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Architectural Graphics 101 – Symbols

Architectural Graphics 101 – Symbols: It’s time for the next chapter of Architectural Graphics 101. This time, I’ll talk about architectural symbols, which help us find our way around building plans. They aren’t too hard to understand, but surprisingly, I do have some thoughts about them. It’s true that a lot of architecture firms look pretty much the same and don’t change their looks much from one to the next. This is to be expected, though, because the profession as a whole wouldn’t be able to work without some basic rules.

Then why do I talk about them? The opposite of “why not” I saw it as a chance to get back on my high horse and preach again about the importance of lineweight in illustration.

Architectural Graphics 101 – Symbols

I spent a lot of time on the plan for today’s article because it is important to me. This was the third house I bought, but the first one for which I made plans for how to build it. When I look at it now, I can see how hard I worked to make the tree symbols, change the line weights, and make the custom graphics symbols. It took me days of searching through old hard drives and rebuilding my *ctb pen table (only a few of you probably know what that is) to find this sketch so I could turn it into a pdf file. If I trust the way I name my files, I made this drawing file about 20 years ago. I still like how it looks, and I think it shows how committed I am to using lineweight well.

Even though this isn’t the same symbol legend I used for my original blueprint, it’s not too different and it doesn’t do anything special either. If you’re a drafter, your symbol legend probably looks a lot like mine… But I can tell you that even if I didn’t know anything else about it, I would be able to tell that this was made in AutoCAD and not Revit just by looking at the lineweight and hierarchy of the symbols, as opposed to the “one-size-fits-all” nature of symbols today.


We don’t understand what the point is.

I think people will have different ideas about how to use certain geometric shapes. Exactly this thought is going through my mind right now:

The World Wide Web: “Hey Bob, circles are meant to be used as door tags!”

Web: “Your “Room” tag is so funny because it doesn’t fit… Even though they were meant to be rectangles,…”

I get what you’re saying, but it doesn’t bother me too much. After all, the very definition of a legend says that I can use whatever reasonable means I think are best, as long as I’m consistent. As we move from one picture to the next, you’ll see that the many symbol legends from the past 20 years aren’t that different from each other.

As I looked through drawings from years (and businesses) past, I found another example of how symbol legends have changed over time. The only thing about the legend up there that really bothers me is that both the mark and the writing for the Keynote Number are too small.


It didn’t work at all.

I’ve found the one thing that people who aren’t artists would miss at first. Most of the time, I only need to explain these three symbols to a customer, so I wrote the meanings of them right into my legend. Please note that if I use this mark for the ELEVATION MARK, the corresponding elevation can be found in the figure numbered 04 on sheet A/whatever.

I looked for a simplified plan drawing that showed many different kinds of symbols all at once. Above is a plan view of a steel trellis that I showed a few years ago (Modern Steel Trellis). It has:

  • Marking the Door
  • a window’s label
  • Wall Decal
  • Piece of Wall Was Taken Down
  • Tag Elevation
  • Making Mark Right


From a graphic design point of view, I want my symbols to stand out on the picture, even though there is a lot of other information there as well. The symbols are the ways to get to more information, which is often show in a larger size to show more (and hopefully relevant) information.

But we’re not just going to look at symbols on a floor plan. What do you think about the symbols on the reflective ceiling plan? It’s okay, I’ll take care of it –

The picture above is the first Reflected Ceiling Plan legend I made. For the first few years of my career, I changed jobs every 18 months, so I was often in charge of setting the house style for the company’s visual communications. On the one hand, this isn’t really a surprise, since I usually have strong ideas about how I want my drawings to look in the end.

On the other hand, this is pretty crazy when you consider that one of the main reasons I jumped from job to job early in my career was that I thought I had the technical skills to do anything other than design and talking to people. That was a problem because I was getting close to 30 and still didn’t feel like I knew what I was doing. I also worked for small businesses at the time, where there wasn’t always someone there to show me the ropes.

So I just made everything up, which had the advantage. That I could make everything look exactly how I wanted it to.

I took a picture of the larger Reflected Ceiling Plan from the original page, which you can see below. For the sake of consistency in this series of posts about firsts. Please ignore the information about the fixtures in this legend. This was the first home I plan from scratch, so I don’t know much about them.

Symbols in lighting designs often look like the things they stand for. Just like symbols in legends don’t mean anything about how to understand them.

To put it mildly, I’m not sure how I feel about the symbol cemetery that I work at right now. Those of you who come to this site often may have noticed. That I no longer use the chisel fonts I like. This was not decide after talking with the people in my office who make these kinds of decisions. I don’t like *.SHX fonts just because you can’t search for them. The difference in lineweight between the letters in those chisel fonts was one of the main reasons. I liked them better than our current font type.

Since our current home improvement project uses symbols from the current symbol library. I decided to make a partial plan for it. If you look closely, you’ll see that I’ve changed some things. And I have a few more ideas for possible changes. What exactly do you want to change? For one thing, the word “Room” could stand out a bit more. I also think the lines that separate the shapes (circle, rectangle, etc.) could be a shade or two darker. The labels themselves should be easy to find. Since one of their main jobs is to help people figure out where they are.


Symbols in Drawings of Buildings

I’ll be the first to admit that symbols used in architectural drawings aren’t exactly. The most interesting visual topic I can write about. But I think they add a lot to the way your works look. Symbols help with visual communication, so they, along with lineweight. Titleblocks, and the structure of drawings, should be give extra care. Do you not think you could make better symbols than the ones that come with the programme? I looked through old CAD files for a few hours and found at least six different versions of symbols. This might make it seem more likely that there is something wrong with me.

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