Do I HAVE to Be Good at Drawing to Survive in Architecture School? (Q&A #1)

“Do you have to be good at drawing to survive in Architecture School?”

This question comes from Shai, one of our followers on Twitter. She is a high school architecture student hopeful, and her concern is one many others have once they consider design school as an educational option. So, do your hands have to be blessed by Olympus, lest you be thrown into Hades and flunk out? I have but one answer:

The truth is, it really depends.

It depends on how high the standards your professors are. Some would really expect you to be able to produce breathtaking work by the end of your freehand drawing classes, while others will grade according to perceived growth. Each professor, school, or faculty will have their own standards for architectural communication that you’ll have to deal with. As a rule of thumb, unless he or she is really really nice – I’ve found that the better your prof himself draws, the higher the standard they implement.

To be encouraging, you should know that you probably won’t flunk out of architecture school because you can’t draw fantastic perspectives – Just ask Frank Gehry. Producing beautiful, polished hand-drawn sheets is typically more important in freshman to sophomore years, where your subjects taken are geared towards developing good manual presentations. However, as you get to higher years and your final outputs will probably be computer generated, freehand drawing will be relegated to early parts of your processes, and will only be loosely graded for consultations and such.

So yes. I’m pretty sure you’ll survive if you just give your best. But of course, we all want to do better than just survive. We want to thrive. So take note of a few things:

Being able to draw is a skill, which means it can be developed over time. You have your years in architecture school to practice all you want and become more adept at communicating with your drawn works.

Even if you aren’t grade conscious, it is still a very good idea to do so. Now why is this? Because drawing freehand is still one of the most essential tools an architect will pull out of his magic hat, so it makes sense to develop yourself in this respect to the best of your ability – whether or not a grade you’ll be given a frade.

In a future post, I’ll be writing about freehand drawing, and why it is so important for architects and designers in their everyday lives. I’ll show how drawing is our companion for a number of processes leading up to a better project.

I’ll also reveal why drawing clearly may be even more important than drawing nicely.

So stay tuned for that, and we’ll be seeing each other next time.

Keep well,



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