In the past, I have designed ‘without a net’ at the San Diego Home and Garden Show in Del Mar. The Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD) annually offers clients 30 minutes of design time for the price of $30, and I have volunteered my time answering questions and preparing a few simple sketches for people. It was a fun, unusual experiment in creating instant plans for folks.
For many of those signing up, it is their first experience working with a landscape designer, and it has helped me gain some valuable insights on how those unfamiliar with the process view our profession. A few of the more generic questions posed at the show may help everyone in understanding what to expect from a landscape designer.
How long does a design take from start to finish? This depends on my backlog and, more importantly, the complexity of the design. It generally takes a minimum of 3 weeks to develop the design, but can take 2 to 3 weeks longer depending on revisions and approvals.
What should I expect from the first meeting? During the first meeting, we get to know each other and discuss mutual ideas. We walk the site, then sit down and look at photos while exploring the range of possibilities. From those discussions, I will determine the scope of the project and set a price for the design.
How do you determine the cost of the design? The price is determined by the hours that will be spent in its preparation, including meeting times. I write a proposal that spells out the design work to be done and the price for that work. My price is firm as long as the work does not change; other designers and landscape architects may charge by the hour and simply bill for their hours without setting a cap.
What do I get from the process? This is listed in the contract. I supply the client, at minimum, with 3-5 copies of the design and, if requested, the PDF file. I often include a color plan as well. Also, 3-D images are available at an extra charge. For those with HOA requirements, I supply whatever the HOA is requesting. Since I work with a Design-Build Company, I also give clients an estimate for installation although this is technically not part of the design process.
How do I best choose who to work with? No one actually asked this but it is an important question. You should learn about the designer’s qualifications and experience. Some designers have drawn hundreds of designs while others have drawn just a few. The landscape business has a long learning curve; it is wise to choose someone with lots of tenure. The – go by your gut and choose someone who you can get along with during the months of design and construction.