Not too long ago, the way architects designed and presented their ideas to colleagues, partners, and the general public, was through hand-drawn renderings; however, digital culture has changed the way architects all over the world bring their ideas to life before they are even built in the first place. At 3DAllusions we call it “Visualizing the Possibilities!” and it is our slogan.

Before we get to talking about how technology and the digital era, we are living has affected architectural illustration, let’s first discuss what this even is, its purpose, and how methods like rendering and 3D illustration have completely changed the game.

What is Architectural Illustration?

The term “architectural illustration” seems very simple at first and easy to connect the idea of artists, often architects themselves, hand-drawing an image to accurately represent the idea they have in their heads or on their plans. However, in reality, it goes much deeper than that.

You see; architectural illustration refers to the work done by an architect or illustrator in which they create an image that portrays the idea they’re designing or creating. These images are supposed to represent and bring to life an idea that hasn’t been put together or built yet.

Through this method, architects are able to pull together a series of complex ideas, designs and objects all into a single piece of art that perfectly combines them all, creating a visual rendering of what the actual space; place or building will look like once it is completed.

What makes architectural illustration so eye-catching for most, is that this method takes every little detail into account, and it strives to be as accurate as possible (even within the multitudes of different types of illustration styles).

What is Architectural Illustration used for?

Although it’s very likely everyone has seen a visual depiction or “artist rendition” of an architectural project, it’s also probable you don’t know what they are used for, or what’s the purpose of that image. And the truth is, architectural illustration has many different uses within an architectural project.

These images aren’t only helpful for the architect, who gets to actually visualize his idea before it’s built, but for the team and the general project as well, since actually seeing a final result of the project is much more helpful than just seeing an architectural plan.

That’s why architectural illustration usually takes place from a very early stage in the project, specifically during the design phase, in which the team can use these visual representations to see how the project will turn out and be able to make changes from small details to even major course changes from early in the process.

However, the main reason why architects use architectural illustration is for more business-driven purposes, meaning they use these images and illustrations during client presentations, open public events, and even important meetings.

The reason behind this is because these images help the architect convey their idea to the public, allowing them to easily connect with the public and catch their attention in a much more effective way than just talking about it. Remember, humans are visual learners, and as they say, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” especially when it comes to literally presenting a building to an audience.

How technology changed architectural illustrations

If you have been paying attention, you probably already noticed when we briefly explained how, years ago, architects relayed only handmade drawings to represent their ideas and bring them to life, but that’s not the case anymore.

You see; technology changed the way people draw, and this directly affected architectural drawing. Although both handmade and digital drawings can take days, even weeks, to make, digital drawings and imagery are significantly more convenient for everyone from the artist to the architect themselves.

With the creation of computer software and illustration programs that allowed us to turn simple lines and digital models into a realistic, three-dimensional visualization, architectural illustration began to change. Today, architects rely further on this type of illustration and medium more than any other. Hand-drawn renderings still have their place and niche, but in general photo-realistic and stylized photo-realistic renderings are the norm, and today’s client is expecting more sophisticated renderings.

As these tools started to become mainstream and accessible to everyone, architectural illustration has started to grow more and more, with the architect and architectural firms trusting 3D illustrators to bring their visions to life with these computer programs and complex software… but why has this method become so popular? How does it benefit the architect? Well, let us tell you.

Through architectural visualization, architects are able to connect their designs with the world. They can show their public how a space will look like even before construction starts, helping them effectively communicate their design ideas to people who aren’t really interested in the process but just want to see the final result. That’s why Architectural Illustration has become so extremely popular: It is an incredible and helpful method that allows an architect to expose and communicate their ideas in a much more direct, clear and realistic way than before. This dynamic has changed the way people expect to see architectural illustrations.

With all this talk about realism and photo-realistic imagery, there is a curiosity and niche of traditional or non-photo realistic rendering in the world of digital illustration. There are programs such as SketchUp that specializes in more traditional or hand-drawn, marker and colored pencil type renderings. While typically the developer wants photo-realistic renderings for marketing and pre-sales or pre-leasing, the architect has reason to do traditional-style renderings at times. There are times when the psychology of renderings that look loose and hand-drawn is very beneficial. Take, for example, an early public meeting where the community can give input, a polished photo-realistic rendering gives the message that the design is complete and this meeting is a formality, while a hand-drawn looking rendering indicates that changes may be made, and input could actually affect the project. Technology can provide this type of imagery as well and in either case, 3DAStudio (3DAS) can help you out. A lot of firms actually handle this sort of rendering in-house, but it can be more efficient to have a rendering studio handle the task.

As to how this benefits the architect? For one, it can be more economical; most architects don’t have the time or the skills to work proficiently with illustration programs, let alone 3D rendering software, billing hourly for their time is typically not competitive with using the artist who specializes in the trade. The architect in many ways is a generalist that knows quite a bit about a lot of things, and even though they use complex 3D programs and are artistic in nature, specializing in everything is not practical. This is why they rely on professional illustrators and graphic designers to get the job done makes sense in a lot of ways.

Companies like our own, 3DAllusions Studio (3DAS), in which we offer 3D rendering services and architectural illustration to architects, interior designers, and developers, represents a major benefit for them. Now they can delegate an important part of an architectural project, and be sure they’ll get a quality visualization of their unique design back in the time frame they expected.

Now, architects and other clients don’t have to worry about imagery and content for high-quality presentations. Technology has made it possible for companies like ours, where we work with the best computer software and are able to put together realistic 3D images, presentations, and animations for architects to use throughout their design process and even for business presentations and marketing purposes.

Russell Thomas is the Founder and Creative Director at 3DAllusions Studio a subsidiary of 3DAllusions LLC which includes sites such as 3DAllusions and MrMaterials which are resources for the CG artist, helping them hone their craft.