The design program is a written list or outline of all the elements, spaces, and require­ments that should be incorporated into the design solution and is the final step in the research and preparation phase of the design process. Like the program guide for a theatrical play or a sporting event, the design program lists the “cast” of elements that will play a role in the design solution for a particular site and client.

A design program brings together the expressed needs and wishes of the clients with the conclusions of the site analysis. The clients’ needs and the information about the existing site conditions have been gathered and recorded separately until this point in the process. Now the design program combines the findings from these ear­lier steps to establish an overall summary of the requirements for the design.

A design program serves three functions. First, it provides the designer with a foundation of elements that need to be incorporated into the design solution. In a way, the design program’s list of required elements tells the designer: “This is what the design must include and do.”

The second function of the design program is to serve as a checklist for the de­signer. The designer should periodically refer to the design program throughout the design process to make sure that all the elements of the program are being met. It is easy to forget about all the requirements and details without a list to refresh the de­signer’s memory.

Finally, the design program can function as a communication tool between the designer and clients. After having prepared the design program, the designer should review it with the clients to make sure that it meets their approval. This can permit the designer to see whether or not the clients’ expressed desires and needs were in fact understood correctly. It also allows the designer to suggest to the clients that other el­ements or requirements could be incorporated into the design solution based on the findings of the site analysis.

Like all other steps and phases of the design process, the design program should not be considered final by either the designer or the clients. Although it should be as complete as possible when it is prepared, it should not be thought of as absolute or be­yond the possibility of change. As the development of the design solution proceeds with more and more definitive thinking, original ideas and intents may change. There is nothing wrong with this. In fact, it is quite healthy, because it is evidence that the designer and clients are open-minded about tailoring a design solution to the unique conditions of the situation; they are not forcing preconceived ideas onto a site.

The following design program has been prepared for the Duncan residence. It is presented as a sample program and is by no means the only way a design program can be written or organized. This particular design program resulted from meeting and talking with the Duncan family and from the conclusions of the site analysis of the Duncan residence presented in the previous section of this chapter.

Design Program for the Duncan Residence

Prepared by James E. Kent Landscape Designer Design Response Two

A. Warm and welcoming entry walk

1. Size: minimum of 4-1/2 to 5 feet wide.

2. Material: something that will complement the house materials.

B. Outside entrance foyer and sitting space

1. Size: large enough for two chairs and a small table.

2. Material: same as for entry walk, but in a different pattern to help imply a special place.

C. Paved access from driveway to east side door of garage

1. Size: minimum of 3 feet wide.

2. Material: undecided.

D. Outside entertaining space (terrace)

1. Size: 250—300 square feet; must accommodate 8—10 people for social gatherings and informal dining.

2. Material: possibly a raised wood deck due to the elevation change from the breakfast area to ground level.

E. Recreational lawn area

1. Size: as large as possible.

2. Material: grass.

F. Play area for swing set and additional equipment

1. Size: 125—150 square feet.

2. Material: sand or bark mulch.

G. Storage for one cord of wood

1. Size: 4′ X 8′.

2. Materials: gravel or concrete.

H. Visual screen from neighbors on the west

1. Size: unknown at this time.

2. Materials: undecided; could be plant materials, a structure, or a combina­tion of both.

I. Visual screen of bad view to the north of site

1. Size: unknown at this time.

2. Material: probably plant materials, due to available space.

J. Screen air conditioner on north side of the house

1. Size: about 2—3 feet high.

2. Materials: could be evergreen plant materials for year-round color or small fence structure.

K. Existing tree

1. Should be retained.

L. Budget

1. The Duncans realize that a master plan, when implemented, may cost more than they originally anticipated. To be realistic, they have estab­lished a five-year budget of between $22,500 and $30,000, which is 15 to 20 percent of the cost of their $150,000 home.


A number of crucial tasks must be accomplished before actual design work can take place on paper. The infor­mation collected during the research and preparation phase of the design process provides a foundation for subsequent phases of design. You should now know the following about the site analysis and preparation of the design program:

• Difference between site inventory and site analysis

• Sources of information about the site

• Information that should be gathered about the site regarding site location, topography, drainage, soil, vegetation, microclimate, house and other structures, utilities, views, senses, and existing site functions

• Graphic character and information shown on the site inventory

• Questions that can be asked to analyze the collected information about the site

• Graphic character and information shown on the site analysis

• Supplementary digital tools for preparing a site analysis

• Definition and purpose of a design program

• Information commonly included in a design program

Updated: October 8, 2015 — 11:06 pm