How The Design Process Works

Making the decision to get started with a landscape project is an exciting venture. No matter you’re having done, you are beginning a journey of taking ideas and turning them into a reality. 

Of course, you want to be sure that everything is built right and the fact is, that all starts with design. Landscape design is the very first step in the process and a truly critical one. 

If you’ve never had a landscape project completed before, you might have no idea what to anticipate with the design process. High-quality landscape design in Southeast Pennsylvania is a multi-step process that involves close collaboration between you and a landscape designer. Since this may all be brand-new to you, we’ll walk you through the experience step-by-step. This will give you a sense of what you can expect if you begin the design process with us.

The job of a landscape architect requires excellence in a variety of skill sets due to the versatility of the position. Architects fill the roles of the planner, communicator, designer, innovator, problem-solver and calculator. The success of a landscaping project relies on the extent of the planning and research done in the beginning, so you want someone who is thorough.

Even though our team is versatile and agile, it’s still important to utilize creative and flexible problem solving abilities during the project. All construction projects experience changes throughout the building process but landscape teams must contend with a degree of unpredictability brought by natural elements. As a result, our team must be ready to problem solve, reinvent and offer new solutions based on changes in the job site, client objectives and restrictions that may be posed by nature.

Using an organized, systematic approach to this extensive process gives a project the best chance of ending with a successful outcome and higher return on investment. Thinking through every possibility in the brainstorming session gives the architect, developer and client the most solid foundation to work from — and they can then be better prepared for roadblocks they face in the future.

If everyone involved in a project understands the steps of a landscape team’s job, they can effectively communicate their needs and goals. Improved communication will only make the project more successful in the long run for the people who use the space.

The design stage begins when the proverbial pencil hits the paper. The landscape team or architect takes the ideas discussed with the developer and turns them into plans on a digital page.

The steps of the landscape architecture design process are:

  • Pre-Design
  • Conceptual Design
  • Design Development
  • Construction Documentation

Throughout the design phases, the landscape team will consider factors such as cost, purpose and natural features of the site itself. When designing, the location is vital to the development of the plan. The architect has to keep in mind the original site. They must protect the natural vegetation and resources while accomplishing the objectives of the developer.

Landscape relies on the expertise of multiple professionals while constructing the design. If necessary, we’ll consult civil engineers, hydrologists, geotechnical engineers, environmental scientists and foresters. 


The preliminary design phase consists of researching the restrictions and requirements of the project. The team analyzes current features in the location, such as existing walkways, buildings and utilities. They also consider environmental factors such as climates, micro-climates, moisture retention, existing plants and soil erosion. They infer areas rather than focus on specific calculations and details.

As a part of their research, they will also consider which plants would work best in the area to help them achieve their objectives. If they’re working on a wetland retention area, they need a plant that is resistant to drought but can take on a lot of water. Knowing what types of plants will work in these systems and climates helps them shape their ideas.

Conceptual Design

This phase of design consists of fleshing out multiple sketches of high-level design concepts. Teams are starting to create a plan with basic numbers and an understanding of the requirements of the jurisdiction.

For example, they need to follow the codes specific to the county, city or township about open area requirements and landscape ratios. During this stage, we look at the factors the project must adhere to in order to bring the project into compliance. Later in the conceptual stage, they try to identify issues that may arise when getting clearances from governing bodies.


This stage of the landscape design includes all the necessary calculations and delves deeply into the specifics of all the structures. The team becomes mindful of components such as stormwater management, contour grading and elevation drawings. They select one of the conceptual designs and refine it to define the necessary specifications. They make sure their plan follows code and fulfills the needs of the developer.

This plan includes specifics about the methods that the construction team will use and the aesthetics requested by the developer. They address potential issues, including and drainage specifications of the requirements of jurisdiction — this plan is lengthy and extremely detail-oriented.

Another document they need to create is a table with all of the plants necessary for the site and their different specifications — this chart includes sizes of the plants, their comprehensive data, the number needed for the site, how they will be planted and future details on how to care for them . They even need to list types of grass the contractors can use.

Construction Documentation

This part of the process generally includes a civil engineer to help with all the technical calculations. They work on proper grading, sewage and pipelines to make the original design technically viable. They must be aware of the state’s rules and regulations to make sure the plan satisfies all the conditions of a business operating within that specific state. 

Once these plans receive approval from all necessary agencies, the team ends the design stages. They now have a plan that includes all the documents required to hand off to the contractor to start construction.

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