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Essential Software For Architecture

Architects require a very specific set of digital tools to produce drawings and improve their design process. Here are the most essential.

In today’s digital climate, architects are relying more and more on their design software to not only produce detailed construction drawings, but create believable visualizations and bolster their design process. Computer aided design is an essential aspect of any design business, with a few programs rising above the rest to find their way into every studio across the world.

And while there might still be a few old guard, pen-and-pencil-only cats out there who will never relinquish their grip on trusty T-square and vellum, the rest of the world has moved on.

The software on this list is vital to the workflow and process of a majority of architecture offices. Without these programs, the entire construction industry would grind to a screeching halt until we all learned how to draw by hand again.

1 | AutoCAD

The drafting program that started a revolution. While much of the professional design industry has moved on to BIM and other, more informative means of construction documentation, there are still many who will forever and always use CAD. It’s powerful, fast, and capable of producing complex line drawings and schedules.

AutoCAD has been the industry standard for decades now, and won’t soon become obsolete. Until BIM can get a handle on detail drawing and engrained design discipline, AutoCAD will hold a large chunk of the design industry under its wing.

2 | SketchUp

While SketchUp might not be the most refined, complicated, or powerful 3D modeling program, it is certainly the most accessible. And it’s in that accessibility that architects have found so much value in it. SketchUp allows designers to quickly model their work, assess its strengths, and take it right back to the cutting room for refinement and alteration.

Taking things further, SketchUp is now being used as a viable visualization tool with the use of several easy-to-use rendering plugins. SU Podium and Brighter 3D have opened up a whole new world to SketchUp users, and one architects and designers are taking full advantage of.

3 | Photoshop

When architects are in need of adding texture, scale figures, trees, cars, and other contextual imagery to their renderings, they turn to Adobe’s world famous photo editing software for help. Photoshop is taught to architects very early in their education because it’s something they will use over and over again to push their work to the next level.

Architects might not edit many photos, but they do create artwork in various ways that all act to describe their designs and push forward the process of getting their work built. They might not dig into the deepest depths of what Photoshop can offer, but then again, they don’t have to.

4 | AutoDesk Revit

As mentioned earlier, many architects have already made the jump from 2D CAD drafting to Building Information Modeling (BIM) software. Revit is the most popular BIM program on the market, and allows users to digitally construct their buildings in three dimensions with embedded information pertaining to construction, scheduling, and finished materials.

Revit endured a rocky start, but has since been developed into a program that is user-friendly, powerful, and nuanced. It still has a long way to go in the detail department, but those who use it can’t possibly make the jump backwards to strictly 2D drafting.

5 | InDesign

Presentations, competitions, and marketing materials make up a seldom talked about component to running an architecture business. InDesign helps arechitects and designers collect their visualization content and present it in a way that is easy to digest. It’s a layout program that’s also heavily used by book publishers and magazine editors.

InDesign is fast, streamlined, and easy to gain a grasp of. It offers a much smoother interface than Photoshop, and has a robust toolset that lets designers add visual flair, diagramming, and text-driven content to renderings, plans, and other design-related drawings.

6 | Rhino 3D

Before SketchUp blew up the 3D modeling industry, architects relied on other, less user-friendly forms of digital drawing. Not to say Rhino is incredibly complicated - it’s not - but it’s vast catalogue of tools and setting has a way of turning new users off.

However, there are some things SketchUp simply can’t do. And for that, Rhino has the medicine. When used in conjunction with Grasshopper, designers can write their own scripts that allow for an advanced flavor of parametric modeling that’s reserved for only the most high-profile design jobs.

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