The Design Process


What’s involved in the design process?

Landscape design is the process of analysis, planning, creation and/or construction of exterior spaces utilizing plant materials and appropriate hardscape elements including incidental paving and building materials.

A professional landscape designer is an individual who is qualified through education, training and professional experience to practice landscape design for monetary compensation.

What does it takes to be a landscape designer? It takes a thorough grounding in the principles of landscape design, the capability of using these principles to translate a client’s wants and needs into a creative reality, the ability to graphically communicate the design, knowledge of plant material and knowledge of soil and hydrology.

The design process consists of the following steps:

Initial Consultation

The initial consultation is a process during which:

  • The client and designer meet to discuss the client’s needs, wants and desires.
  • The designer assesses the site in order to identify all the essential conditions that will influence the design. This inventory includes the topography, existing site elements such as walkways, fences, etc., offsite conditions, availability and quality of light, soil, moisture, wind and existing plant material.
  • The designer makes general suggestions which are discussed with the client.

Site Measurements

Next is to take site measurements and create a base map.

Site Analysis

  • The designer makes judgments about the site conditions and determines how the design solutions should respond.

    For instance, should the architecture of the house determine the bed lines? What plant material, if any, should be retained? Should the topography be altered and if so, how?

  • The designer may then translate the judgments into an analytical diagram which shows where needs exist and where various desired elements might go.

    For instance, such a diagram might show where an offsite view needs to be screened or where one should be used to advantage.

Preliminary Design Concepts

This stage includes the creation of preliminary design concepts:

  • The designer creates a functional diagram which organizes the site by linking uses that are compatible with each other while separating those that are not. This diagram creates the structure for the design.
  • The designer, on trace paper, creates two or three possible concepts which are based on different proportions, arrangements of elements including circulation patterns and bed lines. These concepts may be supplemented with elevation sketches so that the client better perceives the designer’s intent.

Feedback from the client at this stage is crucial.

Preliminary Design

The creation of a preliminary design is next:

  • Using the feedback from the client, the designer chooses one of the concepts or incorporates parts of more than one to create the final concept.
  • The designer then creates the design and incorporates the grading concepts, the preliminary planting plan and the placement of hardscaping elements.

Final Plan

The creation of the final plan includes:

  • The designer meets with the client to review the preliminary design. If approved, the designer then turns the preliminary design into final copy.
  • The final copy of the plan should include a plant chart which denominates the botanical and common name of each plant, the quantity, and if the plan is going out for bid, the desired installation size. The chart could also show the mature size of the plant material, bloom time, bloom color and maintenance comments.