The Art of Architecture: Balancing Hand-Drawing and Digital Design

The Benefits of Hand-Drawing

Hand-drawing is a form of intimate connection with a project that I find irreplaceable. When I’m sketching, the paper becomes a thinking space where each stroke can lead to unexpected solutions. The physical act of drawing engages different cognitive processes, often leading to a deeper understanding of the project. It’s a tool for seeing, not just for showing.


For me, hand-drawing is not just a personal preference but a fundamental part of how I connect with a project and its stakeholders. Drawing in front of clients during the early briefing sessions, where ideas are still fluid, allows for immediate feedback and a shared sense of ownership over the emerging design. There’s also an element of personal touch and craftsmanship in a hand-drawn plan that resonates with clients and helps to communicate the bespoke nature of each project.


I have noticed a concerning trend in education where students are coming out of university without this skill—a skill that, to me, is vital for any architect, building designer or draftsperson. The rapid iteration and flexibility that comes with hand-drawing can be difficult for digital tools to match.

The Digital Era and BIM's Rise

The introduction of computer-based design marked a significant shift in my work. The precision and versatility offered by digital tools have opened new doors for architectural expression. Building Information Modelling (BIM) has been particularly transformative. 


While working on The Waterhole Café for Taronga Western Plains Zoo, one particular stakeholder nicknamed my design ‘the flying saucer’ due to the bird’s eye view of the elliptical roof in my sketches. The key to helping him understand my vision was to construct a digital 3D model for a flythrough, taking them inside the building to see the 360 degree views of the zoo that the circular roof enabled. After that, we never heard the nickname again!


Lysaght’s BIM resources are particularly useful in projects like the Waterhole Café, where the unique characteristics of materials come into play. My choice to use Lysaght's LONGLINE 305® was not just about the elegance of its form but also its ability to cast dynamic shadows that change with the day's light, adding a living quality to the structure. With these BIM resources, I could convey the nuance of textures, finishes, and capture the interplay of light and shadow, bringing the design to life in a way that sketches simply couldn't. It's these subtle touches that digital tools help to illuminate, ensuring that every aspect of the design is understood and appreciated.

A Conclusive Balance

There’s a natural harmony between the free-flowing creativity of hand-drawing and the precision of digital renders, each holding its own in different chapters of the design story. In those first few strokes of a project, it's the sketches that breathe life into ideas, capturing the raw energy of initial concepts. Then, as the design matures, 3D models step in to finesse the details and articulate a complex vision with crystal clarity.


Though I sometimes worry that the art of sketching might fade into the background, I'm also excited about the possibilities that digital tools bring to our table. It's not about choosing sides, it's about how these two art forms dance together, each enriching the other to create a masterpiece.


As building designers, draftspeople and architects, we must ensure these skills are not lost but rather integrated into our modern toolkit, ensuring the legacy of hand-drawing continues alongside the innovation of digital design.

Trevor Williams is a Senior Associate at Jackson Teece, with 38 years of urban and building design experience. His portfolio highlights complex projects, brilliantly addressed through his application of inventive lateral design solutions. Trevor regularly uses Lysaght products in his innovative and engaging designs.

Learn more about Trevor Williams’ projects at