Draw (or write) everything only once

I enjoy documenting. I enjoy the design thinking that goes into good detailing, the artfulness of laying out a page, the methodical assembly of a rigorous documentation set. As the years have passed, I have codified a list of ten rules for exceptional documentation. Some have been bestowed upon me by peers like perfect golden nuggets of wisdom, others have come to me in epiphanic dreams, and yet others I have had to learn the hard way with gritted teeth and much yelling.

I hereby release this list into the wilds of the internet so that future architecture students may stumble upon its wholesome goodness in their moments of need.

An archive of the list can be accessed here.

1. Draw (or write) everything only once

Rules for exceptional documentation


Annotating a roof plan with a juicy note that describes the substrate, thickness, profile and finish of the roofing material. Now imagine copying that note to a couple of elevations, a bunch of sections and a host of details.

Your drawings look good, they look powerful, positively brimming with information. But now you realise you need to change the roof finish. Uh oh. There are dozens of places you’ve copied the note, can you be sure you’ve updated them all? Are you absolutely certain you haven’t left any discrepancies behind to baffle your builder?

In an exceptional documentation set, each piece of information appears only once. This reduces the chance of discrepancies, makes revision control easier, and helps the builder navigate the documents.

So remove the dozens of duplicate roofing notes from the drawings entirely, and replace them with a material tag that points to the materials schedule. This way, there’s no chance that a roof plan will accidentally contradict a section. And if you change the material at some point, you only need to update it in one location.


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