Which is more important, Design Skills or Technical Skills?

Today’s Topics:

  • Grade School and Design
  • How Does This Apply To College?
  • So How Are You Supposed To Learn Software?

Grade School and Design

Part of going through the American school system means that you have at least taken one art class.

I remember going through elementary and middle school where we took basic art classes. They were fun classes but I also thought I would never actually need to use any of the things that I’ve learned in art class.

I was always vaguely interested in architecture, but I was less interested in the artistic side and more into the math, science and logistics that go in hand with it.

Going into high school early on I saw that my school offered an applied design class that focused on architecture, but the prerequisites required two art classes.

I took these two art classes with the mindset that these are only required classes so I can do what I really want, not knowing that it would contribute to my skills as a designer and making portfolios to submit for colleges.

Once I was a junior, I finally was able to take the applied design classes.

This is when I realized how important it was that I took the prerequisite classes. Without them, I would not have had the skills necessary to design the projects I completed in that class.

How Does This Apply To College?

The single most thing that I have heard when I go to career fairs for architecture is that you need technical experience. You need to know Revit, Autocad, Rhino, or Google Sketchup. Often times they like to know you can work with all of these programs.

Hearing this, the first question that comes to mind is why doesn’t my school offer classes that teach any of these?

Since I got here I have always wondered, If my major is the only one in all of Virginia Tech that is a 5- year program, then why do we not have classes that teach software?

It is a very important question, and from what I have heard from other students it is likely not to change.

It was not until I looked at this situation from a different point of view that I could make sense out of the education system that has excelled at a top level consistently for so many years.

The school is not willing to change because the mode of learning that is currently in place has been producing top talents that ranks nationally every year.

Our studios put an emphasis on embracing the creative process and enhancing the design skills of students while exploring their interests.

You can always look up tutorials on how to use some software, but you can’t say the same for the lessons that you learn in a studio class.

Yes it is great if you are an expert at using all of these different softwares, but that can only take you so far if you are underdeveloped with your design skills.

So How Are You Supposed To Learn Software?

With all that being said, students certainly do not just magically learn all of the software by the time they graduate.

This is the part where you have to do work on your own outside of the classroom. Personally, I have spent countless hours watching YouTube and LinkedIn learning videos for tutorials on how to use certain tools. Then even more hours of practicing what I have learned and discovering new things to incorporate into my project.

That is definitely the most dreadful ways to learn because you have to sort through to find the information that you need, or sometimes there is not enough information and you have a question and it can just be a hectic process.

Most students come into architecture school not knowing how to use much software. Knowing that my school does not teach software, while still requiring students to use it means that there is a need for people to help teach software.

This is an area where I have been planning for this year. I am setting up a mentorship program through my website where I can help high school and college students learn software and things to help them throughout school.

In our chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architecture Students (NOMAS) we are also planning on similar objectives to help the incoming freshman each year.

In conclusion, both design skills and technical skills are important. But design skills carry more significance throughout your educational experience during architecture school because it is the foundation of your work.


Thank you for reading my blog this week, if you have an opinion about what students should do to learn software, please leave them in the comments. As always, Dream Big!

Published by Alonzo Colon

Architecture Student at Virginia Tech

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