From the Drawing Board to Creating 3D Design


Long gone are the days of drawing boards, mechanical pencils and erasers filling your architect’s office. In fact, it has been 41 years since AutoCAD was launched, which had created a new method for 2D drafting. The following year, in 1983, Microsoft Word entered the scene, and in 1990 PhotoShop came to be. Fast forward to 2023, and AutoCAD now brings us the benefits of machine learning and AI, assisting with automations and insights to improve efficiency and sustainability.

In this article, I am going to highlight some of today’s software programs we use for creating your designs, prototypes, construction drawings, and photo-realistic renderings.

Through an Autodesk subscription, Revit is a BIM Software for Architects, MEP engineers, and contractors. This program allows architects to create, import, and manipulate 3D models to produce necessary 2D documentation of projects. Revit uses tools to plan, track, and maintain projects throughout a building’s lifecycle, from concept to construction. With Revit’s smart-populating system, designers can create construction documents, sketches, site models, environmental studies, renderings and more from one 3D model with a click of a button. A helpful feature within Revit is its cloud collaboration tool. This tool allows a ‘central file’ to be stored on a server and multiple people to work simultaneously on one project through their own ‘local file’. This allows projects to develop quicker and in-office communication to be more efficient. Revit is our go to software in the office.

AutoCAD, included in an AutoDesk subscription, is a 2D program with 3D capabilities. It is used to create technical drawings and construction documents. This program was created to make drafting easier by implementing computer tools and shortcuts to create and revise drawings instead of manual drafting with tedious iterations. Today, most companies use computer-based drafting and rely on the familiarity and user-friendly system of AutoCAD. In recent years, AutoCAD has incorporated 3D visualization into its program. Designers can now create and examine walls, doors, and windows in a view that is easier for the untrained eye to understand. It allows for comprehensive data and imagery of such objects to be extracted and shared amongst various professions within a project. AutoCAD continues to be used by many firms and therefore is universally utilized between our engineers and contractors, regardless whether or not they use Revit.


Enscape, a plugin for Revit and like programs, assists in creating realistic renderings of various projects. Enscape allows designers to “walk through” 3D models to fully understand what is being modeled and proposed within spaces. It provides access to real time editing and updating from Revit. Enscape’s default textures and materials transform the appearance of interior and exterior elements within projects to seem realistic. From these views, still and animated renderings can be created and elevate the communication of projects between professionals and clients. Our team utilizes the tools within Enscape for concept presentation, and client marketing.

Adobe Creative Cloud
Adobe Creative Cloud offers a wide range of programs that are useful for designers in many professions. For architects, the programs that are most useful are Acrobat, Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign.
1. Acrobat:
Acrobat is mainly used to create, view, and edit PDF files. This program is used consistently within the office and helps us communicate internally and send files easily between clients and contractors. Construction documents are usually large files with many pages and disciplines included. The editing function of Acrobat allows us to rearrange pages, add pdf files from other disciplines, and compress files for easier transfers via email.
2. Photoshop
Photoshop is used to create and edit raster images for digital art. In the office, it is used to make a quick rendering for a project, mostly in a Schematic Design phase that may not be modeled yet. Our talented employees can manipulate an existing photo of a site or space and create a rendering of any changes that may occur within that view. This allows our clients to get a glimpse of how the final product may look before starting the project.
3. Illustrator
Illustrator is used to create and edit vector graphics. This program uses vectors to create clean, seamless linework for clearer images. In the office, it is used to create graphics and diagrams to better communicate concepts to clients and contractors, if needed. We also use this tool for marketing and brand development.
4. InDesign
InDesign is used to create page layout designs. It allows a page or ‘artboard’ to be designed by defining boundaries and spaces between images. The images can be imported or linked to files such as PDF, JPEG, PNG, or any Adobe file so that the page can update automatically as the linked file is updated. This allows changes to be made quickly and effectively. In the office, InDesign is used to set up slides for presentations, portfolio work, and project packages with various sheets, images, and information for client review.

Reading through this list of technology tools at my disposal at JL Architects, it both impresses me and overwhelms me with the possibilities of the future. Where will technology continue to take us as architects? I am not sure even I can envision it!

-Sydney Nolter, Architectural Designer