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The Design Process

November 7, 2008

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Ever wonder how I go from your existing site, to the pretty new design, to the finished product? It’s pretty much the same for every project. This may help you feel like the process isn’t simply “give designer check-> lots of cool design/ magic stuff happens-> landscape looks great”:

  1. Measurement/site analysis- I come out to the property and measure everything relevant to the project at hand. That may include measuring the house to get doors, windows, downspouts, and other fixed points. I’ll also locate exisiting trees, sidewalks, and anything else that will be “in play” for the design. If hardscape or carpentry items are a part of the design, I’ll set up the laser transit and shoot grades. Finally, I take a ton of photos. I also note plant inventories and any thoughts or ideas that occur to me while I’m there. This can be done as quickly as 20-30 minutes for a small site, and has taken as long as six hours for a large, involved project.
  2. Basemapping- All the data gathered in step one is entered into AutoCAD, along with the information from your survey plat, septic map, and anything else you may have given me. I then print this out, tape it to the drafting table, and start the next stage, which is
  3. Conceptual design- here, I work on trace paper over top of your basemap. I begin with basic shapes and proportions- patio about this big here, connected with a walk there, lawn no smaller than this, and so on. Once I know where stuff should go, I move on to shapes. What makes more sense- sweeping curves or straight lines? I try to look at all the options. As I put it, I go down all the dead ends so you don’t have to. Once this is figured out, I start detailing the drawing- where brick borders go, specific plants, pavement patterns, etc.
  4. AutoCAD drafting- once I know what I want, it all gets drafted in AutoCAD. I love the look of a hand-drawn plan, but there are so many advantages to AutoCAD that I can’t say no. It’s incredibly accurate, speeds the estimating process, and makes creating construction and layout drawings much easier than doing it all by hand. Typically, what I present to the client is some adaptation of the AutoCAD plan.
  5. Supporting documents- once everything else is done, I’ll create other drawings that will facilitate our discussion of the plan: elevations, detail drawings, or perspective drawings and 3d models.

There are lots of shortcuts a designer can take to reduce or avoid some of these steps. Unfortunately, there’s no substitute for a local designer seeing and experiencing your property and giving it their undivided attention through the design process. This is still my busy time, but I couldn’t imagine doing what I do any other way.

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