“good design” vs. “high end design” etc – defining factors discussion plz

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums GENERAL DISCUSSION “good design” vs. “high end design” etc – defining factors discussion plz

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    Jennifer de Graaf

    I had an interesting discussion come up in my business class – when I said “high end” design, I was asked (naturally) if that meant expensive….which got me thinking about the differences between these terms we all use so easily – but our clients may not know what we mean.

    SO –
    “good design” – what is that? how do you concisely explain that to a layperson?
    is “high end” design always “good design”, and vice versa?
    what makes “high end design” high end?
    How about company types? design build vs design only, vs those that include maintenance – comments there that relate to the above??
    What design (or installation) principles do you consider good vs bad?

    I am working on …. something… a blog post, a flier, not sure, but I’d love to hear from other professionals and students in the industry how you’ve addressed this – while I think and write and…..


    Jennifer de Graaf

    p.s. I also think there’s a difference between good/bad design and good/bad taste. so add that to the mix.


    I’m not sure it’s so much a matter of ‘good’ vs. ‘bad’ as much as maybe ‘comprehensive’ vs. ‘incomplete’ or even ‘unconscious design.’

    I think many would agree that what we tend to refer to as ‘bad design’ is typically design/work which lacks certain aspects of a comprehensive plan such as research, analysis, planning and consciousness of the social, cultural, and physical context.

    You and I may not agree with some of the design decisions a particular designer makes on a particular project, but that doesn’t necessarily make it ‘bad design.’ I think we just tend to mislabel certain projects this way.

    In terms of expense as related to quality of design I think they are directly correlated in most cases as with most any other professional service. Have you ever seen the bumper sticker which states- you can have good, fast, or cheap, but not all three. It’s just the way it is. Design is a more difficult service to justify expense for because we live in a material world, as cliche as it sounds. We do our best to generate tangibles or ‘deliverables’ to both quantify and validate the degree of our efforts, but also as part of a (ideally) comprehensive process. If the process is incomplete and the project is somehow implemented prematurely I think you could have a formula for ‘bad design.’

    Of course, there are more unlikely cases regarding pro-bono work and the like, but otherwise I think most all design falls under generally the same umbrella of design principles.

    Now I think the question is- does any of this really matter if the client or user doesn’t notice or care?

    I think it’s unfortunate that we’re labeling certain design ‘high end.’ I think design should simply be design and the client and user should expect a certain level of comprehensive thought/process. I think it’s even more unfortunate that we mis-label some projects as ‘high’ design only because they have a certain aesthetic or fit in the mold-du-jour of what we consider high or good or because a certain designer did it or said it. In other words, I don’t think we challenge ourselves enough. Much of the true criticism I’ve heard or read in recent years has come from outside the profession, ie architects and engineers. Are we really doing enough for ourselves to elevate the profession?

    Roland Beinert

    Good design fits the site and context and accomplishes the goals of the client. There are many different ways to get a good design. I see the term “high-end” as meaning using expensive materials, and don’t really think this always leads to good design. It bothers me that even some landscape architects seem to confuse these terms, and think any thoughtful design is snooty and expensive.


    I generally agree, but is that to say that the clients objectives are always in line with the better interest of the user or the place?

    Anton Comrie

    I agree fully. Well said.

    Roland Beinert

    Good question, Nick. I’d say the client’s objectives aren’t always initially in line with the end users or site, but that good design is about creative solutions that sidestep conflicts. I know that sounds idealistic, but maybe good design implies an ideal solution can be achieved. Since the client is paying for the project, we have to do what he or she wants or risk losing the client. But good design is not achieved unless the client is willing to consider the site and end user.
    Does that make sense, or did I just end up talking around the problem? I’m trying to think of a good example of what I mean, but can’t think of any at the moment.

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