August 12, 2010 at 1:11 am #168289
Andrew Garulay, RLAParticipant
The recent “efficiency” discussion got me thinking about a few things. Most of us view “the industry” as I like to call it (the profession as most like to call it) from where we sit rather than as a whole. We see demand, expectation, and acceptable deliverable products based on the office we work in and those directly competing or operating in the same market or design environment.
I’m very interested in how the current economy and industry wide work load is actually taking shape in terms of “deliverables”. Is it a given that the highest quality digital products are separating the men/women from the boys/girls in being competitive? Are the bells and whistles as necessary as we think? I wonder this because what we really are selling are landscapes rather than deliverable plans, graphics, or other representations of the final product. Could we be more eager to use all of the tools, technologies, and skill sets available to produce the finest deliverables while the market may be less interested in how we represent the proposed work and more interested in getting down to the nitty-gritty built work as economically as reasonably possible?
Is anyone seeing any changes or trends in demand, expectation, or acceptance of “deliverables?
Are the old school people actually being displaced by the more tech savvy throughout the profession? Are the latest tech savvy people being left looking for jobs while the “middle or the roaders” keep on keeping on? I don’t know if anyone really knows the facts on this. I sure don’t, but I’m curious.
What are you seeing happening in terms of “deliverables”?August 12, 2010 at 1:48 am #168300
I have been working as a professional for 6 years. So I guess that puts me in the “savvy” tier. In my six years I have seen small changes in the form of deliverables. The same plans and details go out but I have seen additions to the design set as necessary. Items such as models in sketchup, vast graphic improvement in computer renderings and cleaner CAD documents have been welcome additions.
I think if I had to pinpoint anything that I have seen a decline during this rough economy (and possibly as a shift in the profession) it would be schematic/conceptual design and construction administration. With less dollars on the table there is not as much time to dedicate to multiple concepts or schemes. I hope that this is just due to the current economic state. It is critical to good design. I also feel that the deliverable of great construction administration is suffering. It has been difficult to sell clients on construction administration.
I think the bells and whistles absolutely seperate the caliber of work. The final products can be vastly different in quality. These quality products can help people without a design background better understand the design and concepts.
However, without the conceptual design and follow through on construction administration the final product will suffer. I fear static and poor templated design coupled with terrible execution if conceptual design and construction administration continue to slip. “Tech savvy” helps sell but good design is and always be the most important component in my opinion. I believe it will benefit us to use all tools at our disposal if they fit within frameworks of budgets and client wishes.August 12, 2010 at 6:25 pm #168299
My personal take on “deliverables” is that a lot of the computer graphics are a time consuming, expensive, luxury. If you have the budget for flashy graphics, great, knock yourself out. Get all Rhino, 3D Studio Max, etc. on it. Do a million different views and fly-throughs…
During the conceptual design phase, graphics are all about “selling” the project. If I only need a plan and one or two perspectives to sell a project, I’d rather have someone draw them in a day than have someone spend a week doing a 3D model. I guess it all boils down to budget and scale. What is necessary to convey the idea to the client while impressing them enough to give you the job? How much are you, as a designer, willing to put into a concept that might not win you the project. It’s all about ROI for you at this point.
Creating construction documents is all about conveying ideas, clearly and accurately. Often times, less is more. You have to understand who is using your plans. A lot of people in the field are uneducated and English may be a second language. They need to be able to look at your plans and understand what needs to be done. As far as I’m concerned, intricate graphics and excessive texts are not only confusing in the field but they are time consuming to produce which equals expensive, which equals less profitable. Plans that are not concise and legible, require clarification. That costs the contractor and the designer money. As simple as possible and not more so, is my motto.
Speed and clarity, win. Anything extraneous is lost revenue.August 12, 2010 at 9:40 pm #168298
Sometimes one must sell the drawings to get the plan built.
My RLA supervisor once had me change a concept plan drawing because it ‘had too many circles on it’. It wasn’t about the design he further explained, but more about what the plan looked like on the piece of paper that the client would see. He told me that on the ground, my original plan would work better, but that if we couldn’t get the client to buy the drawing on the paper, nothing would ever go on the ground at all.
That event made a big impression on me, but really the answer to your question is balance and expectations. As Thomas said, budget and scale make a difference. Do enough to manage and meet the expectations of your client, but keep it simple.August 13, 2010 at 11:56 am #168297
Andrew Garulay, RLAParticipant
Tom, I think that you are hitting on a most important point. That is that relationship between marketability/buildability/economic viability. My guess is that all of the posts on this thread will respond with what is perceived as “the” right balance of these for the particular situation of the office or market that the individual is working in.
You are hitting on what I’m trying to find out – not what is ideal, but where in the spectrum is the bulk of what is currently selling in our profession. We all know that the elite projects and elite firms absolutely need to be on top of the cutting edge of deliverables. My question is whether too many are trying to sell the wrong product in the existing market.
Deliverables are the packaging of our product (the built landscape) to a large extent. My first question is whether the package is disproportionate to its contents more often now that the economy is shrinking. Is there is a competitive edge that can be gained or lost by using “cheaper packaging” . I speculate that there is in the overall profession. When there is a boom, trends go toward showing an image of glitz and riches. When it shrinks, the image of back to basics takes over (you show up in a Prius instead of a limo). I expect that it carries through in general behavior.August 13, 2010 at 3:31 pm #168296
It seems that “value” is the theme these days. When considering whether something needs to be done, as far as “deliverables” are concerned, we should first ask ourselves, if it is valuable. Does it contribute significantly to expressing the design idea or to the contractors ability to build the project? If it doesn’t then it’s extraneous.
Everybody is on a limited budget and clients will appreciate Land Archs coming in under budget. If we can save clients money through an effective design process, creative solutions and clear construction documents (that get the project built quickly with minimal clarifications) then they will send more work our way.
If we exceed budgets with fancy renderings and overly complex construction documents then the clients will look elsewhere.
Developers and contractors are business people, first and foremost. A strong economy enables landscape architects to be artists and to deeply explore design. When the economy shrinks, we need to adapt by being slightly less focused on the art / design and more focused on thinking like a business person. I don’t mean to imply that they are mutually exclusive. They are not. How and what we design has great economic impact.
We need to illustrate designs quickly and effectively and the content of those designs needs to be economically creative. We need to think of ways to create a great experience for less money by thinking outside of the box when it comes to materials, plant selection, irrigation and sourcing. That is our job as designers, now more than ever.
We need to show clients that we are thinking like them. We are of the same mind that they are. We are just as concerned about their wallet as they are and “look how much money we saved you” by doing x, y and z.August 13, 2010 at 3:54 pm #168295
One of my favorite designers is James Burnett. Not only is he a great designer but he’s a real, genuine, nice, guy. A combination not often found in the design world.
Looking at his work makes me think that he “gets it”. http://www.ojb.com/projects/
His plans are very clean and clear. They are not simple by any means but they are very readable. I don’t know what his business model is but whatever it is, it’s working. I’ve stopped in dozens of offices over the last two months and his had the best feeling by far. He had a group of designers and they all looked happy. He was actively engaged in the design process and was interacting with his designers, mentoring them. His office was the right size for the number of people he had, they weren’t cramped in a small space and it didn’t feel like an empty warehouse. It felt right. Good light, good air and good people.
One of the things I’ve noticed about his design process, and I don’t know whether this is correct or not, but it looks like he spends less money on plans and more money on perspectives to sell the design to the client. This makes sense. Most non-LAs can’t read a plan drawing. It doesn’t makes sense to them but everyone can understand a great perspective drawing. A perspective tells the client how it’s going to FEEL.
Mr. Burnett’s designs are very detailed, geometrically complex and rich in content but his plan drawings are simple and clean. He supports these plan drawings with very expressive (and I’m sure expensive) perspective drawings. Perspectives sell the project.
I guess this goes back to understanding your clients and delivering what is most valuable to them, not necessarily what you, the designer, want to do. He knows how to communicate his ideas effectively and appears to balance his budget/ design process accordingly and he looks busy…August 13, 2010 at 10:52 pm #168294
Thomas, I had to laugh when I read your post..as it relates to my experience – Mr. Ed Bye is one of my favorite deisgners, and if you have seen his illustrative plans – they are art..Very beautiful, very unusual plan style..So when we took Ed Bye’s studio, at Penn, we were all like, “Mr. Bye, we can’t wait to see your perspectives!! “and he was always like, “just wait to see the perspectives! Just wait!!”
You know – It turned out, as far as I know, Mr. Bye did not do perspectives..at all..He was more a design build guy really, the gorgeous non-specific plans, and him out there, directing the bulldozer..
Mr. Bye’s flim-flam qualties, (and Ian McHarg’s for that matter) for me, do not detract from his incredibly beautiful designs..
Just an anecdote…August 14, 2010 at 2:29 pm #168293
I can’t say that I’m familiar with Ed Bye’s work. I’ll have to do some research. Didn’t find much right off the bat with a Google search…Sounds interesting.
I’ve definitely got my copy of Design with Nature by McHarg. Great book. Standard issue…
I guess there are a number of ways to skin a cat. I’m still trying to find my way in this maddening profession where there is no “right way.” If you can get projects sold / built with a loose plan and enjoy being in the field, telling a bulldozer where to go, more power to you. Taking that approach, I’d rather just drive the bulldozer and do it myself… I’d tire quickly of, “a little more over here, no, a little to your right, smooth that out…” Oh hell, just let me drive the thing…
Coronado, huh? What a coincidence. I was just there. McP’s Rueben sandwich, mighty tasty.August 14, 2010 at 7:13 pm #168292
Is he related to Zay Gezunt?August 15, 2010 at 1:08 am #168291
Zay Gezunt..? hm! who’s that? Yeah, A.E. Bye died a bit ago, he did some terrific gardens, one for George Soros out in Long Island..I like them…some people say it is ‘the beauty of the golf course..” He was really into naturalistic stuff, just using what was there and enhancing – we met him at a gorgeous garden on some rocky outcropping in Connecticut, I think, where he had just enhanced, leaving all the natives, very little planting, nice moss path he was proud of..
But his drawing stye, plan style is really distinctive..The only way to really see it is to buy his book “art into Landscape” , I think, it’s only available used..
But he was really a flim-flam man to some extent..His book was gorgeous photos, plus the stiking plans (ink on mylar) and helped sell his gardens, I think..
I also think his brother was in real estate, and he stayed in the vicinity and benefitted from family wealth..
Thomas, I feel for ya, in this market..Don’t know what the answer is, and don’t think A.E. Bye is a good model.
ps, yeah, Coronado! I love it! My sister and mom live there, for a few years now..August 15, 2010 at 2:21 am #168290
is that a joke? Abe Gesund?..the noted landscape designer, Abe Gesund?, sorry, if I presume!
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