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September 12, 2005

Digital Drafting vs. Hand Drafting

As it seems everything becomes digitized and done on computers it is interesting to reflect on the role of computer aided design (CAD) in landscape design. Interestingly, many garden designers and landscape architects still draw their plans by hand, especially at a residential scale. Hand drawings have the benefit of a traditional drawn look that works well for residential design. Most major design firms, in the design professions use AutoCAD or some alternative program to draft, (we use Vectorworks) especially for large scale projects.

We prefer computer drafted plans for a number of reasons. First, we typically have our sites digital surveyed with GPS technology. This ensures an accurate basemap and topographic information that can help in project planning.

The other major advantage to digital drawings is their flexibility. Revisions can be made simply without erasing or redrawing plans. We typically color our plans with digital illustration tools that give our plans a more hand drawn and colored look. Often we will include color photographs on plans that can be difficult to incorporate with hand drawn full size materials.

Digital tools are also constantly improving. Digital drawing tablets and ever improving technology mean the gap between digital and hand rendered graphics is closing.

Posted by Michael O'Connell at September 12, 2005 06:49 PM


Landscape design is certainly changing with the use of technology. I had physically worked for Earthinhandlandscape out of Easton, Pa , which is a very small company. They do all their plans by hand, but have experiemented with a landscape designer who used computer layouts. Possibly due to an inflexible designer, we desided to continue the practice of hand made plans. I still have hope for them, that one day they will become modernized.

Posted by: Adam at June 3, 2006 04:22 PM

I am taking Landscaping Design classes. One of the required courses are communications I which I need to write a paper on. Hand drafting vs Computer landscaping is the subject I am looking into. If you would have information to give on this subject it would be appreciated.

Posted by: Jody Acciani at June 4, 2006 07:31 PM


Thank you for the comment. There are no resources that jump to mind on the subject but I can give you my two cents.

Computer drafting is better suited to certain applications, especially for commercial projects, because of its ease of reproducibility and edibility. Hand drawn graphics are typically preferred for illustratives such as sections, isometrics and other non plan views, as computer drawn materials can look cookie cutter.

You see more hand drawn plans in residential design, where the plans are relatively small and done by smaller firms. Most big firms use Autocad to draft their plans, we use Vectorworks.

Computer drawing tablets, and programs like Sketch-up, Maya and 3D Studio Max are definitely bridging the gap between hand drawn and computer rendered graphics. Still for basic communication, concept development and speed, hand drawn graphics still have a place. For planning and 2D views, as far as I am concerned CAD is the best option.

Hope this helps.

Posted by: Michael O'Connell at June 5, 2006 07:47 AM

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