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Design Process

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by Slcareco, Feb 4, 2009.

  1. Slcareco

    Slcareco LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 682

    I was wondering if anyone could give me a brief step by step design process...

    Like key pointers to remember, questions that I should ask, information I should obtain, what I should say about pricing for the design, how I get money for the design, etc Thanks!!
  2. jbailey52

    jbailey52 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,094

    Check out some good LA books. (Landscape architecture). These can help you out with the process.

    Starting with site analysis and inventory etc..
  3. AGLA

    AGLA LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,776

    When you say "design process", do you mean the the process of interacting with the client or the process of developing the actual design?
  4. Slcareco

    Slcareco LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 682

    the interaction... I got my degree in Ornamental Hort: Landscape Develp so I'm pretty good at the drawing/design part... I just never actually went out in the field and used my skills.

    My boss asked me if I would want to be his design man and I said yes.. so I was hoping an experienced person on here could tell me what to expect and what to do to prepare myself.

    Like how do I go about getting paid for the design before wasting my time drawing up one... should I make a questionaire to narrow down the type of design to make, how do I charge for a design, were both my boss and me are happy and the client? Etc.. thanks...
  5. tatmkr

    tatmkr LawnSite Member
    Messages: 61

    oh boy, since it's not snowing I guess I have time to answer this. First I offer all of my designs for free. You need to be damn good and in high demand to charge for a design. Landscape architects charge $65-70 per hour for design fees. I charge $35-45 per hour if thats al they want. The key to free designs is simple...NEVER leave them the design unless they want to pay for it. I've hand drawn in the past, but I now use a program called Dynscape (pricey at about 4 grand). This allows me to do multiple revisions without redrawing the house tima and time again, not to mention preloaded options like trees, shrubs, cars, tables, grills. It's basically autocad stripped down to pavers and landscaping.
    Okay sales.
    -I schedule a first appointment at their home, usually ends up being evenings or weekends :-(
    -We first take a look at the space that they are interested in having work done. so we head out back and we talk about some general sizes. I ask them what size ad shape of table they have or want. I ask where they want their grill. I comment on issues regarding existing terrain or slope, screening options, and landscape options.
    - We then head back inside and I whip out the old photo album. I show them examples of patios and point out options and features (walls, steps,h2o, landscape plants) I ask for what they want and have them give me an idea of their priorities. Would they rather have the 700 sq.ft. patio or would they like a smaller patio with the seat walls?
    -My job in all of this is to take voracious noteson their likes, dislikes, concerns, needs, wants. I also take note of their current home (a very contemporary decor will be reflected in my lndscape design) I take notes on ii they have irrigation, is the basement finished, kids, dogs, existing plants.
    -Once I have a feel for exactly what they want I tell them and then ask what time they have available for me to come back with the design. (I try to keep it to 7 days or less)I then tell them that Im going out back to take some measurements and photos and I look forward to seeing them (at the next appt.)
    - When I come back with the design (I usually make 2..one with all they asked for and a revised version at where I think they will end up after cuts) I go over the design and all the features. This is what they calling "building the value" in sales speak. I go over the build process and answer any questions that they may have.
    - I pull out the proposal and go over all of the details of the contratc, the costs of the services and their meaning. I mention the deposit schedule and then move onto closing the sale.
    Keys to the process:
    -Ask as many questions as possible
    -Always make sure they feel that you are paying attention to what they are saying and that it actually means something to you.
    -Never make a bad comment on something unless you are sure it's not the homeonwers fault or responsibility (may he is the one that built that ugly little landscape bed out front)
    - Build that percieved value in the product to justify the price
    -Build an effective photo album to allow your past work to speak for you
    -Take sales seminars, talk to manufactures about their products, and practice your design work. (I you are new to design, then I would crush you with my design and get a better price for it ;-)
    -People are never buying what you are selling, they are buying you!
  6. Slcareco

    Slcareco LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 682

    Nice appreciate all that!... When you get answers to your questions did you make a sheet to check off boxes like when you ask what kind of hardscapes are they looking for, check walkway, patio stuff like that?

    Cant picture trying to remember everything
  7. tatmkr

    tatmkr LawnSite Member
    Messages: 61

    I use a new manila folder for each customer. Inside contains mapquest diretions, contact information sheet and eventually material/price sheets and everything else relatig to the customer. I usually take written notes on notebook paper (in a nice slim black journal thing). I write down the measurements on the back of the folder and sometimes the notes. (I put the measurements here because I have had measurements fall out of the folder, and now I always have them.) One trick that I tried and never coud keep up with was to tape record the conversation.(untold of course) Then you are guarenteed to have all the subtle requests on hand.

    I have worked with some sales guys that created checklists. These were generally non-design guys that woud bring a project to me to design. If you go this route, think of every question you would need to ask to find out exactlly what the homeowner wants. Catagorize and leave room for notes to save space.

    Note: Most of my estimates are for hardscape/landscape projects in the 15-$50,000 range and require tons of notes and measurements.
  8. PaperCutter

    PaperCutter LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,996

    If you can present yourself as an authority on landscape design, your clients will gladly pay you for your time spent creating the plan. My initial consultation with the client is free, and I'll take a walk around the property with them, talk about what works and what doesn't, bat some ideas back and forth, and show them my portfolio and explain how the process works. That's all they get for free. I then present them with a design proposal. Once I get the signed agreement and a deposit, I'll measure the property and get started.

    As for asking the right questions, it kind of comes with experience. I've done the questionnaire thing, and when I was first starting it helped me remember to ask certain questions. It also felt clunky and threw off the rhythm of the sales call, so I moved away from that as soon as I could. Since almost everyone uses email, I make sure I get an email address from every client (husband AND wife, ideally- cc them both). This way if I'm working on a plan at midnight and have a brain fart, I can email the client with a simple question like "you never said- do you want a 36" or 48" grill?" You may not get every piece of info you need at the first contact, but they'll find a follow-up question reassuring. It means you're working on a project for them, not for your ego or portfolio or checkbook.
  9. EagleLandscape

    EagleLandscape LawnSite Platinum Member
    Male, from Garland, Texas
    Messages: 4,350

    dont do designs for free. then everyone is going to expect a design for free.

    charge accordingly. you wouldnt go work at mcdonalds for free would you?

    your time is always worth something.
  10. tatmkr

    tatmkr LawnSite Member
    Messages: 61

    I would say that it depends on your area and the compitetion. Around here you don't have much of a choice. I worked at companies that did it both ways and only one is left standing. Not to mention the fact that I have won several competitive bidding situations where the homeowner refused to purchase a design, and even a few where they did purchase the design only to give the actual project to me.

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