drawing boardDiscussing the differences between architects and draftsmen to help choose the right one for help in a construction project. Architects design while draftsmen draw.

Knowing how the two professions differ to help choose the right one

The casual observer may think architects and draftsmen amount to the same thing – they both design buildings and produce drawings – but it’s not as clear cut as this. There are, however, differences between the two professions although the boundaries can be blurred depending on the services draftsmen in particular may offer.

Designing a building

Before it can be built a building first has to be designed.

A given building, whether an extension, a total new-build house or commercial property, has to be taken from a general vision and converted into a full design complete with detailed drawings. These are then used to gain the necessary planning approval and act as the blueprint for the constructors in actually building it.

In broad terms an architect will handle the process of creating a detailed design from consultations with the customer, and the draftsman will provide the detailed and scaled drawings.

In some cases, architects work in conjunction with draftsmen and each does their ‘design or draw’ role to produce the final design on paper, and some may enlist companies offering architectural drafting services.

That said, the demarcation between these two roles can be blurred:

  • Some draftsmen will also provide design services – indeed the term ‘building designer’ is used by some draftsmen to describe their services and is generally becoming more common
  • Some architects produce their own drawings and plans

Architects design while draftsmen draw

In many cases the architect will not only work with the client to produce a design, they may well take over much of the design concept itself; many customers who have a notion of the type of building they want will defer to an architect to bring their ‘wish list’ to fruition. Certain buildings may be referred by the architect who designed them; for example there’s the ‘Norman Foster designed London Gherkin’ along with other famous buildings and areas in London and other parts of the UK and around the world defined by the architect.

For clients with more fixed design ideas the architect may sometimes challenge them as in saying ‘have you thought of this idea?’ or illustrating how some preferred design elements may need changing or dropping altogether depending on specific circumstances.

Following completion of the design the draftsman will produce drawings based on the architect’s blueprint. As said above, architects can produce their own drawings but it’s often felt architects are specialists in design while draftsmen are specialists in producing the final drawings.

Training

This fundamental difference is reflected in the training for both professions. Architect training takes around seven years with usually a five year university course followed by a further two years’ on the job training in an architect’s premises.

The university part of the training will concentrate on many design principles and include subjects such as design history and contract law.

Draftsmen’s training is considerably shorter – around two years to study a drafting diploma at a technical college or similar – with some on the job experience to follow. That said, draftsmen can come into the profession in different ways including those from construction related backgrounds or maybe an architectural environment without having officially qualified as one.

Which to use?

This depends on your circumstances and how far down the road you are in the process.

For some basic house extensions following very closely the existing design of a property, then drawings from a draftsmen may be perfectly sufficient to present to your local authority’s planning department and your construction people.

On the other hand, if you require full design serves then an architect will be the more appropriate choice. They can also, in many cases, see the whole project through from initial concept to completion by performing a project management role if this is required.