out these Helipod project drawing examples.

Practice drawing architecture you like.

Pick architecture from the New Zealand or World pages and do 2 minute drawings of the projects you pick.

Most world architecture pages include floor plans and cross sections so draw these as well.

This is a 2 minute drawing of a design, the lines are not perfectly straight but it conveys the design concept. Don't get too hung up about the straightness of your lines,  


The busa wood model of the drawing took 6 hours to make. 


So you have a great project concept design, but what are the fine details of your design?

Develop your design with detailed drawings. Start by hand drawing these details. Eventually you will digitally draw them on CAD when you progress to the working drawing stage of the project.

For example:

Troy Donovan is an expert architect detailed designer, check him out on Instagram the _donnies.  


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Make physical models of your designs.

Architects have been making physical models of their architecture for hundreds of years.  

This is a miniature 1:24 scale marble model of Niha Roman temple, 1 AD.

This is a Sir Christopher Wren drawing for the dome design of St Paul's Cathedral, 1673-1752 and the St Paul's Cathedral wooden model, 1673.

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Make quick 10 minute paper or cardboard + tape 3D models during the design phase. This example is a 2D triangle drawing of a design for Snake Tower then scrunched up to make a 3D model of tower shape ideas.

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This is a drawing of Snake Tower and a 3D model made with match sticks and a hot glue gun. It took an hour to make this model.     


When your design is complete then make a detailed model of it. This is a model of Maya House I designed, its made of a foam board base, bulsa wood and mini steel mesh. It took 8 hours to make.  

If you 3D model your design in Sketchup or other software you can 3D print your design, this process will take days, depending on the complexity of the model and 3D print size. 

There are heaps of other materials you can make models with. Check out examples on Pinterest.

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Design boards, also called 'mood boards' or 'inspiration boards'.  A design board gives an overall appreciation of a project during the design phase. Show visual examples of Shape, Form, Geometry, Space, Proportion, Texture, Colour and Material of your project design intent. This design board image is for Snake Tower and features examples of the main design considerations of the project.  

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You need to use digital CAD (Computer Aided Design) software to 2D draw your architecture.


LibreCAD and QCAD are free CAD softwares that you should start with if you have not used CAD before.  

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More info on the Architect software page about other professional CAD drawing softwares architects use. There not free, but offer student discounts. Autodesk Autocad LT is probably best to start with, they offer free 1 year student access. Autodesk Revit it the most complex CAD software because it uses BIM technology, if your an experienced Revit architect you can earn $80-150K salary.  


The most common 3D modelling software architects use is SketchUp. Students can use the free browser version. Its best to download the desktop version so you can add SketchUp Extension Plugins to a offer a huge amount of modelling options for complex geometry and other modelling techniques. 


There are heaps of YouTube tutorials to learn SketchUp. offers great SketchUp tutorials. 

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Rhino with Grasshopper is a very popular software for parametric 3D modelling. First year architecture students at University of Auckland use it to model their designs. Check out

There are many other 3D modelling softwares that architects use, check them out on the architect software page. Not all architects use all these, it comes down to personal preference and what architecture offices like to use. For example, Zaha Hadid Architects use Maya because of the complex curve geometry of their architecture.

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Rendering is the process of using a 3D model (SketchUp, Rhino etc) of architecture and creating stylised or photorealistic digital images or videos using rendering software. Sometimes called 'architectural rendering' or 'architectural visualization' or 'archviz'.  

You need to be good at texturing your 3D models and lighting. You need a decent computer with heaps of RAM and a quality graphics card to render images of your scenes which can take hours per image.

Check out the links to the 8 main rendering softwares on the architects software page. 

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