D1 Process


The Design Process


Lorien Hall

Inchbald School of Design

October 28, 2013

A framed view into the thinking waters where the twisted and reaching branches of a silhouetted Hamamelis reflect; deep in meditation. A rising rusted wall echoes from behind.

Gravel pathways ask me to wander, calling back to the fields and river beds that once existed.

In the late afternoon and into the evening a meal is shared with laughter as the sun filters through the canopies of Birch and Pagoda Trees, captured and held by the grasses that move gently with the air; a clearing in the woods.

Underneath a striking angled roof, a pot is thrown behind walls which opens to the surround of foliage and flowers. Close by a book is read lazily from a swaying hammock.

Tall towering Yew protect and guide while coming and going, and sculpture mimicking a low wall always says hello.

D1: The Design Process


  • Site Visit to the Wear Residence

  • Creating the Brief

  • Mood Board: What it was Meant to Be & What it Became

  • Drawing up the Site Plan

  • Grids, Grids, Grids

  • Moving into Model: Cardboard @ 1:100 / Foam Core @ 1:50

  • Pegging it out in Eccleston Square

  • Adjusting Spaces on Paper/2D

  • Plant Research: Weekend Visit to Kew Gardens

  • Plant Selection: Developing a New Plant Palette

  • Plant Placement

  • Final Design Decisions

  • Line & Rendering Techniques

  • Breaking Designer's Block: Dancing in Hyde Park After Dark By Myself

  • Continuing with Rendering Techniques

  • Materials Board

  • Final Colored Pencil Rendering

Site Visit to the Wear Residence

During the visit two main tasks occurred: 1) talking to Alison Wear about her garden and goals so we could create a brief for the design, and 2) taking measurements of the site so we could develop a site plan.

The first part was very interesting to me. We were there as a group and were free to ask any question which we felt would help us understand her, her way of living, what she wanted for her garden by way of items and feelings. I probably did the least amount of questioning and found that it was either hard for me to think of intelligent questions that I felt were very effective, or because of the amount of people there, it was hard to get a word in when I tried. But I learned so much about Mrs. Wear, and about the process of questioning by observing all the others submitting questions – I felt that a lot of good ones were asked. After that interaction I decided that something I wish was better at is questioning and conversing with the client...following their answers down the rabbit hole to see what's really there.

I also paid attention to the interior of the house. Though looking back now – I feel like more could have been done with my design to pull what I saw inside out into the garden. But then again...should a garden be a direct reflection of the interior? Or even the client? While I think a garden should compliment it's owner/caretaker/guardian – I do not necessarily think we are meant to design gardens which are a replica of the client. A garden, for me, is like a member of the family, or a friend. They have their own personality – and sure, you may be related, but you're not each other, but better because of each other. I did wonder about this idea in the beginning stages of the design process, and I think that it lessened the chain I could have felt to make it a “Mrs. Wear” garden, per se.

The measuring out went well with our group. We were all willing to work together and resolve different ways of preferring to pull measurements. In the end we were delivered a list of measurements with no or little errors (from what I could tell). I would obviously prefer to receive a survey for any site I develop a design for, but seeing how that might not always be the case, I would like to have someone there with me helping to hold and pull the tape. I think it would go much quicker....maybe that's what you have an intern for.

Creating the Brief

A short time after the site visit we met back at the school in the lecture room to discuss our experience with Mrs. Wear and what we learned about her and to create the brief. Maria had taken very good notes, so much of our list came from her. We divided the information we gathered into two sections: 1) objective, and 2) subjective. From what I got out of it – the objective where items that we were (almost) definitely suppose to include/accommodate for in our design, the “must haves”...of course, you could negotiate on some things I am sure, but for the most part...the list on the objective board were to be included in the design.

The subjective board was filled with items that were open to interpretation of what we thought Mrs. Wear wanted as far as feel, mood and ambience. It also included things she likes, for example, rust. It was up to us whether or not we would incorporate these items or moods and how we would do so. A few things that she said which I ran with to develop my design were...water, rust (corten), meditative, sunlight, sculpture, humor, reflection, calm but not bored....all of these elements are now present in my design, or hopefully are. Something I wish was more strongly presented in my design is turning the entire garden into a sculpture itself – think land-art...it seemed like a good challenge and one I wanted to really tackle and develop, but I am afraid it got away from me. For the better I am not sure.

Drawing up the Site Plan

The next step was to take the measurements from our site visit and create a base, a site plan – from which all drawings would be based. Between the two groups this went well and the site I would say came out fairly accurate, I thought? I had a devil of a time understanding how to use the scale!! And after years of being able to use a scale just fine, this was a bit weird for me. And while I eventually got the hang of it – I am still learning what a space feels like when we are talking about meters, centimeters, and millimeters...I think there are still a few more battles to be had with the scale.

We first created the site plan at 1:50 (when really, what does that mean?! I still don't know! One of what equals 50 of what!? Are we talking centimeters or millimeters? Neither?) - then we created a site plan at 1:100.

I was satisfied when this was done.

Mood Board: What it was Meant to Be & What it Became

For me, creating the mood board was a visual extension of the subjective board we wrote out as a group. More or less anyway. We were supposed to gather images which evoked the mood we were going to try to capture in our garden – it could be anything from plants and garden to fashion and paintings. I started out by purchasing several magazines...garden, fashion, more garden, home and garden...and after getting home and flipping through them I was disappointed that my purchases seemed fruitless. But I leafed through them several more times, trying to be more patient and open minded. I did end up using four images from the magazines, which really did make a difference in the end.

After the magazines came the internet!! I googled and googled and saved many images to my desktop that I wanted to throw at the garden. I was doing this late the night before the mood board was due, and normally would have like to have taken more time and put more thought into it, but I was still living in my friends lounge and spending a lot of time looking for housing and getting over jet lag, so the first few assignments felt like jumping hurdles (even though I think this whole year will be jumping hurdles really). When the time came to print the images they started coming out really blue and a cool-colored yellow...ink shortage!!! There was nothing I could do about it at that time and in defeat I didn't finish printing the rest of the images and just figured I would add them later (that never happened).

The next morning I arrived at school and in a slightly embarrassed manner pinned up the four magazine pages and the several poorly-printed images on my wall. When it came time to present my mood board I briefly explained what had happened with the ink and the printer...but it was well-received nonetheless. The words spiritual, mysterious, and challenge were used so I decided to leave the board as is and run with it.

In the end I am really glad my “happy accident” occurred. Serendipity. As I look back at all the other images I wanted to incorporate...well – I am just glad I didn't! In the future I will be more loose about my mood board. I think the thing for me is to not think too much about it or read too much into it. Otherwise it may become very contrived and who wants a contrived garden? I do not. I need to just let it happen and relax a bit. Sometimes mistakes are exactly the right way to go.

Grids, Grids, Grids

This is the part of the process that gave me the biggest headache literally. My head was hurting so badly after I finished with all of my grids, I think I went and bought some aspirin! I remember coming to the point of delirium and I couldn't tell if what I was doing was leading towards anywhere positive or not. It's a good thing Andrew and Marcus were there to tell me which ones to develop further. I do remember thinking, “if I use this process after I leave the school how will I know which grid to explore and use without someone telling me?” I was concerned.

I am not sure if I would have chosen the grid that Andrew and Marcus selected for me had I been on my own. I really don't know what would have happened or which direction my grids would have taken – I don't think I would have done as many grids as I did, but I am learning the value of persistence and exploring in the process.

In the end, I was grateful for the guidance and I enjoyed the result and the process. As I was thinking the other day – Process is Progress!!

Moving into Model: Cardboard @ 1:100 / Foam Core @ 1:50

I had never made any kind of model for any design I had done so I was very excited about this part of the design process – and that we were exploring with model so early on, even before we could think about gardens (sure, sure). The models were a challenge for me. I started out using cardboard at a scale of 1:100 and focused on positive and negative shapes and tried to focus on mass and void as well (which was the point?), though I felt rather inhibited by the cardboard in creating mass especially. It was at the 1:100 scale that I resolved the overall motivation for my garden, but felt like I was blocked by the small scale I was working with. When I moved to 1:50 I brought some foam core to work with, which was MUCH easier to cut. And while I was able to develop my model a bit further by way of structures and existing tree placement, I still felt frustrated in creating mass and void. I did not have the patience to cut out the same shape 10 times just to create height. Also – I couldn't see it in my minds eye, I couldn't see via the model where there should be mass and void and that was frustrating to me, because I believe that mass and void are very important elements in design and a space, especially a garden. I remember staring into the space, waiting for it to tell me something, but it never spoke. Once I hot my limit with the foam core model at 1:50 I needed to go back to the paper/2D to get my mass and void (kind of ironic, I think).

Looking back I am still not sure if I nailed mass and void in my design. I can see visions of my design, but the vignettes that flash through my mind...have I captured them on paper? I suppose a 3D computer system would help me decide that. But I want to be able to see it and know it on paper. I think that is something I will make a conscious effort to create in my designs this year – effective mass!! And void!!

Pegging it out in Eccleston Square

So I am seeing that I am a little out of order here. After the models were completed I went back to paper and developed the skeleton of my design (now being allowed to think of it as a garden), before pegging it out. So photographs of that part are probably shown in the next section.

Basically, I knew what I had come up with on paper wasn't working for me 100%...there was a nagging that I couldn't quite shake or resolve, but I didn't know what to do. Another block! Another frustration!

I was third to go – the first two gardens (Graham and Sarah) I felt worked really well and I was very excited for them. When my turn came I was curious, nervous and anticipatory. And while I enjoyed this part of the process, it was a disappointing day for me in that what I had prepared on paper didn't work fantastically in the real world. I knew beforehand it wasn't working...and pegging it out only confirmed that. But it was through creating it in real life that I was able to know that the seating area needed to be larger, the pond a tad smaller...and that is what made the difference, pegging it out made the difference.

Adjusting Spaces on Paper/2D

So this section should fall before and after pegging out my design...but we're all good.

So, I am done with my “pegging” and after some twisting and turning I finally came to a resolution I could live with, that the garden could live with! It was a relief and I knew I had it when I did. So just as an overview:

  • Creating grids led me to positive and negative space, mass and void

  • Model helped push that agenda further

  • Once I was blocked there I moved back to paper to develop the spaces in 2D, now thinking of it as a garden (although I was earlier)

  • Once I was stumped there – pegging it out lead to a resolution, once again

  • Now I am back at the drawing board, resolving issues on paper. Checking my scale always, but not always understanding what it means.

The process of moving between design methods was a great way to break through designer's block. It allowed me to consider ideas that otherwise, wouldn't have gone unthought of.

Plant Research: Weekend Visit to Kew Gardens

All I can hear is Marcus telling me I spent too much time on my plants. So I decided to spend even more time and go back to Kew on a weekend and study more plants!!!

The time there was helpful – it didn't answer all my plant palette questions or even resolve the soul of my planting scheme (more like my planting problem at the time) – but it did lead me to my answer in the end. And so yes, it was worth it.

I paid attention to some of the areas we visited as a class, and then off to the grasses!!! As I knew grasses were an important part of my design.

Plant Selection: Developing a New Plant Palette

I hit a low in the design process with my plant selection phase. And while it is only 5 points for the project (therefore I shouldn't overdo it) - I thought, “how can I stay with the plants I originally chose from Kew when they don't fit my mood board at all? Then what am I trying to achieve?”

The plants I had gathered from Kew were great as a palette in and of themselves, but when I matched them to my design, so many of them didn't belong. Was the list I created at Kew wasteful? Not at all! I actually ended using the Hamamelis, Iris, Anthriscus and Anemone...so four. Not too bad. It was an excellent exercise and gave me a base.

As I was wrestling with the original plant palette I had all the photos laid out on my drafting table. Glancing back and forth between my mood board and my plants laid out before me I became quite despondent at the lack of connection.

In walks part-time student Eileen.

I shared with her my dilemma and she agreed.

Eileen seems to have a sensitivity for plants and their textures. She pointed out that my mood board was very textured and so I should try to pull that out in my plants – and the coloring should be cool....silvery even, which I had thought of earlier. She gave me a list of plants to look up and talked about each one and why it would fit with my design. Once I got home I started googling the list and was excited about her suggestions. After mixing her ideas with mine, I feel that though I may not have the best plant palette for my space, I have a very decent one. And that is good enough for me at this point!

What I learned through this experience was the value of knowing your plant material. Really knowing plants – what they are like, how they grow and how they react to different situations. You can make much more intelligent palette choices when you have more options to work with.

Final Design Decisions

With my layout finally resolved – and feeling better about my plant selection and where the major players were going, I moved into the final-design-decision stage which included adding the furniture, deciding heights of walls, steps, etc., and selecting hardscape materials. Even though I found that some of these decisions (mainly heights) were still being decided upon while labeling, etc.

Plant Placement

At the beginning of placing my plants I figured I needed to know exactly what was going where.

At the end of placing my plants I concluded that I just needed to know my trees, a few key structural shrubs and all else could just be...

And that was that.


Line & Rendering Techniques

I was encourage to stick with pencil for this project. I felt fine about that and at first, thought it would buy me some time and make the process simpler and easier for me. I was wrong! It was a great challenge!

I first started creating plant symbols that I was familiar with, but I was told to loosen up – which even though I desperately wanted to – I was having a hard time doing so. It seemed that when something didn't matter or didn't “count” in my mind, then was I able to be free and my line quality reflected that relaxed state I was in. But the moment I was doing something “for real” I had a devil on each shoulder telling me I couldn't do it well enough.

Breaking Designer's Block: Dancing in Hyde Park After Dark By Myself

I was in a funk at this point and feeling very wound up. I kept thinking how I will never make a great designer and that I didn't know what I would do with my future. I know this sounds quite melodramatic, but that's really how I felt. I was very discouraged at my inability to create something I felt had value. I had already forgotten that process equals progress.

So I went for a run in Hyde Park to unwind.

After half-running around the park I left the path and ran into an open field. It was getting dark and the large silhouettes of the surrounding trees encompassed me. I sprinted up the field as fast as I possibly could – running out all of my frustration and tension (and breath). I flew.

I jogged back down the other side of the field where the grass had grown long. I had my earbuds in and then after some moments of hesitation I started dancing to the music. It's what my body wanted to do. Dance, dance, dance! Although it was more like flailing my limbs around without much reason, although I did stay with the beat. I did that for a good while. Then as I moved around the park to other areas I would start dancing at will. I just wanted to throw out all my pent up perfectionism that was tying me down. So I did!

This won't be the last time I go dancing in Hyde Park I am sure!

Continuing with Rendering Techniques

The next day I had a better attitude and was able to continue with my line work and rendering techniques in a more relaxed fashion. I think dancing in the park paid off! I decided to take away all borders that were diving the gravel from the plant beds. Not only does Mrs. Wear seem like a person who doesn't have tight boundaries in her life, but her garden didn't seem to want it too much either. Besides, my design had a lot going on already and I needed to find ways of simplifying. After taking the edging away, I was able to work with the shapes of the plants in a more organic way. I didn't push this as far as I would have liked to, but I am happier with how the planting areas turned out.

While working out my line work I think I redrew my entire plan 3 or 4 times.

Materials Board

For my materials board I used the images from my mood board, images of my final plant selection and images of the hardscape elements (including water). I found the materials board valuable because I was able to see if it all felt cohesive...from beginning to end. And for the most part, I think it works. Although with a little more collaboration or research, I feel I could have made a stronger connection to my mood board.

I can see though, in the future, I am going to have to be careful about becoming obsessive with everything working perfectly together. But I hope with time and honest practice, I will become better at “seeing” - which is what I think so much of garden design is.

Final Colored Pencil Rendering

Hallelujah!!! Almost finished!

After scanning the pencil drawing I had created on trace paper, I imported the file into Illustrator where I had created an information block and labels on an A1 sheet. I then had that file printed at Hobs and that is what I colored on.

I had figured out the approach I was going to take with my colored pencils earlier, so this was just sitting down and doing it!

Did it turn out exactly how I would have liked? No – there are a few line weight issues, a few shadows forgotten or portrayed inaccurately...but this is the first time I have ever rendered a plan this way, so at the end of the day I am very pleased with the results. Happy! Yeah! I feel I can work with the style and develop it a bit further pushing it into a more professional realm. And that will make me very happy.