Icons 1643403812 concsketching icon db motion Conceptual Sketching

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Designers and Architects alike use the practice of conceptual sketching as a way of exploring ideas. Conceptual Sketching suggests ideas and relationships in the process of a project at any scale. Sketching is a way of visualizing ideas, exploring them, and communicating them to others. Conceptual sketching occurs across the design process-in design thinking, design research, design process, and design making.

Take a look at the work of Spanish Architect Carme Pinos. She shares conceptual sketches of the intention of her designs. Look at the use of conceptual drawings across several different types and scales of projects. Conceptual sketching occurs across nine different scales-nano, pattern, space, architecture, neighborhood, urban, region, and world. It builds a visual archive of ideas throughout the design process, starting with concepts, visualization of research information, objectives, strategies, and design responses. Conceptual sketches build a visual database and process recording of ideas that can be reviewed, selected, and inform throughout the design process.

Start capturing your ideas with conceptual sketches!!!

Activity 1 – Conceptual Sketching Shapes

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How do you conceptualize something in a quick sketch? Doodle lines can suggest simple shapes such as a line, a circle or a square, or a circle inside or overlapping a square or rectangle. A single line can be straight, wavy, or angular. Like visual note-taking, conceptual sketching is active thinking and exploring what could be! Is it a pin, a sidewalk, a row, a series of trees in a line? Is it a wall, a fence, or an overall building? In one 1-minute, draw three (or more!) linear ideas, three or more radial or circular schemes, and three or more rectangular schemes. Upload your concepts to the gallery!

Activity 2 – Conceptual Sketching Forms

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You can also introduce forms in conceptual sketches. To get started, try drawing simple lines, then turn the lines into shapes, and the shapes into a form. Take lines into 3-dimensional volume. Connect lines into a concept of interrelated forms. Think of conditions that are organic or flowing like spirals. Your conceptual sketches can study different relationships between forms and experiment with what serves a propose for a design; it can be shared and reviewed by people who will use the spaces that are created. Conceptual sketches are wonderful ways to get feedback at the beginning stages of ideas. Try your hand and conceptually sketch interrelated forms.

Activity 3 – Conceptual Sketching Spaces

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Now that you can try shapes and forms try drawing interior spaces. Interior spaces have three distinct planes- the ground plane, the surround planes, and the above plane. There are many possible combinations of shapes and volumes of interior space. Design of space is in response to circulation (entry into around and out), volume for activities, natural light, wet or dry, quiet or noisy, intimate of public. Create intimate spaces to monumental spaces with different planar development using conceptual sketching. See how your conceptual sketches can communicate different shapes and scales of spaces.

Activity 4 – Conceptual Sketch Landscapes

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Now think about landscapes. Is your landscape flat, rolling, a valley, a mountaintop? A single line can compose the place you are experiencing outdoors and share an idea to build a shelter or space for people. Look at Carme Pinos’s Landscape Projects. Create a beachfront space, a plaza, or a forest space in your city using conceptual sketches to suggest inviting spaces.

Activity 5 – Conceptual Sketch Ideas

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Another important use of conceptual sketching is to communicate the idea or concept for a particular stage of the design process. These sketches help visualize thinking. And they begin to choreograph experience.

Look again at Estudio Carme Pinos and BIG Bjarke Ingels Group and think about how you can communicate ideas with conceptual sketches! These sketches can suggest ideas in plan, section, elevation and isometric. Combining different sketches begins to visually key and unify a concept.

Draw an idea in three different views and emphasize the main shapes, forms, and space.

Activity 6 – Conceptual Sketches Studied and Realized

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Once a series of conceptual studies captures the imagination and the focus of the needs, desires, activities, budget, and site context for people involved, the conceptual sketches can delineate or lay out the narrative of the design process. Ideas from the beginning throughout the scale shifts and realization of the design can be visualized and articulate solutions. Starting with conceptual ideas, experimenting with them, exploring alternatives are all part of the iterative conceptualization, testing, and evaluation of what could be. Take a concept and develop it into a full fledged design.

Activity 7 – Conceptual Sketch Animation

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Once you have sketched out various phases of an idea and reviewed the ideas with the people who will inhabit or use the spaces, you can combine conceptual sketches into ideas into built voids and forms, and then experiences. Animating a series of conceptual sketches can help outline the complexities of the design process while presenting diverse approaches to the same solution. All of these reflective and exploratory sketches can help build the narrative in response to culture, location, time, and technology.


  • A conceptual sketch has little influence on a highly complex project.
  • A conceptual sketch can be interactive with the landscape.
  • What is the idea that a conceptual sketch communicates?
  • Conceptual Sketching not only introduces ideas of flat shapes but also forms and spaces such as: volume, interior space, and even terrain.
  • Simple doodle lines that suggest simple lines, circles, or squares, can build a visual database and process recording of ideas that can be reviewed, selected, and informed throughout the design process.
  • Conceptual Sketches are only useful for the beginning stages.
  • How does conceptual sketching take part in the designing process?
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