Defining the content, format and frame

Once the needs of the audience are established, the next step is to make a list of the drawings and images that need to be contained in the portfolio. A good portfolio will showcase a range of images, both freehand and computer generated, and from concept through to scheme details, to display different ideas across a range of media and representational techniques.

As with any presentation, the design of the images and their relationship to the format is key. It is useful to keep the format of all the portfolio’s pages consistent. If this isn’t possible then try to group pages together so the viewer doesn’t have to keep turning themselves or the portfolio to view and understand the work.

Project: ‘Living Bridge’ portfolio Location: Venice, Italy Designer: Rob Moore Date: 2006

A portfolio is a collection of work. This image, and those on the following pages, present a range or portfolio of images generated for a single architectural scheme in Venice called ‘Living Bridge’

As well as the traditional drawings and sketches, images of a variety of different models have been included to show the extent of the design’s process and development.

Physical portfolios may be framed in a wallet or ring binder (which can create a series of pages, much like a book), or a plastic wallet (although these can sometimes create a barrier between the drawing and the viewer and should be used carefully). If the portfolio is created on CD then the cover of the CD and the jewel case itself can also be designed.

Interactive web-based portfolios are becoming more and more commonplace. The content, format and frame of web portfolios is just as important as it is for physical ones. Online portfolios allow for a vast range of work to be displayed. Thumbnail images can be displayed on the site’s home page and linked to their associated project images and information held elsewhere on the site, allowing the viewer to easily select and fully view the work of most interest to them.

Project: ‘Living Bridge’ portfolio


Location: Venice, Italy Designer: Rob Moore Date: 2006

Layout and presentation

The drawings in a project portfolio, whether hard copy or electronic files, need to be carefully compiled and edited. Much like writing a story, the building design needs to be carefully described with a clear beginning, middle and end.

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Storyboards Portfolios > Exercise 6: layout and presentation

Exercise 6: layout and presentation

Any portfolio, whether it is to be read online or as a physical set of drawings, needs to be carefully planned and edited, and doing so is a design exercise in itself. Ultimately the portfolio needs to address its audience successfully. In order to achieve this it is necessary to determine a brief for the portfolio and then decide on the range of projects to be shown in it. Making the portfolio interesting and engaging will help address your audience too. Organising the size and layout of your pages, as well as selecting a font style and size that is complementary to your work, are key considerations.

Layout and presentation


Using a flatplan to map out the contents of your portfolio will help enure that the projects on display are well organised, and that the pages address your intended audience in the way that you want them too.

Constructing your portfolio

Planning a portfolio needs careful consideration and organisation, but using a storyboard framework can help you to organise the content of your portfolio.

Before you begin:

1 Determine the audience for your portfolio. What will they want to see?

2 Write an outline or brief for your portfolio.

3 Draw up a sequenced list of content (limit the number of pages or projects it will contain).

4 Consider the best format and layout of the pages.

5 Chose a font style and size that will complement your images. Remember you will need to use the font consistently throughout.

6 Consider the distinct sections of the portfolio (think of it like a book, there may be themes or projects that help to subdivide the portfolio’s content).

Once these steps are complete you are ready to map out or ‘flatplan’ of your portfolio’s pages:

7 Use boxes (much like those on the facing page) to denote the imaginary pages of your portfolio. Indicate in words and sketches the sequence of projects and the specific images associated with each.

8 Label each page according to the sequenced list of contents you compiled earlier (in step 3).

9 Consider how the pages connect to one another.

Edit and revise as necessary until you are happy with the narrative.

0 Once you are happy with the narrative, assemble your portfolio so that is corresponds with the flatplan.


Successful representation of an architectural scheme or concept presents a challenge. To be a success, the form of representation needs to communicate the scheme’s creative concept and its technical specifications.

Good architectural drawings and models require an understanding of the building’s design. How this design is communicated to the audience via the architect’s chosen media, form of representation and selection of layout and graphics allows architectural drawings to be ultimately variable.

Representational techniques

Architectural drawings and models represent a future vision of a proposed building. Many of these proposals are never realised, yet architectural drawings possess a legitimate quality; the buildings they display could exist. As such they are not images of something that is, but something that could be and so need to have a persuasive power and to give confidence to their audience that the architecture could in fact be realised.

Project: Nam June Paik Museum Location: Kyonggi, Korea Architect: CJ Lim / Studio 8 Date: 2004

These CAD images are conceptual drawings that describe the architect’s idea as a sketch in plan. Of the concept CJ Lim notes:

Architectural representation is heavily influenced by other cultural shifts in areas such as advertising, fashion and graphic design. The architect’s drawing style must respond to these shifts; it needs to be culturally relevant and relate to the Zeitgeist.

Plans and section drawings are specific devices that communicate architectural space and form, but beyond this, in the current climate of cross-disciplinary learning and teaching, architectural drawing has much to gain from its artistic neighbours in terms of rendering and representational techniques.

Architectural representation can be a straightforward practical interpretation of a proposal but, perhaps more importantly, it needs to inspire, to raise expectations and to transport the viewer into a world of imagination and possibility. An architect needs the eye of both an engineer and an artist to convince their audience of a new world of possibilities.

‘The Nam June Paik Museum nestled within the pine forest… [the concept] evolved through a simultaneous proliferation of graphite lines, planes and ray-traced volumes.

The butterfly wall is a visual metaphor for the white noise on an untuned television set, an unusual incidence of nature designed and constructed to mimic the electronic rather than the reverse.’

The images engage with the forms three-dimensionally and explore the lines and planes of the building as well as its relationship to the surrounding landscape. These engaging and exciting images are artworks in themselves. They describe a potential dynamic form engaged with a dramatic landscape.


Aerial perspective

A constructed view of a building or site from above, this kind of view allows an understanding of the context of the site.


Also known as planometric, this is a three-dimensional projection that uses a plan of a building space or object and rotates it through 45 degrees. The plan is then projected vertically to create a three­dimensional image. This is a quick and effective way to create a three­dimensional impression of a building.

CAD (computer aided design)

Computer-aided drafting or design systems are used by architects and students to develop and present their architectural ideas. The software can be applied in varying contexts. Two­dimensional plans are more effectively produced by some software packages. Others can create an impressive fly through series of images. Specialised software can render or colour images with realistic effects of materials, finishes and shadow.


This technique has been associated with painters such as Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso.

It involves the assembly of fragments of images to create a new composite image.


When creating a presentation of architectural drawings, the composition of the images is important. A well composed image means that the information has been organised effectively so it can be easily understood.

Conceptual sketches

A concept is the driving idea behind any architecture. The concept starts at the initial design stage of a project and carries through the project as it develops

CPI (coordinated production information)

CPI is a system of communicating a range of scales for varying sets of information within architectural drawings.


A drawing technique that reveals an aspect of a building or interior space. The image has a section that is removed or ‘cut away’ to expose the inside of a building. It can also be used to explain how a building is assembled or constructed.


A detail drawing is focused on a specific aspect of a building. It needs to be drawn at a scale that allows aspects of material and fixing to be considered. This will normally be a full-size drawing or a drawing at the scale of 1:2 (half size) 1:5 (one-fifth size) or 1:10 (one-tenth size). Dimension

Buildings can be measured as a way to accurately describe rooms and spaces. Dimensions are the measurement of these spaces.

A dimensioned drawing will have recorded the size of rooms, walls, windows and doors.


An elevation is the presentation of a face of an building or an interior wall. The elevation is designed through an understanding of the section and the plan.

Exploded drawing

An exploded drawing explains how a building is constructed or assembled. It deconstructs each element and component of the architecture and explains how they fit together.

Figure ground mapping

In architectural drawing the reference for figure ground comes form Giambatissa Nolli. During the seventeenth century he created a mapping description of Rome that depicted buildings as solid form and spaces as blank or empty areas. Figure ground maps provide a quick understanding of a city and its density. This is a technique now applied in a variety of contexts from urban analysis to spatial interpretation.

Fly through

CAD modelling has facilities that allow an architectural idea to be presented as a series of images to suggest a journey through a building or space. This series of images (or fly through) can be composed as an animated film as if the viewer is flying through the space.


This is a three-dimensional projection that uses a plan of a building space or object and distorts it through 30 degrees. The plan is then projected vertically to create a three­dimensional image.


When placing drawings adjacent to one another there may be a sense of intentionally creating contrast of an idea or concept. Drawings of different scale can be juxtaposed in the same presentation.


CAD software uses the concept of layers to separate different types of information. These layers allow for changes to be made to different aspects of the design as it evolves. Each layer is a different drawing. Layout

This refers to the positioning of images, drawings and text on a page. Layout is a critical consideration for the understanding of a scheme.


Drawings use codes and symbols as a form of shorthand. This shorthand is a legend, which not only displays all the symbols used in the drawings, but also explains their associated meanings. There are standard conventions and codes that are used to describe materials, fixtures and fittings.

Location plan

To initially understand a building or site proposal a location plan is needed. This will identify the site for the proposal and its immediate context. It will ‘locate’ the building and describe orientation and surrounding buildings and features.


This is a small-scale model that represents and tests an architectural idea. A maquette can also be described as a sketch model or developmental model.

Object library

This refers to a library of elements available in CAD software programmes that are used in the creation of architectural drawings. There are many symbols for a variety of objects, from furniture to kitchen equipment, and these generic elements can be placed in a drawing to give a sense of scale and an understanding of function in a building or space.

Observational sketches

Rough sketches that describe what can be seen. Observational sketches are useful to record initial impressions of a site. These could record a journey, details or materials of the site. This process can reveal important issues for design consideration and inform the design idea.


Orientation is one of the ways in which a building relates to its site. Orientation is described using the north point on the plan as a point of reference. Orientation refers to its relationship to the prevailing local climatic conditions such as the sun and wind.

Orthographic projection

This refers to the idea of representing three-dimensional forms as two­dimensional images. Orthographic projections usually take the form of plan, section and elevation drawings.


This is a type of drawing that reduces a concept of a building or scheme to its most simplified form so that it is easy to understand. Even the most complex building can be represented using a parti diagram. This is normally developed at the early stages of design and is a reference as the design evolves.


This refers to the two-dimensional representation or description of a three-dimensional form or space.


This is a technique that merges one image of a building or object into another. CAD software allows for this type of image to be created quickly and effectively by merging digital photos or images.


A portfolio is a collection of information types. This can be comprised of drawings, photos, sketches or computer animations.

A portfolio is usually directed towards a particular audience or a particular project.


The satisfactory relationship of individual parts to the whole. In architectural terms, proportion can apply to the idea of a building design or to the idea of a presentation drawing. The overall presentation needs to be proportionally correct in terms of organisation and layout. Render

A drawing can sometimes need additional colour or texture finish to describe materials or colour. When applying colour or texture to a drawing this is known as rendering.


When spaces are described accurately the drawings need to be to a specific scale. This may be metric (metres, centimetres, millimetres) or imperial (feet and inches) or some other understood system or module. Scale is described as a ratio. A full-size scale is 1:1, half size, 1:2 and so on. The appropriate scale needs to correspond to the appropriate level of thinking and consideration for the drawing, so a drawing of a street will usually be produced at 1:500 whereas a drawing of a piece of furniture is more usually produced at 1:5 scale.


A section drawing is a vertical cut through of a building or space. This cut reveals connections within the building between different floor levels, such as double height spaces or changes of level. Section drawings can also connect to the outside.

Sectional perspective

This is a hybrid drawing combining a perspective drawing with a section drawing. This can suggest a relationship occurring inside the building and connect it with one outside the building. A sectional perspective turns a two-dimensional section into a three-dimensional perspective drawing


A storyboard is a visual framework that is used in many areas of design and graphic representation from advertising to film-making. It can be a useful mechanism that explains a concept as a series of images (a bit like a comic strip). Storyboards can suggest both time and visual description.


Images may be used collectively to describe an idea. Superimposed images are layered on top of one another to create a composite picture. For example, a sketch image superimposed on top or beneath a more formal line drawing of a plan or section.


A survey is a record or drawing that measures a space or building quantifying what exists.

Thumbnail sketch

A small sketch that describes an idea or concept in outline form. It is referred to as a thumbnail; due to its relative size it is effectively a reduced version of a larger image. Thumbnails are also used for referencing digital images or web images.


Images of buildings that have been composed for presentation are sometimes referred to as ‘visuals’. These may include perspective drawings, CAD drawings and photographs.

Worm’s-eye view

This is a perspective view from beneath, as though viewing from underneath a building or space.

Updated: 27th November 2014 — 4:16 pm