7 Ways to Maximize an Online Landscape Design Consultation

Casandra Maier- August, 2021

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Public health and safety are creating the on-going need for online services.  Many businesses, from medical professionals to landscape designers, are continuing to offer appointments in a secure online setting.  Accessing landscape design services online may be a new concept for some, but the industry has offered these types of remote consultations long before social distancing was a necessity.  Many landscape architects and landscape designers have the capacity to take on regional, national, and international projects in a remote studio setting.  They utilize technology to meet with clients, to gather data about the outdoor space, and to communicate their design solutions.  With a streamlined design process, they guide clients to the unique solutions that are right for their project and property.  To access these services, clients need only a solid internet connection, computer, tablet, or smartphone.  However, there are a few things clients can do to maximize their time when meeting with a landscape design professional.  Follow these expert tips to get the most out of an online landscape design consultation.  

1) Arrive On Time and Reduce Distractions

When booking an online landscape design consultation punctuality and presence may seem like a given, but occasionally designers encounter clients who use the meeting time to multi-task.  This generally looks like clients logging onto the video chat while engaged in another activity, like driving or working out.  When clients log on in a noisy environment this also increases distractions.  A stuffy atmosphere is not the air any designer wants to create, but an online landscape consultation is neither loose nor informal.  It is a professional meeting between designer and client.  Disruptions take away from the design process.  Attention to detail is needed so the designer may arrive at the very best landscape solutions.  When the client is present rapport develops.  It creates the opportunity for the designer to get to know the client's goals, intentions, and aesthetic preferences for the landscape.  However, it is also important to note that outdoor spaces affect entire households and communities.   For this reason, designers are welcoming of a collaborative atmosphere in an online landscape consultation.  Clients are encouraged to bring anyone to the meeting who wants to have a voice and be a part of the design process.  This includes partners, family members, support persons, pets, community members, colleagues, property managers, contractors, and architects.  Just be sure to arrive to the video chat at the scheduled meeting time and reduce any distractions that will prevent those in attendance from being present to focus on the landscape.    

2) Choose the Best Device for the Service

Online landscape design services are accessible using a computer, tablet, or smartphone.  However, it is important to note that the device chosen has an impact on the client's overall experience of the meeting.  A smartphone is not the best choice if the consultation is for a very large or detailed outdoor space.  If multiple people plan to attend the consultation, it will be challenging for everyone to crowd around a small phone screen.  Landscape design is a visual service.  The designer will be presenting image boards, sketches, and digital renderings that are better experienced on a larger screen.  In these cases a tablet, laptop, computer monitor, or smart TV provides more immersive visual detail.  Smartphones are best reserved for shorter follow-up meetings or hourly landscape consultations that involve simple designs, smaller outdoor spaces, and DIY projects that don't involve highly visual renderings.  Choosing the best device for the services requested creates a better experience for the client.         

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3) Keep Budget in Mind

Designers work with landscape budgets of all sizes.  When the designer is aware of the budget they are working with, they can develop the very best landscape solutions for their clients.  The best solutions occur when the budget is realistic and based on the client's outdoor needs.  Landscape designers are highly skilled at working with all the opportunities and constraints that the outdoor space presents.  These skills also translate to working with the landscape budget.  Constraints lead to the development of alternative and creative solutions, thereby creating opportunity.  When arriving to an online landscape design consultation, it's helpful to have a number in mind to set financial goals for the project.  It is also helpful for the designer and client to communicate about cost throughout the design process to ensure that both parties are on the same page.  Designers are advocates for their client's landscape budgets and goals.  This advocacy is central to the solutions they develop.   Additionally, designers offer multiple tiers of landscape graphics and design services.  From hourly online consultations to design packets with digital photo renderings, and master plans with construction documentation; there are landscape design services available for project budgets both large and small.                        

4) Be Prepared to Talk About Aesthetic Preferences

To create unique landscape solutions befitting of their clients and the outdoor space, a large portion of the design process is dedicated to getting to know the client's aesthetic preferences.  During an online consultation, the designer takes the time to review their client's preferred garden and landscape styles and aesthetic likes and dislikes.  It is helpful when the client arrives to the meeting ready to share their opinions.  Be prepared to talk about color, texture, construction materials, plants, and other landscape design elements, like planters, outdoor furniture, and shade structures.  In some cases, the designer presents a digital slideshow or image board with various design samples and potential solutions to start to get an idea of the client's preferences.  If the client has any inspirational images or vision boards in mind for their landscape, they are encouraged to bring them to the online consultation.  The designer draws inspiration from these opinions, which are used to inform the landscape solutions they create.                                            

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5) Gather Measurements 

The landscape design process involves gathering data and measurements.  This data is used to develop accurate landscape plans and construction documents.  During an online landscape design consultation this information is gathered remotely.  Remote site inventory is a typical practice of design studios when working on national and international projects.  With social distancing during the pandemic these methods have also proven to be safe and effective for local and regional projects.  The designer may involve the client, access online documents and databases, or utilize technology to take inventory of the outdoor space.  When the client gets involved, they are asked to gather basic measurements of the project space.  Important measurements include the width and depth of existing planting beds, the length and width of existing drives and walkways, the height of ground-level windows and awnings, or the dimensions of other existing outdoor features in the project vicinity.  If the client has access to any as-built or site plans, be sure to bring these documents to the online consultation.  Landscape designers use these documents and dimensions to create base maps of the outdoor space, over which they develop their designs.  If the client does not have access to these documents, or if they are unable to gather measurements, designers turn to online maps and databases to gather the required info.  When more detail is needed, they may order a drone study of the outdoor space as part of their inventory.                                                       

6) Gather Usable Photos of the Outdoor Space 

Another essential part of the the online landscape design process involves the client providing images of the outdoor space.  Designers study these photos to develop their landscape solutions.  These images are also used to create digital photo-quality renderings to help clients visualize the proposed design.  However, all photos are not equal in quality.  There is a difference between a usable image and an unusable snapshot that does not capture the space.  The most helpful thing clients can do is take multiple photos from multiple angles.  More photos are better than less.  This way the designer has multiple images to choose from if one or two don't work out.  A smartphone camera is fully capable of capturing photos with quality resolution.  Make sure that the phone's camera lens is clean to avoid spots and fuzz clouding the images.  When taking photos, always hold the phone horizontally so it is in landscape mode.  Designers are unable to use vertical pictures in portrait mode.  Consider the time of day.  Make sure the sun is behind, not directly in front of the camera to avoid dark pictures.  Hold the phone evenly with the horizon when taking the shot.   If there is an angle or slope on the property the designer will be able to see the elevation changes more clearly when the photo is aligned with the horizon as an anchor.  Don't stand too close to the work area.  Step back, and if possible, step back again to capture the widest angle possible.  Try to include more than just the work area, but also the surrounding areas.  If the project area is a very large, consider taking a photosphere.    Refer to the images below to see the difference between usable and unusable photos for an online landscape consultation.                                                                            

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example 2 good text
example 2 bad text
example 1 good text

7) Submit High Resolution Images and Organized Information 

During a remote online design consultation, the designer and client exchange digital files and images of the landscape.  Depending on the services requested, designers ask for information such as the location and address of the outdoor space, basic landscape measurements, as-built documents and site plans, and photos of the property and project area.  Always submit this information via email.  Do not try to submit photos or documents via text message.  Texted images are subject to compression that reduces the photo quality and resolution.  Online landscape designers need images with the highest resolution possible to be able to zoom in and identify plants and general conditions.  The best way to share photos is to create a link which gives the designer access to the original image with full resolution.  When sharing multiple photos, create an album and share the link to the album.  Most smartphone platforms provide this option when sharing images via email.  Be sure to clearly label all the submitted information, including measurements, photos, albums, files, and any attached site documents.  Designers keep organized files for each of their clients and landscape design projects.  When clients submit organized files, information, and high-quality images, it helps to streamline the design process.                        

             

                                                                            

Sources:

Dodge, N. (August, 2021). Interviews with ND Design Services Inc.