The classic blue blueprint actually stems from an old copying technique whereby copies were made by passing light through a drawing done on tracing paper. The chemical composition of the copy paper when struck by light turned most of the paper blue, while the area not exposed remained white . The term blueprint has now come to mean any detailed drawing or rendering. The modern technical equivalent would be the schematic drawing. Blueprints and schematics are used to provide consistent guidance on what the final deliverable should look like, including dimensions, relative size, and configuration.
Classically used in the construction industry, blueprints have become a standard of product development organizations, as well. Blueprints and schematics are used (as they were historically) to provide multiple copies of a consistent document reflecting the desired outcome of the project. They are used by both the buyer and seller to ensure that they speak a common language in terms of their understanding of what the final outcome of the project should look like.
The common characteristics of blueprints are that they have a scale for the size of the deliverables, as well as clear indications of the dimensions of any component elements displayed in the drawing. For schematics, the scale may not be exact, but the types of components to be used and the nature of those components will be expressed in detail. Both have legends that describe any unusual symbols that are used to represent features in the drawing. In electrical contracting, for example, the letter S or a dollar sign ($) on the drawing represents an electrical switch. The blueprint normally spans as many pages as are necessary to capture renderings of the project deliverable from multiple angles and at different levels of depth or detail. The schematic may also span multiple pages, but the varied angles are generally not required. Particularly complex elements may be given their own page or an inset drawing to highlight the complexities.
All of the drawings will have measurements to clarify the dimensions of the deliverables and may incorporate environmental considerations (such as elevation or installation environment) as components of the drawing. Cross sections are not uncommon, particularly when it is important to illustrate the differences among deliverables that might look the same externally.
Classic white-on-blue blueprints have become far less common over the years, particularly with the advent of computer-assisted design (CAD) programs. More often, blueprints and schematics are now conventional black-and-white drawings rendered on a computer plotter and modified on-line with the contractor. Because blueprint practices have been adopted by product developers and other nonconstruction industries, levels of detail now may be measured in millimeters and microns, rather than feet and meters. The basic principles remain the same, however. Both the blueprint and schematic provide a common understanding of the ultimate look of the deliverable.
Because they are sometimes reviewed by those unfamiliar with the trades responsible for the construction, the customer should be educated regarding any elements that may be misleading or misconstrued. (For instance, the dollar sign mentioned earlier that represents the light switch could have a double meaning to the individual paying the bills.) For blueprints or schematics of an extremely technical nature (e.g., computer chips), customer education will be essential, particularly for elements of the design that are considered leading edge.
Was this article helpful?
What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.