UNSW Making

Visual Communication

Essential tutorials to master sketching and drawing techniques, and optimal strategies for your projects' presentation


Welcome to the Visual Communications Module.

This module is designed to give you the tools and skills you require to communicate effectively with fellow engineers, designers, users of your products, manufacturers and even investors. In the beginning, you will learn the basics of drawing, advancing through natural progressions of creating 3D forms, rendering them and then being able to communicate these in a basic technical manner to prepare you for the more advanced technical drawing module. Finally, you will learn how to bring your research, ideas, final design and technical package together into a cohesive and engaging visual presentation.

NB: If you are making your presentation RIGHT NOW, scroll straight down to Module 6, so that you can 'fill in the blanks' in your presentation with the other features you will require.


For this learning module, you will need:

  • Paper and pencil ... Obviously...
  • Fineliners or felt tip pens of different thickness
  • All the Copic Markers that you can afford
  • Actually just gather all drawing tools that you can find!
  • A computer that can run:
    • Autodesk Sketchbook
    • Microsoft PowerPoint
  • Other recommended software:
    • Adobe Photoshop
    • Adobe Illustrator
  • (Recommended) A Tablet or similar with a Stylus pen preferred
  • (Optional) To be honest all Wacom products are dreamed...

Module 1: 2D Drawing and Sketching Basics

Learning how to draw in two dimensional form is a vital skill to learn and practice before advancing to expressing 3D form on paper or your drawing program of choice (we recommend Autodesk Sketchbook). The video in this module provides 7 great exercises for practicing drawing skills and encouraging the brain to pick up the vital skills for visual communication through action.

Hot Tips Before you Begin

  1. Choose you medium whether it be digital (with a stylus!!) or with pencil and pen on paper. Digital is a little harder to pick up initially and is not sensitive enough if you are just using your mouse or finger on a touch screen, but you can Ctrl + Z almost endlessly if you make a mistake and you can work in layers to isolate light, shade, outlines and construction.
  2. Use your whole arm for drawing, we have far more control without relying on a complex joint like our wrists to do all the work for us.
  3. Turn the page if you need to! If you cannot seem to draw a perfectly vertical or horizontal line for example, mark your points, rotate your page (paper or otherwise) and connect them!

Another thing to keep in mind is the appropriate tool and/or line weight for the job. If you are quickly sketching something on paper for a client, you might choose a pen so they can see it easier, but at home you may just find it easier with pencil. If you are sketching digitally or have some more time, you can choose different line weights to highlight an important feature of your design or to make your final drawing stand out from the construction lines below. Section 2 will cover more on this and using everything you have learned in this section together.

Module 2: Learning Perspective and Form Construction with Lead Pencil

As discussed in Module 1, choosing your medium for drawing (pencil or line weights) can make a huge difference in your finished product. Lead pencil is a great tool for working out the rough form of your product and arranging it in space on the page before committing to pen with the confidence you learned through the Section 1 exercises. This section will cover 3D perspective drawing and form construction using lighter and less permanent drawing methods.

The following video is a great tutorial on the basics and the NECESSITIES of sketching products in perspective for beautiful and accurate visual representation of your designs.

Hot Tips Before you Begin

  1. Jump in at 3:05 unless you wish to make the switch to industrial design
  2. Orthographic views will be touched on here. This will be valuable in Section 5 and communicating quickly to team mates or clients when coming up with ideas.
  3. Yes 2-Point perspective is the only type of perspective you will need for products smaller than a skyscraper
  4. Normally vertical lines will always remain vertical in 2-Point perspective.
  5. Use lead pencil (or a different layer on Sketchbook) for construction lines such as the perspective lines and the cube. USE PEN FOR THE TOASTER!!!!
  6. Revisit Module 1 if you don’t have the confidence to use pen yet.

Please note that where you place your cube in relation to the two points will impact which surface you will see the most of.

  • Have it lower if you want to see the top.
  • Have it to the left if you want the right face as the 'front' view
  • Have it to the right if you want the left face as the 'front' view

P.S. You must always have the cube floating between the two perspective points, never touching. You can tape points off of the page if you require a large product and imagine drawing off of the page if required.

Module 3: Curvature in 3D Drawings, and applying 2D Decals

Sketching in perspective can get far more difficult to approach should your form be more organic. Due to many cars having lines for aerodynamics, assistive technologies following natural curvature of the human form and endless other organic examples, it is an important skill to master. The following video provides a step by step guide of organic form perspective sketching starting from an orthographic drawing. Again, orthographic views are great for technical drawing or initial ideation sketching, but perspective drawings sell an idea!

Hot Tips Before you Begin

  1. The designer is using layers of tracing paper which is highly recommended for ease of tracing if you are using pen and paper. If you are sketching digitally, imagine each of these sheets as another layer in your sketch document.
  2. You can apply this boxing technique for any form to find the proportions of the product in 3D perspective and you can choose cross sections at where ever is most important for your own product.
  3. You can get more precise using a ruler and other drawing tools if you become passionate about the art of drawing which is what the designer is referring to when he says that he is being imprecise.

Applying 2D decals to 3D perspective form is another complex addition to any drawing or rendering. By drawing an even grid over your decal and replicating it onto a surface like in the image below, you can recreate your initial decal in perspective with simple lines and curves on a box by box basis. Choose placement which makes sense for you to get the most out of the reference points you create with the grid.

On curvature, it may look slightly different, but the skills you have learned in proportioning will give you the tools to apply your grid in the first place, and the rest is simple connecting points.


Module 4: Light and Shade for Realism

Light and shadow are important tools for visual communications as they help your audience understand your design and it's 3D form in space. The following video runs through how light behaves, the effects of light and shadow as well as how to shade your 3D perspectives. It is important to note that this video imagines one light source, if you are going to draw something in an environment for context, there may be multiple and you can observe these from other objects in the space.

Hot Tips Before you Begin

  1. Yes, the whole video is important, but the first half is a little slow paced. You can play at 1.25x speed if you like up until 7:23. However, slow it back to 1x speed from here to keep up with the drawing.
  2. Get a piece of paper and a 2B pencil that is not too sharp. A HB will not work as it is too hard.
  3. This is another imprecise art, but very important and useful skill in visual communication of your ideas. Your earliest sketches will not require such high level shadowing or reflection, but your final ones will look best with the techniques in this video.

Module 5: Basics for Technical Drawings

When moving into final design refinement with your team, bosses or making your part with manufacturers, it is important to communicate technical details of the part in order to actually receive exactly what you want. Putting together the perfect technical engineering drawing of your part will achieve this simply in one document using 2D views. On the most basic level, this drawing will be an orthographic projection of your product with top, front and side views HOWEVER – if a view tells you nothing more than the others, it is better you don’t show it. For example, a tube's front view and side view will be identical so you would be better off including a section view in the place of the side view instead.

In the video below, we discuss orthographic views, the basic features of a technical drawing and why we include each of them. The aim of this section is to get you to a basic level of orthographic drawing, technical drawing 'rules' and only for quick communication (even in a sketch form).

BUT! Hot Tips Before you Begin.

  1. Wherever possible, dimension along the left hand side or the bottom of the page. Particularly for overall size dimensions. Never overlap dimension lines and it is a good rule to have diameters and radii dimensioned diagonally up to the right.
  2. Title Blocks require the following:
  • Drawing Title
  • Your name
  • Drawing number (with in tech. package) and version number
  • Date
  • Scale
  • Units (mm)
  • Page size
  • Third angle projection symbol
  • If part drawing, then material and finish should also be here.

Module 6: PowerPoint Preparation for Flawless Presentation

Congratulations on making it to the final section of the Visual Communications Module. This Section will teach you how to create an engaging and concise visual presentation for pitching your final design or idea to your audience, be that clients, bosses or fellow engineers.

This video covers the most important visual considerations for presentations from the view of a graphic designer and you will immediately understand the importance of these super simple tools.

Now that you have an understanding of the important graphic and visual elements of digital presentations, it will be important for you to create a PowerPoint template for yourself to save loads of time in laying out your information on each slide. Using a template also ensures you have consistent formatting throughout your presentation and your viewers know where to look for information. The following video guides you through just this.

Hot Tips Before you Begin

  1. The guy presenting is a little strange. It's cool, just laugh with or at him and speed him up if you find him boring. We promise he knows his stuff!
  2. Make sure you choose a colour scheme appropriate to your presentation first. You can do this in the 'Design' tab of PowerPoint and may choose a pre-loaded one or select your own colours for a custom template.
  3. Delete those templates which will be useless to your presentation or manipulate them to create something which is useful.
  4. Don’t be afraid to add a coloured or textured background (if it is textured, the colour should be muted/washed out, or another coloured box should be on top for text or graphics to sit on).
  5. Always choose 1-2 fonts and stick to them through the whole presentation.
  6. Keep all headings and/or text in the same place on each side - don’t change from left to right or top to bottom.

The next video provides a tutorial with 3 different techniques to boost your presentation to the next level using animations with minimal effort.

Hot Tips Before you Begin

  1. As UNSW Students, you have access to the latest version of Office 365. You may as well get it as it gives you the most up to date tools and templates for beautiful presentations.
  2. Watch this one at 1.25x speed. She is a seasoned presenter so speaks slowly and clearly and we know you want to speed through this.

When you are more comfortable in PowerPoint, animations and layering can help you to organise information for your viewers in an engaging and minimalist design. The video below may be played at 1.25x speed for you to get an idea of the potential for your PowerPoint presentations and highlight just how easy it is. You can find more video tutorials like these all over YouTube to inspire you and help you achieve your final result in a fraction of the time.

Hot Tips Before you Begin

  1. You can use almost this exact same layering technique and change colours, direction, fonts and overall shape to make it entirely your own
  2. If you want to create great infographics like his, refer to SmartArt and also the techniques in this link.

Other Resources

Resources to enhance your CAD skills using Fusion 360


Download the free Sketchbook Software from Autodesk! Follow this link and start practising your sketching skills!


Soft pencils are a great way to start sketching! Something like a 2B would be a good one to start with! Check out this HB Graphite Grading Scale and choose the one fits your purpose!


Copic Markers bring your sketches and drawing to a whole new level. They are great to give that last push to your images and they create a fantastic depth effect in your artwork. Check out the Copic Markers page to learn more about the Copic Colour System.

If you want to learn how to use the Copic Markers tool library in Autodesk Sketchbook, follow thislink!


To help pump out those drawings check out this Fineliner Thickness chart and give to your drawings the style they deserve!