About Microsoft VISIO Professional

Architecture Work P.C.

William Robert King, R.A.

In full disclosure, I am probably one of  Microsoft VISIO’s biggest fans and maybe one of a handful of architects that regularly work with this CADD (Computer Assisted Drafting & Design) program on the East coast – there are lots of architects using the products on the West coast, likely because change is easier to accept there I suppose? I also am friends since college of one of the founders of the company (now owned by Microsoft) & designer of the software. This relationship is also what got me so avidly into computers. 

I am a rare & getting rarer architect whose craft at drawing began in the days of pen & pencil hand drawings who now draws almost exclusively in CADD. I also used to build scale models by hand – no more as that has also been replaced by electronic three dimensional imaging. Along with digital printing, there’s even less “craft” to either enjoy or “suffer” as the case may be. 

Most architects draw in some form of electronic media these days, although architects of my age group & vintage generally do not. This is mostly due to a generational gap in which CADD retraining is very time consuming & it’s easier to just hire employees or drafting services to do this. I made the decision over 20 years ago to make the investment to retrain my skills in computer drafting – the ease of learning VISIO was the main motivator. Architects using other drafting products such as AutoCad require almost a year or more of classroom study, which is daunting if you’re already in the job mainstream. Most current students are now savvy enough to learn CADD before and/or during their educations. Some learn to use friendlier programs like Google Sketchup to get through school, but AutoCad is inevitable after graduation. 

The downside of Microsoft VISIO is that it is strictly two dimensional drafting. The good news is that this covers 99% of an architects work. Very large firms use BIM (Building Information Management) and other sophisticated modeling programs to describe their work as the fees being generated & the coordination of trades so complex, that this is almost a requirement. We get around this by using VISIO to create plans & elevations and then using the “save as” function in the program, to convert the VISIO drawing into an AutoCad drawing. We can then import this info into AutoDesk’s 3D StudioMax and do virtual modeling. Since the time spent drawing in VISIO verses AutoCad is about 10 hours to one, this is a huge advantage. We can also send the DWG files around to our engineers for them to use as templates for their work, since most engineers are strictly on AutoCad. 

On the upside, I use Microsoft VISIO as my standard design tool (no pencils or paper), which is not possible to do in AutoCad as it is way too cumbersome. We, however, can import images, plans, photos, you name it onto a virtual drawing page – scale it and start drawing over it first with diagrams & later with walls & doors to quickly explore ideas & send them around in emails to include others in the discussion. Other more complex elements of the drawing are added by using a library of thousands of standard shapes & symbols that drag & drop into place, or use as we do, custom shapes & symbols we’ve created over the years. 

The purpose of any set of plans is to communicate to the client and the contractor what you intend to build. The faster and clearer you communicate this, the better the relationship with the entire project team.