Recently, I read a great post by a colleague outlining improvements to his template. This article sparked a series of responses; the most surprising of which was a complaint about the line weights provided by his template. In the commenter’s complaint, he goes on to elaborate that we have lost sight of drafting conventions and drawing styles of days past.
“I think that the importance of line weights in making drawings clear is underrated”
He conjectures that Frank Ching’s detail drafting gives clarity that we do not see in any computer software; that “the importance of line weights in making drawings clear is underrated”. It is true, drawing standards have changed, maybe even slipped in recent years.
This all sounds commendable at first. We shouldn’t lose sight of our previous drawing standards and conventions. But we also shouldn’t blindly follow antiquated standards and conventions without an understanding of where they came from and why we need them now. I see time and again, attempts at getting ARCHICAD drawings to look like they were done with a different tool. Wether it is some forced marker reference, label configuration, dimension tick marks, leader shape, or even line weights; we need to work with our tool not agains it.
Most drafting conventions stem from days when everything was drawn by hand. This meant working towards final drawings while reducing or eliminating the excess work of “redoing” an entire drawing. Some of the conventions come from a need to eliminate redundancy, since these redundancies were manually reviewed and checked. Regardless of the origins of the convention, most do not really apply to our current tools.
I see so many architects and designers fighting their tools, attempting to get the markers to look the way they did when they used a pen/pencil or flat-CAD. So many custom texts typed, lines drawn, and fills added in a drawing to get markers, labels, or annotation to look they way they used to. Dimension strings become broken into an unnecessarily complicated configuration for different “tick styles”, and even text and splines used in place of labels for a very specific and unnecessary drafting convention.
Regardless of what your ARCHICAD pet peeve is, you need to learn to get past it, and learn to use your tools, rather than fight against them. Ultimately, clarity of drawings can not be the highest priority any more. Design is supposed to be about the built place, not a pretty image or even the technical drawings. Before we used virtual modeling tools, we were limited by our ability to sketch a single static view and draft contrived 2d documents to relay intent and design. Before we had CAD, we were limited by what we could painstakingly draw by hand. Now, we have a tool that enables us to visualize the reality of place, and we find ourselves fighting for a line weight or annotation convention, and ignoring the power of the tools we have. Our schedules can be fully automated, but we find ourselves fussing with the exact style and appearance of the schedule on the sheet.
I certainly mean no disrespect to some of the great architectural visualizers and documenters of the past. Their drawing and drafting is truly beautiful. But that is the past. Let us move forward, to focus on the beauty of a well constructed and managed BIM model. Let us admire the efficiency of drawing, listing, and labeling automation. Let us look for better ways to present our design and documents, beyond the antiquated 24×36 sheet of plans, sections, elevations, and details; and refocus on the incredible capabilities of our tools. Ultimately, we should be able to ignore the little quirks that don’t allow our drawings to look like the drawings of yore. Remember, the drawings are never as important as the ideas they represent, and drawings may not even be the best way to represent those ideas any more!