What architecture software should I learn
October 2, 2011 12:16 PM   Subscribe

What architecture or rendering software should I learn in order to make myself more marketable to architecture firms?

I'll be graduating from architecture school this May, with skill set that is kind of out of the ordinary. At my school, we put heavy emphasis on hand-drawing and drafting, and watercolor rendering. As a result, I didn't touch a computer until my fourth year of school. What programs should I try to pick up/get better at to improve my chance of getting a job in this market?

Currently, I have a basic proficiency in AutoCAD (meaning I can do everything I can do by hand on AutoCAD; I understand layers and blocks, and get the general idea of an xref but don't really understand how to use it in a workflow). Also, I am quite good at rendering in Photoshop, and can get by pretty well in InDesign, Illustrator, and Google Sketchup.

I've spent much of my life on computers, and tend to pick up new software pretty quickly. I personally own a Mac, but also have access to a few big time rendering towers at school. Where should I go next?
posted by daniel striped tiger to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not an architect. But I share space in an office shared by a bunch of architects. The two programs they use most seems to be AutoCAD and sketchup.
posted by bitdamaged at 12:19 PM on October 2, 2011

Your school sounds like mine, only I graduated in 1997. Unfortunately, you're graduating into an extremely difficult job market, but I'm sure you're aware of that.

Every ad I see, and I've been looking for quite a while, is looking for Revit experience. At least in my area, it seems like once the recession hit and everyone got laid off, firms are making the switch to Revit in bulk and only looking to hire people that already know the program instead of trying to train people that already are proficient in other drafting programs. Since you're a student, you can download Revit from AutoDesk for free - I don't believe it's avaliable for Mac. While you should spend time developing skills at rendering in the program, most ads I see are looking for construction document experience, and taking classes alone won't really cut it.

While I'm not very well versed in Sketchup, I have over a decade of experience with AutoCAD, but so does most everyone else, so knowing that program well won't really give you much of an advantage. Photoshop will help - my old firm used to use it to render drawings created in AutoCAD (but they've switched over to Revit, so....). I also see ads mentioning Illustrator, but not so much.

Although my eyes glaze over when I see the word "workflow", I could probably write a book on proper use of xrefs, but that's an answer to a different question. Different firms will make use of them in different ways, so it's better to just get a better idea of how they work, how to set up your drawings from the very start so that they're easier to xref, and the differences between "attachments" and "overlays" and when to use each.

Note that in addition to all the architectural programs, it'll also help greatly if you have basic knowledge of the MS Office suite of programs.
posted by LionIndex at 12:39 PM on October 2, 2011

If you wanna go really hifalutin', there's also Maya, but I've never seen a firm actually look for that.
posted by LionIndex at 12:40 PM on October 2, 2011

Revit, definitely. I've gone for a few interviews at architecture firms this year (for a non-architectural position) and they were all using Revit in addition to AutoCAD.
posted by crankylex at 2:38 PM on October 2, 2011

I am an architectural professional, graduated in 2000 (with only one AutoCAD class under my belt, incidentally). You need AutoCAD and Revit, Sketchup is a plus. Longer version: read LionIndex's comment.
posted by Specklet at 3:08 PM on October 2, 2011

Just a suggestion, for future career perspective: check out this guy here. He worked in architectural visualisation for years - and just look what he's gone on to...
posted by progosk at 3:14 PM on October 2, 2011

Oh, and: here he is chatting with the Autodesk folks back in 2008.
posted by progosk at 3:17 PM on October 2, 2011

Revit, again. Just asked architect pal who says that's what everyone seems to be going to.
posted by mareli at 6:27 PM on October 2, 2011

I would get comfortable enough with Revit to put it on your resume. That's it. No one is going to expect you to be proficient with Revit having never actually worked on a real project while using it. Same with AutoCad. Don't worry about learning any rendering programs. Even most top design firms have people do the nice renderings for them. As a young person they are going to be far more interested in your design skills rather than rendering ability.

Instead of working on learning a rendering program this year, work on making a kick ass portfolio that showcases your design ability. Designers will see through bullshit flashy renderings in a heartbeat if your design sucks.

But the most important thing to do is meet as many people as possible in the design profession. This is your best shot at getting a job over anything else right now. Ask local architecture offices to tour their studios and projects. Ask your professors if they can give you contact information of former students who are in a position to recommend you for a job. Start working on a backup plan too. Spend this year preparing yourself for graduation while not sweating your education. I wish I had done that instead of working so hard on my thesis.

The economy is still shit and if you have been paying attention it isn't getting any better. Work for architects is still hard to come by. I graduated 2 years ago with a Masters from a top 5 arch program, spent 1 year looking for a job and finally got called back by a firm I had interned with and have been working with them for just over a year. It wasn't because I had an awesome portfolio or knew plenty of computer programs. I got a job because of the work I did as an intern and the people I met along the way.
posted by comatose at 9:09 PM on October 2, 2011

It somewhat depends on the size and kind of firm you end up at. Generally: Sketchup, Revit, 3DS Max is probably pretty safe. Plus the Adobe suite, especially photoshop and indesign.

A small firm may rely more heavily on Sketchup for visualization and presentation (maybe even documentation, using LayOut), or may rely on someone who has 3DS or equivalent skills for rendering. A large firm is more likely to be willing to train you up, and may have less of an expectation that you can sit down and produce on day 1.

My firm, at least, has the attitude that employees don't need to know specific software — they need to know how to learn new software. So new hires get a run-through of Revit when they start, both of general BIM philosophy and procedures, but also office-specific practices and standards, which can make the use of a software tool a very different experience from one office to the next.
posted by misterbrandt at 9:43 PM on October 2, 2011

Instead of working on learning a rendering program this year, work on making a kick ass portfolio that showcases your design ability. Designers will see through bullshit flashy renderings in a heartbeat if your design sucks.

Well, I've never worked anywhere that hired people right out of school based on their design ability, because someone right out of school is not going to be designing anything (we actually find it funny that applicants think that's what they'll be doing). We did, however, put them right to work doing renderings. You should certainly have a decent portfolio, but you'll need to prove that you can contribute and be billable. I guess there's always a chance that you'll find someplace different, but a design-oriented portfolio hasn't been an issue in my experience.
posted by LionIndex at 8:11 AM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

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