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Using graphics and storytelling to explain abstract concepts

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Brigham Bldg for FutureOne of an occasional series

Designers can easily read architectural drawings and imagine the spaces they represent, but for others who don’t spend their days looking at plans, it can be difficult to translate from two-dimensional lines to 3-D space.

Because the spatial and experiential implications of drawings may not be apparent to clients, their donors, and community members, storytelling plays an important role in explaining the impact of a design by conveying a sense of the experience. By using narrative storytelling, graphic rendering, and photography in combination we can help individuals who are not familiar with reading architectural drawings easily picture themselves in the spaces we are creating for them.

Brigham Building for Future (detail) - proposalGraphic representation

Using graphic language that is universally accessible bridges the communications gap with a medium that is engaging and effective. At Shepley Bulfinch, we have been experimenting with different combinations of visualization techniques. In a recent proposal for a medical lab building in Boston (image, right) we incorporated techniques from graphic novels to illustrate how scientists would arrive at the site and travel through the building to their labs. To show movement through space, we used a series of cropped views from renderings, in which a scale figure points the viewer towards notable sights along the way. Casual observers who would have struggled to connect plans, diagrams, and 3-D space, can easily flip through the wordless graphic sequence and imagine themselves in the spaces that are represented.

- Tad Jusczyk

Tad Jusczyk is an architect with Shepley Bulfinch. He has led visualization exercises for a number of the firm’s academic and healthcare clients. For a complete copy of the Shepley Bulfinch briefing paper “Using graphics and storytelling to explain abstract concepts,” please email

Ringling library visualization

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