Want to take sketching to the next level? This new approach will change the way you work

September 16, 2015 Erin Emery


Great architecture begins humbly. A designer’s ideas, expressed by hand through sketchy lines in a notebook, or chicken scratches on a scrap of paper, often mark the beginning of the design process.

Bringing those design schemes from the cocktail napkin to the computer has, until recently, meant re-drawing them in the architect’s software of choice, an inefficient process that is incongruent with modern architectural practices like BIM.

But sketching is no longer a dead-end workflow. Autodesk’s FormIt® 360 conceptual design software lets designers create BIM-intelligent sketches with a direct connection to Revit®.  Work done in FormIt 360 becomes editable geometry in Revit, eliminating the need to redraw the conceptual design. That connection, according to Mike Engel of Elness Swenson Graham Architects, “minimizes the disconnect between the concept and the design.”

A FormIt 360 model

The FormIt 360 model brought into Revit

The ability to carry over work over so designers don’t have to start from scratch is an obvious time and resource saver. For Roy Malcolm of DPR Construction, FormIt makes it easy to create complex designs without needing to be as precise as in Revit. “I really enjoy the interoperability with Revit,” says Malcolm. “It’s something I always missed with SketchUp.”  Those with existing SketchUp files can convert them FormIt Converter, a free feature in FormIt 360 and available as a downloadable plug-in for Revit.

FormIt 360 is free for both commercial and personal use. It is available via web browser or app for iPad and Android. A paid version, FormIt 360 Pro, adds solar analysis and whole building analysis, so designs can be optimized for performance earlier, when it’s easier to make adjustments. The paid version also includes real-time team collaboration.

The tablet app is another innovation by FormIt 360 and references the architect’s tradition of notebook sketching while offering designers the freedom to work away from their office.  Often used with a stylus, FormIt’s mobile platform creates a tactile experience that, in a way, preserves the tradition of hand sketching within the digital environment.

"I've been working as an architect for 30 years, so I started drawing with pencil," explains Jose Bassalo of the small Brazilian firm Meia Dois Novo. "With the introduction of CAD, we went from sketch to click, andsome of us lost a kind of pleasure brought by the more traditional way of working. The touchscreen technology in FormIt has given us back this pleasure of designing with a (kind of) pencil. FormIt allows us to continue 'sketching on paper' without losing the wonders of electronic modeling."

Added Engel, “When I first started working, my boss told me, ‘always be drawing.’ Now I do that in 3D. FormIt is a digital sketchbook in 3D form.”

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