Learn to write like an architect

Originally published at: Learn to write like an architect | Boing Boing


Most engineers (before computers) were better at lettering than most architects. I’m not sure about that any more.


Your link goes to the Shutterstock photo of the woman head-desking the printer.


Fuck architects. I can write like a doctor!

I rule!


Are we the last generation of Engineers which will keep proper paper notebooks?
Are there even any young engineers who know how to write in a paper notebook with a pen/pencil?


For an instructional, this guy has some idiosyncratic lettering.
eg, he’s saying all the verticals should be slightly off-vertical. His Es and Fs-- wtf? He uses an ellipse for the top of a B-- why?

The book he cites, Architectural Graphics by Ching, is a much better reference:


You are confusing lettering and handwriting. Lettering is a component of Drafting. Handwriting is not governed by strict rules the way Lettering is and is more open to personal expression.

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My takeaway is lifting the pen between straight lines. The little cross marks at the vertices add information. And when you write fast they add interesting flourishes.

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Unless it is Russian cursive. Then it must be perfect, or you’ll get 5 years hard labor in the gulag.

(Seriously, though, all the Russians I met were fastidious about getting cursive just right. I could never do it well, and it took forever to get used to reading it.)


I agree. I learned architectural lettering. I use it when I need to be clear. For note taking I use cursive script. If I used architectural lettering for that I would never keep up.

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Thank god I can read like a pharmacist, I understood every word!


I remember taking “drafting” class as a sophomore in HS (1992). The vast majority of this introductory class was sitting at a drafting table and being able to draw straight lines and letter/draw shapes within lines using the mechanical pencils and rulers of the trade. Of the 60-or-so classes I had in high school, I would say this one was one of the 10 or so I still remember. It is one of the three that I loosely and indirectly use as a software architect today to clearly communicate ideas.


Or, you know, go to school for 5 years and then a 2-3 year internship, followed by a truly terrifying multi-day exam. But what-evs, here’s a Youtube vid that will get you there. Fucking pathetic.

I agree, his lettering is on the sloppy side. I would sooner take advice from a cartoonist/comic book artist.

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Ah, I was “lucky” to come at the cusp of computer design, so my first 2 years were all hand lettering and layouts. Good ol’ Ames lettering guide.

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(Picked from the internet more or less at random, but you get the idea.)


Coming up next:
Slide rules vs electronic calculators!


I was taught to write at school using a sort of copperplate cursive style, which you could only do slowly, so trying to write quickly meant my handwriting was crap.
Then I got a job at a small print and publishing company, and the bloke in charge of typesetting had really neat handwriting, so I set about trying to copy it. I never achieved his level of neatness in cursive writing, but for marking up copy and proofreading I developed a pretty neat style, and even my cursive writing has improved over the years, especially now I usually use a fountain pen, which really helps for some reason. It’s taken nearly fifty years to get there, mind!

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Or a librarian

I did it!


Yes, because it takes time to draw a letter correctly. It takes no time to write something down.

When I try to explain the difference to people its like this:

Writing, or Handwriting is automatic, whether print or cursive script – you don’t think about each character, you write it down. Any number of factors can influence what it looks like, personal style, how fast thoughts are coming to you, sleepy or tired - its as varied as speech.

Lettering is not automatic - it is deliberate. When you are Lettering you are drawing, or more properly drafting an idealized letter form - you are not writing words, you are drafting letters, each one an individual drawing of an idealized letter.

Architects writing initially shows the evidence of that disciplined lettering as it invades your handwriting. Over time it crosses back into Lettering with more stylized letter forms. However you must understand that this is still Lettering, as there is still an idealized letter form that Architects follow. There is a collective effort in a drafting room to unify the notations so the drawings do not telegraph the work of many hands. And so you have an informally standardized letter style of which the Ching books are a very good representation of.

Early in digital typography and CAD there were several fonts that also attempted to capture this architectural writing. Adobe made Tecton, there was a digitization of Ching’s printing as well, and even Charles Schultz’s Peanuts comic text was turned into a digital font at one point.