What software’s do architects use?

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Posted By Matthew Von Dohre

What software’s should you learn to get a job with architecture or interior design firms? 

Starting Out or Making a Change

If you are starting out or looking to make a change in your career path what are some of the software’s that would benefit you to know.

The places to look are the job listings that the firms are placing. Those are where you will find the software proficiencies that they require or are beneficial to know.

Check the Architecture Firms

A lot of older firms tend to lean on the traditional CAD software’s and slowly try new software for their architectural design.

Some firms are forced to transition into newer software by their client’s experiences with the construction industry. Other firms will take that leap and try new software to become a leader in the industry before the others. 

Advantages in the Softwares

Recent graduates typically have an advantage with various types of design and rendering software due to the various classes that most universities offer.

Students also have the element of time on their side to learn and experiment with different software’s. Additionally, as a student most software companies allow students to use their programs for free or a reduced rate. 

Many companies have also realized that they can help to train disadvantaged workers so some have offered opportunities to learn their software’s for free.

When I started in Architecture Firms

When I started working in architecture firms most had already transitioned from hand drafting to computer-aided drawings.

Some of the firm’s principles and head designers still drew the concept designs by hand, roughly sketching out the plans an elevation or two and if you were lucky a rough perspective.

Most firms would transition to the Autodesk AutoCAD software which was basic 2D lines on a flat plane. You would be drafting with light on a monitor instead of with a pencil on paper.

If you understood the 3D aspect of the software you would be able to create 3D buildings and objects but most firms stuck to the 2D aspect like they did when they drew by hand.

Autodesk’s AutoCAD software for restaurant renovation work
Using Autodesk’s AutoCAD to build 3D models of building structures

Recent Transitions

Over the last 5 years, most architecture firms have been looking to hire people who have experience with the Building Information Modeling software or BIM technology.

This software allows a user to create a full-size building in virtual reality or a 3D environment as if it was being built in real life.

BIM or Building Information Modeling Software

Using Autodesk’s Revit to design and produce construction document on a highrise tower

Several BIM software’s are out there and the two software’s that I personally know firms using are AutoDesk’s Revit and Graphisoft – ArchiCAD.

I had the opportunity to learn Revit back in 2006 when I was working for a large national architecture firm and I have personally started learning ArchiCAD to have an understanding of that software as well.

Most architecture firms today have implemented the use of a BIM software or plan to implement BIM in the near future.

Other Softwares to Know

The other software’s that would be helpful to know that firms I have worked for use include SketchUp, 3D Max and Photoshop.


Using SketchUp to model an area of a theme park

SketchUp is a basic 3D software that gives you the creative freedom to model buildings and environments in 3D. It has a vast library of materials and components that can be downloaded for free to use thru their 3D warehouse.

SketchUp has stepped up its game by creating something called Layouts that allows users to create construction documents with the 3D model. They are now working toward becoming a recognized BIM software by integrating the features of other recognized BIM programs thru the use of SketchUp Pro.

Autodesk 3D Max

Using 3D Max for project modeling and rendering

Autodesk 3D Max is a great 3D modeling software for creating photorealistic renderings but its disadvantage is that what you create or modify in 3D Max is done separately from any other building software that you might be using.

Once you have templates, material and object families setup rendering can be quick and effective.

Adobe Photoshop

Using Photoshop to create a concept proposal to renovate an old gas station

The last software that I would recommend knowing is Adobe Photoshop. It is a great tool for manipulating renderings or photos of existing projects. You can use it to create presentation boards as well as portfolios and marketing materials.

Do Your Research

So remember to keep up with the current trends in software be sure to review the job postings that architecture firms are posting. Talk with people who are working in firms that you may want to work for and keep an eye online for the changes that the software companies are coming out with.

My Recommendation

My personal recommendation, based on current trends, is to learn a BIM software. All companies that I have worked for have used or were trying to learn the AutoDesk Revit software.

Additionally, I would learn how to use Sketchup and Photoshop if you have a desire to do 3D modeling and would like to do post-production of renderings as well as assist in a firms marketing.

I hope that these recommendations are helpful for you and best wishes in learning the various software to help you develop and grow your career.


Matthew Von Dohre, RA, RID, NCARB

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