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All written work done by an architect, whether it is blueprint, designs or drawings, is expected to have architectural lettering. The easy to read uniform block letters are commonly used by designers and architects.

As a designer or architect, all blueprints, drawings and designs must be done by hand. Further, it must have architectural lettering. This style of uniform block letters is easy to read. This type of lettering, used by designers, was established several years ago to avoid expensive mistakes on blueprints.

Learning architectural lettering was once part of the curriculum in most architecture and design institutes. However, things changed after the arrival of computer drafting. It is now no longer a compulsory subject in design schools, but it still plays an essential role in this profession.

Architectural Lettering – Why Is It Necessary?

Architects use drawings to pass or convey written information. These architectural drawings are assessed and used by the contractor for building a structure as envisaged by the architect. If the drawings are misinterpreted, it would prove disastrous as they could cause safety issues, project delays and many other problems.

Architectural lettering written in neat block letters is easily readable as there is no room for ambiguity. Everybody involved in building the structure can follow the clearly written letters and work according to the specifications mentioned.

Why Was Architect Handwriting Essential In The First Place?

A uniform handwriting style was very important at a time when digital drafting tools were still a distant dream! Many people would work on a single blueprint. Several persons would add new notes to existing ones, making alterations in the existing blueprint and so on. This would all turn very messy without a uniform style.

Architects were hence taught to write in a specific manner using certain guidelines and functions of their commonly used tools.

These typographic style letters are extremely even, with accurate vertical lines and a little bubbly characteristic to the curved letters.

Architectural illustrator Frank Ching used this sort of writing style in his books on graphics and drawings. These architectural graphics are used as material by students learning architecture.

This style soon became very popular and got attached to any architectural work. Adobe in 1989 created a font based on Ching’s work and named it Tekton. They then started using it in all of their design software suites.

Architectural Lettering – How Was It Done In The Past?

Lettering was once a tedious task for architecture students who had to spend hours to learn the correct lettering technique. They would use a parallel rule or a T-square apart from a triangle or lettering guide to help them draw light horizontal guidelines.

Critical Characteristics of Architectural Lettering

  • Clear and readable
  • Font that is consistent
  • Lack of overlapping letters and seraphs
  • Evenly spaced-out
  • Capital case
  • Black

Explaining Architectural Lettering

  1. A designer or architect must make sure that all their drawings, designs and blueprints must have architectural lettering.
  2. The lettering, established several years ago, was created to avoid expensive mistakes and make sure that the writing was clear and legible to all.
  3. Learning these letters is still a part of the curriculum in design institutes as it continues to be an essential part of the role.
  4. The written letters must meet high standards and must follow the guidelines of architectural lettering
  5. Practice is critical as it takes time to gain proficiency in this sort of unique writing style.
  6. The animated quality of architectural lettering makes the written piece neat and tidy.
  7. Guidelines are drawn using a 4H pencil as it needs to be very light, almost to the point of being invisible. The lettering must be drawn using a 2H pencil as it needs to be dark.

Architectural Lettering – Rules And Guidelines      

  1. Guidelines must be drawn with the help of a ruler. Alternatively, you can also use grid paper or lined paper to practice.
  2. A small triangle ruler can help manage the straightness of the line.
  3. All verticals must be kept perpendicular to the guidelines.
  4. All strokes must start from the top of the guideline. Strokes must never be drawn from the bottom up.
  5. As guidelines are what that controls the line space and height of architectural lettering, the highest size is 3/16 of an inch. If it goes above this, the letters need a width that goes further than what a single stroke can produce.
  6. The bottom, as well as the top, is drawn on top of the guidelines.
  7. Horizontal strokes are drawn left to right. Top and bottom horizontals are drawn on top of the guidelines.
  8. The circular strokes are always on a forward slant and made in a single motion that is circular.
  9. All letters, when done correctly, will be of the same width and height.
  10. Drawing of the horizontal strokes must start from the left and must gradually move towards the right.
  11. There must be no use of serifs.
  12. All letters must fit inside an imaginary square.
  13. There must be no gaps between the letters and the strokes.

Summarizing The Rules And Guidelines

• For guidelines – 4H lead

• For lettering – 2H lead

• Light guidelines to be used

• For room labels, client name in the title block, drawing title, key, schedule titles – 3/16” to ¼” guide lines.

• For minor titles – 1/8” guidelines

• A straight line edge must be used to draw the vertical lines. All the other letters must be drawn using freehand.

• The letters must be of the same height and width.

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Significance of Architectural Lettering Today

You might ask if architectural lettering is of any importance today where digital drafting tools have taken over. Everybody holds their own opinion when it comes to this.

According to architect Luke Wesselschmidt, there are many architects who use this sort of lettering all the time. They use it not only on the professional front, but also for personal use. They would use architectural lettering for sending a birthday card to their mother or wife too!

Many designers use it not because they have to, but it is something they carry from the past. In fact, many design institutes do not even teach architectural lettering anymore. Even if they do, it is not as compulsory as it used to be once upon a time!

According to many architects, it is important that architects must write clearly. As per them, architectural lettering must not be imposed as it is no longer necessary to do so because of the invasion of digital tools.

Many young designers are of the impression that senior architects tend to carry forward with this sort of handwriting style simply because they want to show off. As per them, it is done to seem sophisticated.

Laura Thomas, who works as a Principal at Melville Thomas Architects, expressed her disappointment in the decline of this handwriting in her blog. She felt that it was something beautiful that was going away!

Aesthetics is critical when it comes to designing and architecture in particular. Architecture is not just about making money and maximizing the economy. It is also about being able to solve problems in a pleasant and professional manner.

If two people with different opinions were to debate about this sort of lettering, it might be a fruitless effort. It will be a debate of wanting to stick to tradition or move on with the time.

For many people who studied this beautiful writing style, it exists only in notes and sketches. It is no longer a part of today’s architectural studies.

Types of Architectural Lettering

These architectural letters are categorized into two and they are called general classes. The two classes are termed “Office Lettering” and “Inscription Lettering.”

Office lettering is different from an engineering letter. The inscription lettering, on the other hand, is usually written or carved in stone, metal or wood.

A different character of letters is used for inscription lettering.

In office lettering, the first rule of the thumb is to figure out the sheet with its descriptive title. Then, they need to give out the titles or names of the architect as well as the owner.

The font size for this is large and further, the location, height and density will depend on the shape, weight and size of the plan. It also depends on the relation to the piece on which it is drawn.

The intention is to give a pleasant effect. This sort of Gothic lettering will be great in a Gothic church. However, such writing will look out of place in any other location. So, this has to be assessed before creating this handwriting.


Architectural lettering is still an integral part of designing as it allows accurate and clear communication. It plays a critical role in passing on the vision of the architect to the builder. It will and always will be said that if you want to communicate your ideas clearly and precisely, you must write like an architect!