Clarity in Simplicity – Rediscover the forgotten art of drafting

Clarity in Simplicity – Rediscover the forgotten art of drafting

Are you finding engineering drawing sets hard to follow these days?  No real logic to the layout or flow, too much information crammed onto one sheet and inconsistencies from one sheet to another.  Certainly not a piece of art you would hang on your wall.

With a few basic guidelines and a dash of style, engineering drawings can effectively and efficiently convey meaning to better serve the real purpose for which they have been created, i.e. to help someone do their job.

Keep in mind, a drawing is typically one of the most viewed of all design documents.  Often created at the early stages of a project, they have a changing audience as the project progresses.  From designers to purchasers, manufacturers, installers, commissioning engineers, maintenance staff, and operators.  People come and people go, however drawings live on; so it’s important to get them right.

In the days when being a draftsman was seen as more of a vocation rather than a string to one’s bow, there was a lot of training that went on behind the scenes long before such a title was earned.

There was a time when Technical Drawing was taught in schools alongside subjects such as Art, Woodwork and Metalwork.  Nowadays for some, it seems that if they can open up a CAD package, draw a few lines and add a bit of text they’re then thrown in the deep end with no further training.  Being able to use a CAD package is certainly an important factor for today’s draftsperson however, creating a decent set of drawings still takes vision and planning.

When all is said and done drawings are just lines, shapes and text, so how can they be improved?

Here are a few tips to help turn those drawings into art no matter what CAD package you use.

  1. Consider who the audience is for your drawings and how best to cater for their needs.
  2. Think about the layout, the information flow and what’s logical for the users before you dive in.  This was a forced discipline in the days of the drawing board but with the freedom of CAD it’s easily forgotten.
  3. Consider how many sheets will be in the drawing set then consider the logical order of the sheet titles.
  4. Decide on the line colours, thicknesses, styles, layers and text sizes to be used for the set of drawings and stick to it.  Australian Standard AS 1100.101 provides guidance on general drafting standards if you’re not totally savvy with them.  Colours can be helpful to convey information but keep in mind, if there is someone who uses a black and white print, the different colours will not be visible.
  5. Think about what’s important on the drawing, which items are primary information and which items are secondary.  Choose line thicknesses and text sizes relevant to the importance of the information but be consistent with your choice from one sheet to the next.  In cases where some or all of the drawing process is automated you should still be able to manipulate the settings to create drawings that are pleasing to the eye and easy to follow.
  6. Just a few variations in line thickness can bring a drawing to life. Many drawings I come across look flat in appearance and lifeless.  This is commonly caused by using too much of the same line thickness.
  7. Don’t be afraid of having white space on a drawing.  You don’t have to use up every square inch on the sheet.  A bit of space around items can make it easier to follow.  That being said don’t overdo it, as the fewer the sheets in a set of drawings means less sheets to maintain overall and less sheets for the users to handle.
  8. The readability of the drawings is of the utmost importance.  That is irrespective of whether you intend to issue the finished drawings in electronic format, paper form or both.  If drawings need to be printed at a scale to suit the medium, stick with standard scales and ensure all information is legible for the users.

Finally don’t be afraid to add your own artistic touch and be proud of your creation.  These simple practices will not add any more time to the drafting process but will be of great benefit to the users and will make an easier set of drawings to maintain in the future.

What has been your experience?  We welcome your comments.  Feel free to drop us an email on or give us a call.

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