When I was first learning the art of landscape design, no one taught me the process of design. I learned about plants, I learned what bloomed when, and what color. I learned what did well in what microclimate. I learned to layer my plants according to texture and mature height. I learned about geometric shapes and how hardscape elements played off each other. I learned what looked good and I mastered layouts in AutoCAD. But I never learned the process of design and my early designs suffered for it.
I believe in the “8-step Design Process”:
- Identify the problem. Describe the challenge to be solved.
- Identify the criteria and constraints.
- Develop possible solutions (Preliminary sketches).
- Select the best possible solutions.
- Create a preliminary model or Prototype (Conceptual plan).
- Test and evaluate your solution (Did the design meet the criteria and solve the problem?).
- Communicate the solution (Client presentation).
- Refine the design.
Early in my career I struggled with starting larger jobs not knowing where to begin. Not only was it difficult starting a design, it was difficult knowing when I was finished. Not analyzing the site constraints in the beginning and having a clear picture in my mind of what problem I was trying to solve made it impossible to know when I was finished and if I had accomplished my goal. How sad is it that I gauged my success only on the happiness of the client when they wrote me a final check and not knowing if I had designed the best layout for the given site conditions?
I don’t remember exactly when I found this design process, but I am so grateful that I did. Once I truly understood and followed each step of the process, I noticed the quality of my designs improved, my clients seemed happier, and my confidence as a designer grew. I learned how to look at a site objectively and ask the right questions of my client to learn what was truly important to them from both a design and use point of view. I also found that I was able to better guide them through the design process and show them not only what they wanted in their design, but show them what they needed as well. I truly took on the role of the expert and found that I could tackle just about any design job that came my way.
I have to be honest and tell you that sometimes I get stuck when I’m in the middle of a design. This feeling is not unlike what a writer would call writer’s block. But when that happens, it is usually an indication that I need to revisit my design process, start at the beginning to make sure I haven’t overlooked something and that I’ve covered all my bases. It usually when I am going back through these steps that I find something I overlooked earlier and am able to revisit the design and develop an exceptional solution.
I know that people are different and that as designers we develop our own processes for solving challenging problems. We are all unique individuals and approach the process of design from different points of view. Do you have a process you follow that is different or similar to mine? If so, I’d love to hear about it. Feel free to leave a comment below, send me a tweet or even an email. Thanks for reading and I look forward to connecting with you.