How to Create a Successful Architecture Presentation Board

This article will explore the elements that go into creating a successful architecture presentation board, discussing; layout, visual hierarchy, structure, color, image selection, what to include, what software to use and tutorials on how to use it, and where to look for inspiration.

Providing you with the knowledge and confidence to produce a professional, creative product that communicates the heart and soul of your work. 

What are presentation boards used for?

Architecture presentation boards serve several different purposes:

  • Students use them to present work to their professors and peers.
  • Professionals use them to present designs to clients, committees, shareholders, and exhibitions.
  • They may be a means to win a commission, or they may help to take a project into the next stage. 

What is the purpose of an architecture presentation board?

Architecture presentation boards are a tool to showcase your work. They are a way to draw your viewers into your design process and methods, providing an overall summary and vision for the project. You are communicating your design and showcasing your artistic skills, and your sense as a designer. 

Every successful project has a central concept, a “big picture” theme that gives it purpose. When you look at your project, what is that big idea?

As it is central to your whole project, this will guide you as you prioritize your work and determine the flow of your ideas. The primary purpose of your project is to communicate this central concept in the best way possible.  

How to create an architectural presentation board

Structure/Order

Before you begin laying out your presentation board, think about the main points you want to convey. From there, determine what images and graphics will best represent those ideas. Gather all of the information you will need, making a note of what graphics and text you will need to communicate your ideas.

Remember, you are essentially telling a story, so pay close attention to the flow of the narrative as you arrange your elements. Consider the beginning, middle, and end of the story you want to tell.

Depending on the guidelines you are given, you may present your boards side-by-side, as separate boards presented in a sequence, or as one big poster. If no strict parameters are in place, figure out what structure and layout will tell your story the best. While a series of boards will logically convey your story, one big board is often the easiest option.

Presentation-board.jpg

Orientation

Will your presentation board be oriented in portrait or landscape? Sometimes you will get to make that call, but many times it will be determined for you by your director, client, or professor. Make sure you know beforehand what the parameters are.

If you get to choose, give it some careful thought. Which orientation will give your graphics the room they need to be the most impactful? Which orientation gives your whole project a natural flow for your narrative? 

Size

Much like orientation, you may or may not get to decide what size your presentation boards will be. You will often have restrictions that limit you to a specific board size and a certain number of boards.

Make sure you know your limitations before you start working on your layout. Your boards should all be the same size to achieve continuity.

You can use a combination of different sizes to produce a board of equivalent size. For example, a combination of two A1  boards will add up to an A0 board. 

Layout

The most common way to organize your layout is by using a grid. Using a grid will help keep the boards in your project consistent.

If you are using InDesign, you can achieve this uniformity by creating a master page that acts as a template for your whole project.

Templates are useful because they can save you a great deal of time, and they ensure uniformity throughout your project. Your grid should include spaces for titles, numbering, your name, and any other information that will repeat on each board.

Before you start laying out your actual boards, sketch out various configurations so you can determine what will work best. You can do a small-scale sketch to get the basic idea of the flow of each board. This allows you to change the arrangement of the elements before you commit to anything on your boards.

You can do this initial phase using software or sketching it out on paper.

After you have determined what type of layout you want to use, estimate how much space you will need for each element on the page. Each graphic needs to be large enough to have an impact. Determine how much space you would like to leave in between each graphic.

Use equal spacing throughout your project to create continuity. Here is an excellent tutorial on planning your layout using Indesign:

The layout of each board should show the relationship between all of the elements. It should be clear to read and follow a logical left-to-right and top-to-bottom progression.

Imagine a viewer looking at your presentation. What do you want them to see first? What is the best way to make them understand your project? Does your layout achieve this?

You should also pay attention to the relationship between each board. Is there a logical progression from one board to the next? Does the sequence make sense? If you will not display the boards in a configuration that makes them all visible at once, make sure you number them, so your viewers follow the correct sequence.

Don’t feel the need to fill every square inch of your presentation board. Leave enough space so that it doesn’t look too busy or cluttered. On the other hand, don’t leave too much space either, or it will look like you didn’t finish the board, didn’t have enough material for the board, or that you didn’t work very hard.

Visual Hierarchy

Some of your images need to garner more attention than others. Consider all of the graphics and text you will be using. Which images are central to your main idea?

The images that are essential for communicating your vision should take up more space in the grid. You should have an image that people can see from a distance and other images that they can see from up close. This creates a visual hierarchy.

What is the most important aspect of your project? Make that the element people can see from a distance. There are ways to accomplish this in addition to making it the largest element on the board. For example, you can use color to draw the viewer’s eye to a particular graphic, especially if the rest of the board is monochromatic.

Visual hierarchy can be created through proportion
Visual hierarchy can be created through proportion
Structure and order can be determined by size and shape
Structure and order can be determined by size and shape

Background

The background of your presentation board should be simple. This allows the viewer to see all of the elements without the distraction of a busy background. You don’t want anything to detract from the critical details of the board. Your graphics and text should be the primary focus; don’t use bold colors or textures that will detract from that.

A white, or even light gray, background will make your graphics and text stand out. It will give your presentation a professional look that isn’t too busy. You can use other colors if they help convey your central concept; just make sure the background is plain enough that the viewer focuses on the design, not the background.

Be very selective when using a black background, as it may make the text harder to read, and your graphics may not stand out as much as you would like them to.

Whatever color you choose for your background, use it to your advantage.  Effective use of negative space can make your design look clean and professional.

Color Scheme

Many professionals and students stick with black, white, and gray for presentation boards. While this can give your boards a professional look, don’t be afraid to add a pop of color. While sticking with greyscale may seem like a safe choice, there is a risk of blacks and greys making your design seem cold and lifeless.

Think about ways you can use color to bring life to your design. You may opt to add just one color, such as green for landscaping, to provide contrast to an otherwise monochromatic presentation. You could also bring in an additional color to represent a particular building material (brick, glass, wood, etc.).

You can also choose a brighter, more eye-catching color, such as yellow or orange, as a feature in your diagrams. Whatever you choose, use the same color across all of your boards to maintain a consistent flow.

If color is one of the main focuses of your project, or if there are details that you cannot adequately represent in greyscale, then you should feel free to delve deeper into the world of color. Don’t limit yourself to merely an accent color in this case, but don’t take it too far and make the mistake of overusing color to the point where it is a distraction.

Font

All of the text throughout your project should be in one font. Don’t use font style as an avenue for creativity; it is more important to make sure the font style and size produce a readable, consistent product.

Sans serif fonts, such as Helvetica or Futura, will give your presentation a clean, minimalist look.

Avoid script or handwriting fonts, as they will not give your boards a clean, professional look. Keep the color of your font dark (black or dark grey work well) to provide contrast to a light background.

Whichever font you select, make sure the style and size are readable for your viewers before you finalize your boards. The best way to do this is to print out your text on an A3 paper, pin it up somewhere, and stand back to see how it will look when it is displayed.

Architectural Fonts
Architectural Fonts

Architectural Fonts

A list and description of the most popular fonts for architecture

Title

The most common placement for a title bar is the top left since your board will most likely follow a left-to-right and top-to-bottom progression. Many successful and professional-looking boards have titles at the top right, at the bottom, or somewhere in the middle.

Choose the position that makes the most sense for your project. As with other design decisions, make sure it does not distract the viewer from seeing the big picture.  

Make sure the title placement is consistent from board to board. This consistency will be both visually appealing and professional.

Text

Keep your explanations concise. People are not going to spend much time reading lengthy descriptions, so only include relevant information and keep it short. Remember that your text boxes are part of your visual hierarchy, so utilize the size and alignment to complement your graphics. Consider the various ways you can align the text within the text box. What flows best? What is pleasing to the eye?

Aside from your title, do not use all capitals in your text. Your work will look more professional and be easier to read if you stick with the standard rules of capitalization.

Whenever possible, use a graphic or a sketch, rather than an explanation, to portray an idea. Since this is a graphic presentation, you want your graphics to tell the story, not your text. Include a concise statement that highlights the features of your design. This is basically your sales pitch; lengthy explanations will make you lose your audience.

Image Selection

The selection of images is a critical part of putting your presentation board together. The graphics you choose can make or break your entire design presentation.

You want to select the images that best convey the important details of your project. If you use too many images, your presentation may appear cluttered and confusing. If you use too few images, it may look like you did not put much effort into your presentation.

Over the course of your project, you have generated countless sketches, renderings, models, and drawings. Resist the temptation to include everything just to show how hard you worked. Keep your big picture in mind and determine which images will directly show or best support that idea.

Models

On occasion, a physical model, or even several models showing different aspects of your design, may be required for your presentation board. This is an additional means of communicating your vision to your viewers.

There are several materials you can choose for your model. Card and cardboard are inexpensive and come in various weights, finishes, and colors.

Foam board is also available in various widths and thicknesses. It is generally white, but it also comes in other colors. It is very lightweight and sturdy, making it an ideal material for your presentation board.

Balsawood is another good option. It is easy to work with and comes in varying weights. The material you choose will depend on the look you are trying to achieve as well as how much weight you can adhere to your presentation board.  

Your model pieces can be cut by hand with tools such as an X-Acto knife or a scalpel. If you have access to a laser cutter, it will save you some time and give you more precision.

How To Improve Your Model Making

Time Constraints

Give yourself enough time to produce a well-thought-out, effective, visually appealing presentation. You spent a considerable amount of time on your design; it would be a shame to rush through your presentation boards. Give each part of the process enough attention so that your final product really showcases and highlights your talent and hard work. 

Time management is critical when working on a big project like this. It can seem overwhelming at first, so split the project into smaller sub-tasks to make it more manageable. Give yourself a deadline for each of those smaller tasks. Make a schedule that shows which tasks you will accomplish each day. Make sure you leave yourself a little wiggle room in case anything unexpected comes up.

What should be included?

Unless you receive explicit instructions regarding what to include in your presentation boards, it is up to you which elements make the cut. When you are deciding what elements to incorporate into your project, reflect on what will best explain your design. When someone completely unfamiliar with your project is looking at your boards, what do you want them to see?

When deciding what text to include in your project, make sure you include an introduction, your design brief, and any applicable precedents. In addition, you will want to include concise textual explanations as needed throughout your presentation.

For your graphic representations, you want to include the basics: elevations, floor plans, and sections. You can represent these with 3d drawings, perspectives, or renders.  You may also include some key features of your design that make it unique, and in addition to highlighting the finished product, select elements that show your concept and design development.

Some additional tips:

  • When choosing a perspective view, select one that highlights the best aspects of your design. This graphic is usually the most prominent picture on the presentation board. The hero image!
  • You will want to include at least two different elevation views so your viewers can get a sense of the bigger picture.
  • Don’t be afraid to include sketches. If you include some sketches that show the progression from a simple idea to the final product, you can communicate your vision as well as your process.

When you are adding all of these elements to your presentation board, make sure each graphic representation of the plan has the same orientation. If one picture has north pointed in one direction and another picture has north pointed in a different direction, it can be disorienting for the viewer.

Likewise, each graphic should use the same scale unless there is one picture that is bigger than the others for the purpose of visual hierarchy.

There is one obvious detail that you may inadvertently overlook. Make sure your name is on your presentation board. If you have more than one board, put your name on each one. The name is in the bottom right-hand corner, but it can also appear in the title bar.

What programs should you use?

There are several software applications you can use to build your presentation board. Choose one that you are already familiar with, so you aren’t trying to learn new software while you are doing your layout. That is an added stressor that you just don’t need!

InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop are excellent programs, but if you need something a bit more simple, Microsoft Word, Pages, Powerpoint, or Keynote will also work. 

InDesign was designed for making presentations. AutoCAD was designed for constructing plans. Photoshop was designed for editing raster images. Illustrator was designed for creating vector art. While some people are able to make their whole presentation using Illustrator, Photoshop, or even PowerPoint, it makes more sense to use each piece of software in a way that takes advantage of its strengths.

You can import files from AutoCAD, Photoshop, and Illustrator into InDesign and take advantage of the strengths of each application.

Architecture board presentation ideas

Before you delve into your own presentation board, do some research. Look online for examples and make a note of the elements you like. Combine that inspiration with your creativity to produce a stunning presentation. 

Here are some websites you can use for inspiration:

The President’s Medals Winners

Pinterest – Architectural Presentation Boards

World Architecture Students Community – Presentation Boards

Summary

Even the most exceptional design concept can appear uninspired if you do not present it well.

You have spent weeks, maybe even months, on your design. Don’t sell yourself short by not communicating your vision well. The professional, creative, and aesthetic quality of your presentation will affect how your work is received.  

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