Karen Lewis Publishes New Book, Graphic Design for Architects

Knowlton School Associate Professor of Architecture Karen Lewis has published Graphic Design for Architects: A Manual for Visual Communication, a handbook of techniques, explanations and examples of graphic design relevant to architects, landscape architects, and city and regional planners. The book is a recent Amazon.com Number 1 best seller.

“The book is part practice, part theory,” says Lewis, who began the book when she first arrived at the Knowlton School.  “I was the last architecture class at Harvard that hand drew sections and plans. After our first semester our work was entirely digital.

“I realized a huge part of our intellectual development was missing – how to explain ideas visually, how to present information as an argument, and it wasn’t just plans and sections that we needed to know how to design. We need to design arguments, presentations, books, diagrams – all of these parts of architectural discourse that have arisen as a result of laying out information.”

As architectural communication increases to include more components of a project, designers need to be knowledgeable about all aspects of visual communication.

“At the end of each chapter I’ve included interviews with other architects, graphic designers and urbanists who are at the forefront of these techniques. I interviewed Michael Rock, principal of 2x4, at his firm in New York. I’ve also met with Nicholas Felton, a very famous graphic designer whose annual reports formed the background for Facebook’s timeline.  Former LeFevre fellows William O-Brien, Janette Kim, Michael Piper are interviewed. Luke Bulman and Prem Kristhamunthy, two designers who do a lot of graphic work for architecture schools, are part of this publication.

“Unlike schools that focus on how to use the computer as a form-making tool, Harvard was deeply interested in how to present information. It was the time of OMA and West 8, and our scope was expanding beyond the building envelope. We needed to know how to present information about the impacts of our analysis, the ways we were capturing and organizing information, and about how to present our work clearly, logically, and to form an argument.”

Graphic Design for Architects expands on information found in graphic and information design books and addresses each phase of architectural production, covering portfolio design, competition boards, signage, presentation graphics and many other topics. If Rhino or Catia has transformed our ability to wrestle complex building form, Illustrator and InDesign have transformed our abilities to position and explain our ideas, not just explain buildings. It wasn’t enough to explain architectural form with the computer. The book combines and expands on information typically found in graphic design and information design.

The techniques outlined in this book are intended to assist architects in processing, organizing and structuring their work through the lens of visual communication. Main topics include Presenting Yourself, Presenting to an Audience, Architectural Communication and Communication as Architecture. Chapters directly address projects and topics relevant to the work of architects, while the information inside each chapter provides a complete reference of graphic techniques and methods that are most useful to those in the profession as well as students of architecture.

Karen Lewis is principal of Implement, a design firm working at the intersection of information, architecture and landscape. Her work in visualizing complex systems has been recognized and exhibited by the Van Alen Institute, Design Trust for Public Space, Buckminster Fuller Institute, The Architecture Center, Terreform, Boston Society for Architects and the National Parks Service, and has been published in Architectural Record, Landscape Architecture and Design and Culture. She is the co-editor and designer of “Diagrammatically,” a recent edition of Urban Infill, which was a finalist for a Places publication award (2013) and served as the creative director for Stoss: Source Book 7. In the spring of 2014, Lewis organized the panel “Gathering and Analyzing Big Data.”

Before joining the faculty of the Knowlton School in 2009, Lewis was an assistant professor of architecture at the University of Kentucky College of Design and a teaching fellow in the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard College.

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