manic monday – “i can just have a drafter do that, right?”

This is a topic that I’ve talked about before, and actually one that I wanted to stay away from for a bit. But I want to take a minute and revisit this issue. My buddy Lee Calisti had a recent blog post that got me thinking about the value of architectural services. And I want to summarize what I see as the 4 essential components of a well-rounded architectural professional and how this adds value to every project, big and small, in the residential market. Those components are education, internship, experience, and licensure.


The architectural education, as it exists today, in some ways is inadequate for our modern architectural practices, but it’s what we’ve got, so lets look at those essential points that we must take away in order to begin this journey towards architect-dom.

First, a historical perspective. You can not move forward into the future without first knowing and understanding where we’ve been and where we’ve come from. This includes both a design and construction technologies. And, yes, hand drafting is part of a historical perspective. Learn it and love it.

Design is the second essential element of an education. After being grounded in a historical perspective we can let our imaginations soar in design. We’re able to experiment with materials, colors, proportions, use, scale, and structure. Design isn’t about what can be built, it’s about what can be possible.

Confidence is the last element that we take with us from our education. Some of you have raised eyebrows thinking “what the hell?”. It’s ok, I thought the same thing when I typed out the words. But follow me and we’ll get there together. Our education teaches us above all to sell our designs. After all, if we don’t believe in our work, no one else will either. So, a design confidence, a steadiness in our ability to problem solve and critically think things through to an acceptable solution are vital in practice.


Ah, the illustrious internship. That coveted position at the bottom of the totem pole we all fight for even before the ink is dry on our diplomas. This is where you learn, right about day one, that the only class you took in college that has any application to your current position is that one Construction Tech class you took sophomore year where you did wood frame and masonry wall sections for a whole quarter. I try to forget my first year of internship, but unfortunately it’s burned into my memory just how inadequate I was to the task. Luckily I was surrounded by others who were incredibly knowledgeable and were willing to pour that knowledge in to me. I learned more in 2 years of interning than 5 years in college.


And this brings us to experience. Experience and Internship go hand in hand, but they really are two separate things. Anyone can learn a thing. But experience teaches them how to apply a thing, to use it creatively in critical thinking and problem solving. Experience, unlike the internship and education, is the one thing that can’t be taught. It has to be learned.


Licensure is the last step in what can be a frustrating and arduous process for architectural professionals. It is the point at which all of the above culminate in a battery of tests to ensure your qualifications as a legal Architect. Now, this is not a place to debate the validity or even the necessity of licensure (I’ve been castigated enough for my opinions on that score). Suffice it to say, currently there are laws in place that govern the necessity of licensed professionals in the building and construction industry.

At the end of the day, when you decide to begin any building project – whether that be a interior renovation or addition to a existing home, a new single family property or even just a cosmetic facelift to your home, the benefits of hiring someone trained in the art and science of architecture is, in my opinion, paramount to the success or failure of your project.

So the next time you are thinking about building a home, or adding to an existing home, or just modernizing your existing home, at least consult with a architect/designer and ask them “how can you help me”. I guarantee it will not be a wasted meeting.


10 thoughts on “manic monday – “i can just have a drafter do that, right?”

  1. I would say the “hand drawing” is essential, not necessarily “hand drafting”. we learned to use line weight first in our hand drawing/sketching studio, before the drafting work.

    as far as the importance of a “historical perspective” goes, I have an example of how this is important in other crafts as well. I spent time yesterday at an Arts and Crafts festival with an artist. While visiting in her booth, a musician came up and started playing some improvisational piece on his clarinet. Afterward, he was relating how the piece used middle-east influences as well as jazz, etc. to come up with a whole new composition. Without an awareness of these other cultural styles, his ‘palette’ would be severely limited…

    • Daniel,
      Thanks for the comments. I would say hand drafting AND drawing is essential – both sketching and technical drawing. Even as cad technologies and BIM are becoming more and more sophisticated, nothing will ever replace the ability to simply and effectively communicate your ideas with pencil/pen and paper. When technology fails, all you’re left with is what God gave you. Learn to use it well and everything else becomes that much easier.
      I like the musical analogy. And you’ve hit perfectly on my meaning – without that cultural and historical perspective it’s nearly impossible to really craft or create original works. Not to mention being able to improve on past mistakes.
      Thanks again. Cheers.

  2. I love your viewpoint. I am a registered commercial interior designer and I once had a client (no joke) who asked me not to draw anything in order to save money! In this age of DIY, he thought he could draw the project himself πŸ™‚

    • AHAHAHA! If you had less scruples you should have said “OK” and written a “consultation only” contract for him and wait for the phone call when he took his “documents” to the planning department. πŸ˜›
      It’s exactly situations like this where we need to be proactive as design professionals in getting clients to see the benefit in our services.
      Thanks for sharing, Patricia!

  3. Why must you post questions that drive me crazy??? I can’t even tell you how short my long fuse gets when someone asks this question. You’ve answered it thoroughly without the heavy, dry answers often found on AIA, NCARB and other blogs. Nice.

    I dealt with this in the past on my blog. Ironically during several recent inquiries people used the phrase “draw up some plans.” Ugh. Maybe I won’t answer any more and send them here or to my blog. Did I say that out loud? Maybe that’s not so professional.

    • Ha! Hey, you did it to me this time, bro! I’ve been trying to take the high road and stay away from the whole “preachy” thing…but NOOOOO, you gotta go and post something that gets me back up on my soap box. :-\

      • I keep thinking I need to write informative posts about how this or that is done. Then I get fired up and shine up my soap box.

  4. Jeremiah, one of the issues I see here in the Atlanta area are homes designed by unqualified people (passing themselves off as “home designers”). I have investigated major failure issues with roofs, flashing, stucco siding, and structural issues that could have been avoided if a professional was used.

    • As an unlicensed professional (still working on that) I’m the first to advocate for unlicensed architects to practice within the confines of the law – which is typically limited to residential construction and some light commercial TI in some locations. But, I think you hit on the appropriate word there – unqualified. This is why I outline what I see as the essential qualifications for a professional designer – education, internship and experience are all crucial. Some of the onus has to be on the client to at least do some basic research on their potential architect/designer to make sure they are, like you said, qualified, to do the job. References, past work history, client testimonials, etc. Anyone can put together a flashy website and look “professional” in a suit and tie. Asking to actually see past projects, not just drawings, and talk to past clients should be paramount on the “to do” list for clients seeking architects and designers.
      Thanks, George!

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