As I signed the necessary papers to enter into the Interior Design program in college, I had no clear picture in my head of the future I was about to create for myself. Was I going to be choosing paint colors for the rest of my career, measuring rooms to fit the largest sofa, or collaborating with architects to create floor plans? Up to this point, I hadn’t even considered the role marketing and visual graphics play in the architectural realm. As I finished my degree and entered into an engineering firm and later an architectural firm, I have carried with me the realization that design cannot exist without a visual impact. Isn’t this exactly what we do as designers? We communicate through design: we listen as a client verbally communicates their vision and it is our job to bring that vision to life.

After a proposed building design is drawn and printed, the next step is to then present these lines on paper to the client. As the designer, we need to be able to present our designs well – allow the client to understand what the proposed building will look like, what it will feel like, and how it will impact their life. Most of the time, staring at a floor plan will not generate this understanding for a client. They need more, they need a visual impact.


In order to create this impact, we need to dig a little into some visual marketing concepts and ideas. There is a relationship between an object (in this case a proposed building plan), the context it is placed in, and its relevant image. This is the focus of a design board. A design board encompasses how images and text can be used to communicate a design concept. The concept and its visual communication become linked and inseparable. This newly formed grouped concept is what reaches out to people and defines their choices. These boards are a means to turn concepts and intangible things into something more concrete for the client.

Image Credit:

Image Credit:

Laying out a design board can be a daunting task. Sifting through each component of a project and deciding what to include can be the most difficult part. It helps to imagine that I am viewing a project for the first time. What do I need to see in order to understand it? What am I trying to convey? What are my key elements in the design? Some basics to include are floor plans, elevations, perspective renderings, and text describing the project.

Once I have collected the information, it’s easier to visualize what will be on the board. I can then start planning the structure. Consider using a grid to help organize the visual elements on the board. This can be a simple or more complex grid system.

As images are being arranged and sized, I make sure to keep some elements viewable from a distance and some viewable up close. This helps to create hierarchy. Keeping the font and font sizes readable is also important. 

Photoshop or InDesign are great layout programs; however, if I am short on time, Microsoft Word or PowerPoint can still be useful.

These two in-process design boards help to show a few differences in the layout construction of a board. In board 1, the rendered image of the townhouse is the focal point of the page. The photo especially stands out and can be seen from a distance; however, all other information pales in comparison to the photo. This board would work well for a client who is more interested in seeing the general idea of the proposed townhome and less interested in seeing the specifics of the floor plan or details. In board 2, the rendered photograph is no longer the focal point of the board, but shares size ratios with the elevation and floor plans of each floor level. This board would work well for a client is more interested in the specifics of the project.

We as designers have a gift of visionary creativity. We can see and visualize abstract thoughts and ideas in a way not everyone else is able to. Using mediums like design boards enable us to communicate our ideas and visions to the client in an effective and impactful way.