If you want to become an architectural illustrator, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for your skills, interests and personality traits. If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for a career as an architectural illustrator:
• You enjoy using manual sketching and drawing techniques and design software
• You enjoy preparing drawings, plans or 3D models
• You are able to analyze and interpret architectural design concepts
• You enjoy the idea of collaborating with architects and other professionals
• You are flexible when working with the ideas of others
Architectural illustrators are responsible for creating visual renderings that help communicate an architect's ideas for a project to the client that commissioned them for that project.
They help clients better visualize architectural projects by sketching the imagery of the project, as well as accurately highlighting the scope, scale, size, dimensions and environmental details of the project.
In order to prepare architectural renderings, architectural illustrators must make use of a variety of traditional and modern illustration techniques, such as creating scale drawings by hand, using computer aided design software, and using various forms of 3-D animation and technology.
Although you may not be required to complete formal, post-secondary education to become an architectural illustrator, many aspiring architectural illustrators choose to pursue a diploma or a degree in a field such as architecture, fine arts, visual arts or graphic design.
There are many benefits for pursuing a diploma or degree programs if you want to become an architectural illustrator, including:
Internships: If you are a college or university student, you will have exposure to a wide variety of internship opportunities. These opportunities may or may not be a program requirement; either way, your instructors and school career guidance office can help arrange these opportunities for you. Pursuing an internship will help you earn school credit while gaining valuable work experience. The employer may even offer you a job once you have graduated.
Skills and Knowledge Development: Pursuing formal education in a field related to architectural illustration will help you fine-tune your skills in manual illustration techniques, as well as your computer aided design (CAD) skills. Courses related to architectural design will also help you gain a good understanding of the architectural design process, as well as how to create renderings that accurately communicate the vision and design of architects.
Portfolio Development: Being a student in a field related to architectural illustration will teach you develop and maintain a proper portfolio. Your portfolio will be crucial to your success as an architectural illustrator, as it is used to demonstrate your abilities to prospective employers and clients of yours. Your portfolio would include work completed for projects, work completed during an internship, and projects you’ve completed on your own, independent from your studies.
Courses related to architectural design may include:
• Computer-aided design (CAD)
• 2-dimensional drawing
• 3-dimensional drawing
• Digital media
• Perspective and design concepts
In order to become effective in a career as an architectural illustrator, you need to posses a certain set of skills. These skills will allow you to perform your job duties with competence, and are likely listed required skills on architectural illustrator job postings.
• Well-versed in all aspects of design and composition
• Manual drawing and sketching skills
• Proficient with computer aided design and drafting (CADD) software
• Promotional skills; required to successfully market work
• Able to gain a deep understanding of an architect's design philosophy and intent
• An understanding of exactly what each architectural illustration is to be used for
• Able to effectively collaborate with architects and other professionals
Architectural illustrators are often self-employed, though many work as full-time, part-time, or contract-based employees. Whether self-employed, or working as an employee, architectural illustrators typically have the following types of organizations as clients or employers:
• Small, medium-sized and large architectural firms
• Interior design companies
• Graphic design companies
• Construction companies
• Landscaping companies
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