Back to articles

From Real Rocks to Virtual Buildings: A history of drafting.


“Everything that is man made had started from a sketch.” – Shelly Wilke

Drafting is known to be one of the oldest documented professions, with the earliest drawings found on cave walls and dating back many thousands of years.   The earliest recorded piece of history discovered, was the drafting board which dates back to 2000 – 3000 B.C and features a fossilised aerial view of a Babylonian castle. 

With rocks being used as drafting tools, the life of a Drafter was definitely not as we know it today. The advent of rice paper by the Chinese, as well as innovations and advancements in mathematics definitely made things a lot easier.  Rulers, protractors and compasses were not only easier to use but surely provided more accurate results.  Having the drawings on paper also made it easier to transport them from one location to another.

The early technical drawings were evident in 1400-1600; 3D perspectives were brought to life during the Renaissance era; and parallel projection was invented during the industrial revolution (1750-1850); But it wasn’t until 1990’s that the 3D CAD systems as we know them today became possible.

These 3D technologies have opened up new opportunities and projects such as allowing for augmented and virtual reality viewing of concept designs and models placing the viewer into the plan creating a new level of interaction and understanding. 

Drawing is a universal language.

Nothing can be designed or built without communicating your idea through the universal language of drawing. Thanks to drafting professionals, everything we see around us today, all things and their parts, large or small, were once drawings; Perfected by skilled draftsmen and draftswomen, who brought all those ideas to reality through their sketches.

“For many years, plans and designs were drawn by hand,” says Sue Perry, the Manager of Drafting at Wolter Consulting Group.  “We also did the colour separation of the negatives through to the printing stage, using, in most cases, two colours; Black was not included as a colour.”

Old WCG Plans.png

"A large plan like these could take a week to complete: Starting with a linen planform with a compass rose, a soft lead pencil for the mark up, and parallel ruler and scales for plotting.  We used black ink for drop compass circles and linework, a scriber and stencils for text, with ink in various colours for different departments. Once finished, we would carefully rub out the soft background pencil and hope for no changes to the plan."

“For me, progression to computer aided drafting started in 1992 and this huge move was implemented by our Managing Director, Michael Wolter.”

“Computer aided drafting had so many positives. However, with this process, our once unique plans became obsolete.”

A keen eye for layout and design, as well as high level of attention to detail are some of the key qualities of every good draftsperson.

While those skills can usually be learned, for some, it seems to be much more complex than that.  For both, Kristy and Kathleen, from WCG drafting department, the talent lies in the family.

“I have grown up with drafting in my family,” says Kristy, who has been a part of WCG drafting team for three years now.

“Dad is a Civil, Structural Engineer and Project Manager, and Mum is a GIS Drafter.”

“I remember, as a child, going into the office with my mum, watching her use the glass tilting hand drafting tables and create something out of absolutely nothing.”

“I also remember going out on sites with my dad, sitting in big trucks with wheels the size of houses, wearing a hard hat while watching him walk around inspecting a site.”

Kristy applied for Drafting Traineeship at WCG while doing her course in Engineering Drafting.  “Although what I do now is different to my studies, I feel that it is the best decision I have made in my career to date,” says Kristy. 

“I find my work very interesting and very different day to day as I get to do drafting for all the disciplines at WCG, including Planning, Survey, Landscape and Environment.”

As a Drafter, you are drawing for the present with an awareness of the past, designing for a future, which is essentially unknown.”


Above: Kristy, Kathleen and Sue - WCG Drafting Team.