It’s Been 50 years…

…since I first stepped into the classroom at Ohio University to begin my teaching career. To my great good fortune, I was assigned to teach a first-year design studio with Norm Crowe, who taught me how to teach in the way he planned the course syllabus, carefully thought out studio projects, prepared for each class, and displayed admirable patience with beginning students. I also taught an architectural graphics course, the class notes for which resulted in the publication of Architectural Graphics in 1975.

Above is one of a series of posters I did to advertise the School of Architecture’s lecture series. It depicts the Athens County courthouse in the middle of town.

Building Codes Illustrated, 7th Edition

Even with the nice, sunny weather we’ve been having, there hasn’t been enough time to go out and capture scenes in and around Seattle. I’ve been busily working with Steve Winkel and editors from Wiley and the International Code Council on revising Building Codes Illustrated to incorporate the changes effected by the 2021 edition of the International Building Code. For example, the title page above reflects how the development of mass timber construction has led to the creation of new categories of Type IV construction.

This page illustrates the necessary provisions for accessible electric vehicle charging stations (EVCS).

This series of illustrations is an example of how the book attempts to explain in graphical terms the intent of code requirements. In this case, these graphics illuminate the theory underlying horizontal exits.

Note: All of the illustrations in BCI were created in Adobe Illustrator.

Using Adobe Illustrator

I’m working again with Steve Winkel of the Preview Group, preparing the sixth edition of Building Codes Illustrated: A Guide to Understanding the 2018 International Building Code. When I first began working with Steve in 2000 on the first edition of BCI, I had decided to use Adobe Illustrator to prepare all of the illustrations since I knew that the International Building Code was going to be updated every three years and that many of the graphics would have to be revised on a regular basis.

As I originally posted back in 2013: “I use Illustrator basically as a drafting tool to create the visual ideas I have in mind. The many benefits of vector graphics include: using the Save As capability to try out different options; having precise control over line weights and tonal values; being able to resize drawings easily to fit a page layout; and reusing elements that I had already drawn. Most importantly, when working on a revision, instead of having to completely redo a hand drawing, I can open an existing drawing file and make the necessary changes to create the updated version.”

Here are a few examples.

It’s Been Four Decades…

To mark the 40th anniversary of the publication of my first book, Architectural Graphics, I want to give a brief history of its birth.

In my first teaching job in the School of Architecture at Ohio University, one of my assignments was an architectural graphics course. This was in 1972, a time before personal desktop computers, when the mimeograph machine was being replaced gradually by the photocopier, and letters, memos, and other correspondence were being typed on an IBM Selectric. To prepare for each class, I would hand-letter and hand-draw notes the night before and have the notes photocopied for the students. At the end of the semester, I had compiled over 400 pages of material.

The chair of the department, Forrest Wilson, took the class notes to his publisher in New York, Van Nostrand Reinhold, who expressed interest in publishing my class notes. I asked that the price for the book be set at $4.95 and VNR said that would be possible if I were able to edit the material down to 128 pages. After the 1974–75 academic year ended, I was able to produce all 128 camera-ready pages in a three-week period, drawing on plain white bond paper with a Scripto lead pencil, a drafting triangle, and a scale.

I still remember delivering the final, camera-ready pages to VNR’s offices in New York City, and, sitting in a small office with the copyeditor, making corrections to the text on the spot using an eraser and an erasing shield.

Here are a few sample pages from the first edition of Architectural Graphics.

Gabi’s Book Signing


Last Sunday, I attended a book signing by Gabi Campanario at Elliott Bay Books in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle. In addition to The Art of Urban Sketching, the event featured two more of Gabi’s recent publications. The first is Seattle Sketcher, based on Gabi’s exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry highlighting his five years of work documenting the people, places, and events in the Pacific Northwest for the Seattle Times. The second is the first in a series of more focused urban sketching handbooks, Architecture and Cityscapes: Tips and Techniques for Drawing on Location. Both are highly recommended.

Architecture: Form, Space &, Order

Much of my attention recently has been attuned to preparing the fourth edition of Architecture: Form, Space & Order. Working on this revision is giving me the opportunity to explore and attempt to understand the spate of irregular forms and compositions that dominate our consciousness.

Beginning a project is always enjoyable; thinking about all of the possible directions a work can take can be liberating. But beginnings can also be difficult when innumerable false starts interrupt the work flow and inhibit a sense of progress. I have come to realize, however, that these friction points are a necessary part of the creative process for they compel us to slow down, to pause, and to think ahead rather than simply charge forward into uncharted territory. One way I occupy these uncertain spaces is by roughing out ideas with a pen on paper and teasing out possibilities with a certain tactile rhythm. Here are a few examples.

AFSO4e_Studies1 AFSO4e_Studies2 AFSO4e_Studies3

A Brief History of Bookmaking II

The process of handlettering and drawing camera-ready pages for my books continued throughout the 1980s. But in the early 1990s, armed with an Apple Macintosh SE, a laser printer, and digital typography, I made my first foray into using digital technology as I prepared A Visual Dictionary of Architecture.

After assembling and organizing the terms and definitions into sets, I laid the material out on oversized sheets in Aldus Pagemaker. It was fortuitous that Adobe had just recently scanned my handlettering and created the digital font, Tekton, which I used for the dictionary terms and definitions. After printing the pages out, I laid tracing paper over each page and roughed out the size and position of each illustration to fit. I would then work back and forth, adjusting the placement of text in Pagemaker as necessary to accommodate the illustrations before doing the final drawings by hand on Clearprint vellum. After having the drawings scanned, I placed the .tiff files into the Pagemaker files.




In 2000, I began working with Steve Winkel on the first edition of Building Codes Illustrated. Knowing that the International Building Code, on which the text was based, was going to be updated every three years, I decided to do all of the drawings in Adobe Illustrator, learning the program on the fly.

I use Illustrator basically as a drafting tool to create the visual ideas I have in mind. The many benefits of vector graphics include: using the Save As capability to try out different options; having precise control over line weights and tonal values; being able to resize drawings easily to fit a page layout; and reusing elements that I had already drawn. Most importantly, when working on a revision, instead of having to completely redo a hand drawing, I can open an existing drawing file and make the necessary changes to create the updated version.


Because I am using digital tools more and more in my bookmaking, I cherish even more the opportunities to draw by hand when out on location. Even as I experiment with drawing on my iPad, the connection between eye, mind, and hand when I draw with a fountain pen in a sketchbook remains a pleasure.

A Brief History of Bookmaking

Following up on a previous post about the making of Green Building Illustrated, here is a brief history of my publications.

My first book, Architectural Graphics, was published 38 years ago, in 1975. Due to the efforts of Forrest Wilson, Van Nostrand Reinhold offered me a contract based on of over 400 pages of notes I had prepared for the very first class I taught at Ohio University. I still remember condensing those notes and handlettering and drawing the final camera-ready pages with a Scripto lead pencil, a triangle, and a scale. I completed all 128 pages in a little over three weeks. Here is a sample page.


Building Construction Illustrated soon followed, using the same tools and process. But this time I worked on tabloid-size paper instead of letter-size bond paper. Interestingly, after a few years of complaints from bookstores, the pages were reduced to letter-size.


Wanting to use more subtle hatching and shades of gray, I used a 0.3 mm lead pencil to handletter and draw the images on Clearprint vellum for the camera-ready pages of my third book—Architecture: Form, Space and Order. Here are a couple of screen shots for a visual comparison.


My next post will describe the first time I used digital technology in my bookmaking.

Green Building Illustrated

I’ve been busy this summer developing a new textbook, Green Building Illustrated, which attempts to explain the theory, practices, and complexities of sustainable design. Working with excellent material written by engineer and researcher Ian M. Shapiro, my focus is on presenting the ideas and information in graphic form, as I have done with my previous Illustrated texts. Here is a few drafts of page spreads that I hope will whet your appetite.



I’m laying out the book in Adobe InDesign and producing the drawings in Adobe Illustrator. Even before I begin work in Illustrator, however, I usually have a pretty good idea in mind of the image I want to produce and sometimes use freehand sketches to review and refine the possibilities I will be exploring.


In a future post, I will explain the reasons for my use of digital media to produce the drawings.

Forrest Wilson

[Note: I’m reposting this from my Facebook page from January 2011.] As I was going through my old files last year, I rediscovered this portrait of Forrest Wilson that I did for his 70th birthday. I owe Forrest more than I can ever repay for what he has done for me and my family. As Director of the School of Architecture at Ohio University, he offered me my first teaching position and was also responsible for my entry into the publishing business when he showed my drawing course notes to Van Nostrand Reinhold, his publisher in New York. The notes were subsequently published as Architectural Graphics in 1975. Forrest is warm and generous—an artist, sculptor, writer, and builder who has written and illustrated many delightful and insightful books, such as What It Feels Like to be a Building; The Joy of Building; Structure: The Essence of Architecture; A History of Architecture on the Disparative Method: With Apologies to Sir Banister Fletcher (all eighteen editions). I titled the portrait: You Are What You Draw. If you look closely at the drawing, it incorporates the animal and human figures that Forrest used to illustrate his books.