Landcape Design Credentials?

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by BkServicesLLC18, Mar 16, 2009.

  1. BkServicesLLC18

    BkServicesLLC18 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 15

    Did everyone start out with a background in landscape design or do some people just wing it?
  2. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872

    Designers come from ALL sorts of backgrounds.

    Well, the real best designers are landscape architects, usually. But they're kind of in a class by themselves. So let's just leave them out of it for now....

    IMO, the best designers are usually the ones who went to school and got a degree in landscape design. The second best ones are the ones who got a 4 year degree in a related field, with a strong emphasis and training in design. Then there are some people who do landscape design who have never had any formal training in it, but have spent enough time around designers and around landscaping, to know what looks good. I'd be in that class. But I wouldn't consider myself a great designer. That's why I use a pro.

    The last group would be people who just wing it. They haven't spent much time around any professional designers and haven't a whole lot of experience knowing what looks good together. They're basically winging it. And I've met a few of those in my time too. DANG their designs were ugly! Not only ugly looking designs, but if anyone had actually implemented them, the landscape would have looked REALLY bad in a few years.

    I know one local landscape designer in my area (and I am sure there are more) who is totally self taught. She has no formal design schooling at all. And little work in the landscaping field. But she pounds out some nice designs! Her work always impresses me. But I'd say she's the exception. I think she's spent a LOT of time doing self study. Studying horticulture, studying design tactics, etc.

    Most of the designers I've ever used have a degree in it. That doesn't mean they'll always be great. Some of them are really quirky. But one thing I can say about all the ones who have degrees - they know what they are doing. Might be a little too quirky for my taste, but they design landscapes that look awesome!
  3. White Gardens

    White Gardens LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,776

    Most of my designing skills came from a general knowledge of computers to start out with.

    After that is was just a matter of knowing planting, how they will look 10 years from now, and using basic design principles.

    When anyone questions my background, I just pull out my portfolio and show them examples and they tend to like them.

    Funny thing is, most Landscapers around here don't have a professional designer, and I pick up all the customers that they wouldn't touch.

    The thing I didn't like about schooling is that they teach you broad subjects that don't pertain to the local environment. So what you get is designers who can go anywhere in the states to work, but aren't good enough individually locally to stand out from the crowd.
  4. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872

    I'll have to call you out on that one. My experience has been the opposite. All the designers I know who got a degree in landscape design are GREAT at knowing their local plants and how best to use them, but not quite as good once you get them outside their zone.

    I know for a fact the colleges around here who offer degrees in landscape design focus VERY heavily on local horticulture. I've taken classes there. And every landscape designer I know who has graduated from a local college with a degree in landscape design has an excellent knowledge of local environment, plantings, etc.
  5. White Gardens

    White Gardens LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,776

    I agree Jim, I know there are a lot of institutions out there that teach more local knowledge.

    I just find it funny that isn't the case around here. I talk to people right out of college, and when I talk local plants they seem confused.

    I don't know if it's the local universities that are dropping the ball, or an idea that they can teach people to go be a designer anywhere but where they currently live.
  6. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872

    Huh. That is weird. Sorry, I thought you were making a blanket statement about all landscape design schools / colleges.
  7. White Gardens

    White Gardens LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,776

    Yes and no. I guess it's all a matter of where you live.

    All the universities in the state tend to attract students from Chicago, so what seeme to happen is, they come down-state and hate it here. You don't know how many times I've heard, "there is nothing to do hear" or, "I can't wait to graduate to move to Cali, New York, Or Florida."

    It's harder to attract anyone but locals to stay in the area after college.
  8. AGLA

    AGLA LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,774

    Few people ask about credentials, if that is what you are concerned about. People hire a designer because they want someone who can remove as much doubt about the outcome of the project as possible no matter how they go about doing that. I believe that verbal communication from a knowledgable person goes a long way in that as long as it is backed up by a good portfolio of built work. A degree or certificate can get you through the door faster in some cases, but in the end they make their choice by how well you seem to understand them and your craft.

    I know really good LA's, really good designers with a degree, really good designers with a lot of experience, and have known some who did well with little experience just starting out. I've known all of the above that sucked as well.

    Some have a gift that they are born with. Some learn to design well from experience. Some will go to school and still not have talent.

    If you have enough of either of those things it can be enough to overcome the lack of others.
  9. Dreams To Designs

    Dreams To Designs LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,406

    Many just wing it and it shows. Quite often these same people will steal ideas or whole landscapes from other properties. They are also those that find a design or style that a customer liked, and now that is their signature.

    Good design is an art form. It is the only art where the canvas and the palette are both constantly changing, and to make it even more interesting, it should be sustainable. You must take the clients needs and dreams and create sustainable outdoor spaces that they can afford and will enjoy.

    Some learn it from books, others experience, but the best have combined the continuing education and experience with art, to exceed the client's expectations.

    A background in landscape design education will give you information that may take a lifetime of experience to learn, if you have the right instruction. Everyone will have their own ideas, but there are some valuable principles you can learn through a design program. Get as much information as you can. Formal education, books, magazines, videos, public and private gardens, networking and learn by doing, will be many of the tools you will use to create amazing landscape design, and hopefully landscapes.

  10. riverwalklandscaping

    riverwalklandscaping LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 759

    Just because you went to school for landscape architecture does not mean you have an imagination. My dad was an architect and had many friends and there were plenty of people who worked at his firm who went to school and were idiots with no imagination. I think someone who is or is educated in art AND landscaping is probably your best bet for unique work. Otherwise you'll end up with a lot of guys who do a lot of the same. It's quality and correct work, but it's a lot of the same. Think developments. All the houses were built right and probably an architect did the plans.. but they all look the same.

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