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How to Become a Landscape Designer

Career Advice From A Professional Landscape Designer


Some readers of my Web site enjoy landscaping so much that they wish to go beyond the DIY level; they aspire to become professionals. Such readers often seek advice on how to become a landscape designer. While there’s more than one path from which to choose to become a landscape designer, it’s helpful to hear how particular individuals became successful in the field. I recently conducted an email interview with professional landscape designer, Paul Corsetti. The results of the interview are contained in the following Q&A:

Q. What’s your impression of online programs geared to someone who wants to become a landscape designer but who isn’t able to attend school full-time?

A. I think that as long as the program being taught is based on solid knowledge of landscape design, it is a great start for the theory of design. A good program should be hands-on to teach students by doing actual projects, rather than to read and research how others did their work.

Q. What kinds of skills should someone looking to become a landscape designer particularly focus on honing while "working their way up," be it in school or on related jobs?

A. I’d recommend focusing on acquiring a wide range of abilities.

Learning your plants and how to work with difficult soils is crucial if you want to become a landscape designer. One needs to recognize what type of soil you are designing gardens for. If no thought is put there, you may have a failed garden and a bad reputation in a few years.

When working in the construction end of things, a landscape designer should make notes on material quantities, installation practices and any difficulties encountered. The more difficult an installation is, the more it will cost the client in the long run. A landscape designer may have a wild imagination and excellent creativity, but when you design boulders to be placed in a yard where they have to be craned in over the house, the client will ask some serious financial questions! Another thought is to make notes of how long it takes to do certain jobs. I often get asked how long the construction time frame would be to implement my designs.

A good landscape designer should almost think like a contractor when designing… knowing how a construction job will function and knowing when to spot that a contractor is at his limit of labor skills, which might hinder your project. Is your design too difficult to construct or did you find the wrong contractor? That should be a question you can easily answer as a landscape designer.

When the landscape designer looks for ways to make a job go smoother for the contractor, easier on a client’s budget and still achieve a fantastic looking landscape, that landscape designer will get more referrals for future work. When the design is difficult and the landscape designer becomes even more difficult, your phone may not ring so often.

I continue my interview with Paul Corsetti on how to become a landscape designer on Page 2, where Paul has more to say about landscape design schools....

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