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Architect, Designer & Draftsperson – What’s the Difference?

We often get asked this question by homeowners who are thinking about building or renovating. So what is the difference between an architect, a designer and a draftsperson and who should you entrust with the design of your new home?

Architects, designers and draftspeople share common skills and can perform similar roles when it comes to designing and documenting new homes and renovations & extensions.  However, depending on the individual practitioner, they bring different skills and experience to a project.

The key differences between an architect, a designer and a draftsperson are in the training, experience and registration required for each of these roles.

Who is an architect?

Only people or firms registered with the Architects Registration Board of Victoria can call themselves architects.

A person must meet the following requirements to be registered as an architect in Victoria –

  • have an accredited academic qualification in architecture (usually 5–6 years study) or a pass in the National Program of Assessment;
  • have completed a minimum of 2 years recent practical experience;
  • have successfully completed the Architectural Practice Examination; and
  • be covered by professional indemnity insurance.

Architects must re-register every year and, to qualify for re-registration, they must maintain ongoing professional development.

All architects are authorised to prepare plans for building work or documentation relating to building permits or permit applications.

Who is a building designer?

Building designers come from various design backgrounds and include people who have tertiary qualifications in various design fields.   In some cases, they have architectural qualifications and experience but are not formally registered as architects with the Architects Registration Board of Victoria.

There is no requirement to be registered or licensed before you can call yourself a building designer in Victoria.

However, if a building designer is to prepare plans for building work or documentation relating to building permits or permit applications, they must be registered with the Victorian Building Authority as a Draftsperson under the class Building Design (Architectural)1.  In order to qualify for registration, the designer must meet certain skills, knowledge and experience requirements.

The Building Designers’ Association of Victoria is the professional association for building designers in Victoria.

Who is a draftsperson?

Generally, a draftsperson focuses on drawing proposed building works, detailing the works on plans that can be used by a builder to go ahead and build.  They have usually either studied drafting at TAFE or learned drafting through on the job experience.  Although they can design as well, they may not have formal qualifications or training in design.

As for designers, a draftsperson may only prepare plans for building work or documentation relating to building permits or permit applications if they are registered with the Victorian Building Authority as a Draftsperson under the class Building Design (Architectural)1.

Who should you entrust with the design of your new home or renovation?

In our experience, whether you look for an architect, designer or a draftsperson will depend on the level of design input you are after.  If you are looking for input from a practitioner trained in maximising light, space & functionality and with a vision for how all of the spaces will come together to enhance your lifestyle, the best choice would be an architect or experienced designer.

Choose a practitioner who will best suit your needs – their design style and approach appeals to you, you can communicate easily with them, they are qualified, experienced and registered (either with the Architects Registration Board or the VBA), you’re comfortable with their fees and they have great references.

Also, from a builder’s perspective, we like to work with architects and designers who prepare easy to follow, clear plans that are properly dimensioned and with a full set of specifications (ie joinery finishes, plumbing fittings etc).  It makes quoting and building projects much easier and avoids confusion, miscommunication and misunderstandings which can result in cost blowouts or you not getting what you thought you were getting.  So, consider asking for a copy of the architect/designer’s plans and specifications from a previous job and show them to your builder.

You can get an equally outstanding design that meets your needs, aspirations and lifestyle perfectly from either an architect or a building designer.  And although designers are generally cheaper than architects, designers who are highly sought after may charge at close to or similar levels.  The most important criteria is whether the practitioner (whether an architect or a designer) is right for you and your project.


We recommend that you involve a builder at the design stage to advise on build costs and cost effective construction methods and materials.  Simple changes that do not affect the design outcome can often save thousands in build costs.  Also, builders deal with suppliers and subcontractors every day so they know and can give accurate advice on current build costs.  Getting your design and specifications right at the beginning will save you thousands of dollars in potential redesign fees and months of wasted time and disappointment.  Some builders will be able to propose an architect or designer who they consider would be perfect for your project and will then work closely with them during the design phase.  Alternatively, if you have a preferred architect or designer, we recommend that you look for a builder to join your design team.

For more tips on saving time & money when designing your new home or renovation, read our FREE guide on the “7 Things You Must Know Before Designing a New Home“.

Download it now to ensure that you are on track for a stress-free building experience and a home that you love.



7 things you must know ebook

Footnote 1: A draftsperson does not need to be registered if they engage only in preparing plans/documentation for permits for domestic building work valued at $10,000 or less.

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Sue Davidson

The highlight of Sue's job at Gaia Construction is handing over beautifully crafted homes to excited clients. In her spare time, Sue is passionate about the environment & the outdoors, enjoying time hiking, sailing, walking her dog Lulu and travelling around Australia with her husband Jeremy & Lulu in their small campervan.
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