ASLA needs to market us!

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    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    Agreed. If anyone wants to post a concise definition of what an LA does the majority of us would disagree with it because it is too diverse. Diverse = vague. Think about relying on the marketing results you are likely to get through the marketing of a vague profession vs. marketing your own skill set to people who need and understand your skill set no matter what you call it.

    We bitch about architects “stealing” our work. How do they do it? They don’t do it by re-defining architecture. They simply sell the individual skill set of specific firms and don’t worry about the rest of the profession. The rest of the architects don’t bitch about how those firms alter the perception of the public’s understanding of what architecture is.


    I agree with this. It’s hard to define what we do compared to architecture because we generally don’t make objects, we makes spaces (usually), and whenever it is visually stunning, it is through the use of plants or hardscape which could give people the impression that it was undesigned (natural) or done by an architect (The Highline for example is often credited to DS+R and no mention of JCFO).

    A way we could get our voice heard is through a travelling exhibit at some of our great art museums. Massive floor-to-ceiling photos taken with a large-format camera and IMAX fly-throughs of some of our professions best examples from past periods to now could create a strong and lasting impression. I even wouldn’t advertisement as an LA event (wouldn’t that be a bore), but simply market it as The World’s Grand Works or something that the average person can relate to. And next to each photograph/film have the LA’s name. Simple and strong.

    But that’s just a dream…

    You’re right, most architecture films, books, blogs are done by the architect’s themselves or their peers. We really need to catch up…

    Tosh K

    The Highline is a funny one – you hear larch and arch each take total credit. 

    Advocacy is a pretty hot topic at ASLA, with each chapter taking various initiatives: go to schools and show all the great projects that get kids excited and tell their parents, participate in ACE program (I can’t tell you all the moments of ‘oh, landscape architects do that?’ that I’ve seen), go to public meetings and ask questions and offer solutions with the ‘as a landscape architect I believe these are the pertinent issues and some possible solutions’, call your legislatures and city council and talk to them.

    I’ve seen progress where a lot people respond to ‘I’m an LA’ with ‘what do you think of the High Line/urban farms/green roofs’ lately, so keep educating!

    ASLA is only as strong as its members, so remember that you can always join the local chapter efforts and see what national is trying to do through its members.

    Barbara Peterson

    ASLA (local, state and national) should do a better job at marketing LA but so should each of us. Remember, ASLA is made of people and if you are a member, you can suggest activities….

    What have you done to “spread the word” beyond clients:

    1. Have you signed up to be a Landscape Architecture merit badge counselor for the Boy Scouts?   ( ),

    You don’t need to be a scout leader or have a child in scouting to be a merit badge counselor. It’s easy: go to your local BSA council and ask for a registration form to be a merit badge counselor; take the BSA on-line Youth Protection class (about 30 minutes); turn in your paperwork and your Youth Protection certificate; check back on your approval; contact local scout unit(s) to let them know that you are available to teach the LA MB. Put together a presentation that covers the diversity of the profession, and cover the merit badge requirements. The merit badge booklet is written by LA’s so can be used as a guideline if you are unsure where to start. The merit badge can be completed in a day or two days so the commitment is not huge.

    2. Have you talked to your local Girl Scout troop(s) to see if someone working on their Gold Award (comparable to the BSA Eagle Scout) needs mentoring from an LA.  Or can you put a presentation and badge together about Landscape Architecture: GS allows you to “make your own badge”.

    3. Have you checked with local high schools to see if they have a design, architecture, or engineering program where you might help or speak?

    Our school district has an architecture and engineering career path where students can take one architecture (or engineering) 2-hour studio each year. Would you be willing to speak or serve on project juries?

    Would you serve on a high school Professional Advisory Committee?  Our committee helps review teaching requirements, makes connections with “the real world”, looks for speakers / mentors / internship opportunities, etc. Members include architects, a landscape architect, an accessibility specialist, a civil engineer, a general contractor, a landscape contractor, an owner of a drafting supply store, and a CAD instructor.

    4. Have you checked with your local school district to see if the high schools (or middle schools) have “career days”…not a “give-me-your-resume-we’re-hiring” day but a day when professional organizations set up a booth and answer questions about the profession? Would you have a few hours to volunteer at a booth for ASLA or Landscape Architecture?

    5. Have you done “something” during April’s National Landscape Architecture month?

    Could you maybe get a few LA’s together for a series of 30-45 minute presentations at a local library? Were topics are relevant to the area ie “What is Landscape Architecture”, “How to select the right designer for your residence”, “Why complete streets are important”, “Urban wildlife: how good design can minimize human / wildlife conflicts”, “How storm runoff can be turned into an asset for your neighborhood”, “Increasing outdoor play opportunities in a dense urban setting”…”whatever”?

    6. Have you worn the “Ask Me about Landscape Architecture” button during April? Or have you handed out any of the ASLA provided public awareness information: ?


    Now, with regard to ASLA: yes, I agree, they could definitely do more.

    1. Why are there no public service announcements about Landscape Architecture from ASLA?

    I recall hearing a fabulous PSA on the radio…bird chirping, people having fun, talk of Central Park, mention of Fredrick Law Olmsted as the designer…  I was happy that ASLA had put out such a nice PSA…until the end….(summarized) Central Park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted who was an urban planner; planners design the outdoor spaces that people enjoy; if you want a nice outdoor space contact your local APA chapter or to learn more check out the American Planning Association website at… What, what, what??? How could that not have been for Landscape Architects or from the ASLA??  

    Surprisingly (or should I say disappointingly), I have yet to hear a PSA about Landscape Architecture. I think that the folks at the national level are missing an important opportunity.  Heck, look at APA: they have a nice set of announcements ( ). I’ve heard a couple of them on the radio…why don’t “we” have PSA’s?  

    2. How many state or local chapters host a reception during the school year for high school students and local LA firms?

    Why high school students? Because they are thinking about what they will study in college and what they want to “do for the rest of their life”. If they don’t know what LA is or have any connections, why not provide that opportunity to them?

    3. Why don’t the local chapters have design lectures?

    The Dallas Architecture Forum ( ) has a nice series of lectures from interesting architects. Why don’t ASLA local chapters have something similar that could cover the diversity of the profession?


    Anyway, just some thoughts.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    I think there is a big difference between recruiting for the profession and promoting the profession. “The profession” has done a great job recruiting to the point where there is a flood of people with not only BLA or BSLA degrees, but many with MLAs and not enough employment opportunities for them. I think they took advantage of the environmental movement to do that. It may have been idealism rather than deception, but I think it did a great dis-service to the individuals who bought into it.

    When there is opportunity, there are people who will recognize them and fill those opportunities. A lot of us get frustrated that others are also adept at recognizing the same opportunities and find a way to fill them. That tells me that it is less about public awareness of the profession and more about those of us in it not positioning ourselves well enough to fill those opportunities for one reason or another.

    That makes me believe that selling the profession first with the expectation that it will draw us in is not an effective strategy. We are getting displaced, or not displacing others when we try to make our profession the reason that we should be hired. We are losing because the others market their abilities and accomplishments as individuals or firms whether they are architects, planners, engineers, or self taught. Clearly, what profession someone belongs to is not what the consumer is most concerned about.

    Corey J. Halstead

    Agreed. There are two separate initiatives there and with regards to the promotion of the profession as a great career, perhaps the carriage was put before the horse there.

    Creating spaces for people to live, breath, and make memories in is a emotional endeavor. I would agree that tapping into those emotions—and matching abilities and accomplishments to them—is much more effective than yelling “I’m a landscape architect” from a mountain top (or TV screen). 

    Barbara Peterson

    Agreed. I am not suggesting recruiting. I do not like recruiting or attempts to convince people to enter any particular field. I agree that trying to “sell” someone on any profession does both that person and the industry a disservice.

    But I do not believe that talking to young people and adults or answering questions about the profession is the same as recruiting. Talking to interested people clarifies what we do beyond “diagnosing lawn problems”, “changing poinsettias in the mall”, and “planting bushes and pretty flowers” (each of which I’ve been asked about when I replied to someone that I was an LA). And helping a scout earn a merit badge or an Eagle or Gold project will not “convert” them to wanna-be landscape architects nor will talking to high school students already in an architecture program nor will putting a small presentation together or wearing a button during April.

    With regard to the last three suggestions: opening conferences to interested high school students or lectures are ways to engage interested or curious persons that have questions not to pull in people with no interest.

    Brandon Clemson

    You talk about landscape architecture like it’s some sort of spiritual experience, which is exactly why allied professions (engineering, architecture) don’t take LAs seriously or trust them to sign plans besides planting plans. 


    It’s kinda hard to take anyone in a Hawaiian shirt seriously 😉 

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    I can never understand why so many in our profession are so convinced that the pathway to success is to market the entire profession with the expectation that this will make an LA license like tenure to a professor, a bus pass to a commuter, or an ink stamp at a night club.

    It will not perform like a labor union doing collective bargaining. We have to understand that that there is not another side to negotiate with. We are not competing with management. We are competing with other members of the profession. Yet, so many want to rely on those other members that we compete with to market us. Wake up. It is not going to happen.

    That does not mean that ASLA is not a good thing. It just means that this particular expectation of the organization is unrealistic. I don’t know that ASLA tries to do this. I just know that many people in our profession expect this and some seem to think that it should be their main purpose. It takes resources and energy away from other more productive efforts. I don’t know how much they do in this effort, but I would completely understand if it was not a lot.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    I don’t disagree with any of what you just wrote, Chris M.

    Full disclosure – I’m not a member.

    It is an entity that runs off of all of its memberships. Some are licensed LAs and many are not. I don’t know the demographic or funding source breakdown, but I’m quite certain that the entity, like all entities, is more interested in the expansion and perpetuation of the entity than each individual member equally within it. Those most beneficial to the entity become the most influential. They will see that the resources are applied to what benefits them the most whether it is filling enrollment in accredited programs, awarding friends or partners in profit with awards or titles, promoting certain types of projects or products, ….. and more likely than not – avoiding the promotion of competitors whether they are members or not.

    When you see that an affiliate member pays the same as a full member you have to realize that they are valued the same. And a corporate member pays 5.5 times that amount – valued even more. What is worse to me is that you do not have to be licensed to be a full member. Why would any person starting out in the profession believe that this entity is going to put its resources into what best serves a new member paying 1/2 the amount as a full member?

    35% of members are in LA firms. 20% are in architecture, engineering, or multi-discipline firms and people don’t understand why a bigger effort is not being made to market LAs above architects, engineers, and multi-d firms?

    If you want a professional organization to represent a certain portion of the profession, you have to limit the membership to just that portion and not accept funding from outside of it. If you want it to represent an entire profession it will do exactly that. The key is to understand that there are a lot of parts to this profession and not just those that suit just me or you.

    I choose not to pay to fund the interests of those other parts of the profession. I don’t have expectations of ASLA catering to me. I have no problem with them existing or what they do. I just don’t feel obligated to be a member simply because I’m in the profession.

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