From the preceding breakdown, it might seem that the design process is a straightfor­ward and logical procedure that always leads to a well-executed and successful design. However, there are a number of qualifiers that should accompany this overview. First, the design process doesn’t always occur as a well-defined sequence of steps, even though it was presented that way. In actual practice, some of the steps of the process may overlap and occur simultaneously. For example, gathering information for the preparation of a base map and conducting a site analysis may occur in the same visit. In other cases, certain steps of the process are repeated before being entirely com­pleted. For instance, once the design is begun, the designer may wish to return to the site for a closer inspection. Often a renewed look at a site during the design phase can be valuable because the designer can view the site with a more critical and questioning eye. Thus, the site analysis may be seen as recurring throughout the development of the design solution.

There is nothing wrong with doing more than one of the steps of the process simultaneously or moving back and forth between steps in the different phases. In fact, such practice is quite healthy and often necessary to create a successful design solution. To follow the design process in a completely sequential and unyielding fash­ion may stifle the designer’s imagination. This is not to say the designer can start anywhere in the process or jump randomly from one step to another. Nevertheless, the design process should be thought of as a general outline of steps for organizing design thoughts and procedures.

Similarly, the design process may be utilized slightly differently each time a new project is undertaken. The specific circumstances of each design project such as budget, scope of work, site characteristics, and clients’ needs can influence how the process is applied. For example, a particular residential site may be so small that mak­ing an exhaustive site analysis would be a waste of time. In another instance, the clients’ limited budget may restrict the number of drawings done for implementation. Or the clients’ program may be very simple with obvious solutions. Consequently, the designer needs to carefully evaluate each new project at the beginning to determine what is required and how (by what process) the design should be solved.

There is another factor that should be understood about the design process. It is quite possible that a person can faithfully follow and thoroughly cover each of the steps of the design process and still end up with a design that is mediocre. The success of the design process and the resulting design depends ultimately on the designer’s own abilities, experiences, knowledge, insights, judgments, and creativity. If the de­signer is weak in any one of these areas, the quality of the resulting design will also be diminished despite the designer’s best intentions. Eventually, residential site designs that are visually and functionally successful as well as being emotionally satisfying require sensitive observation, thorough study, experience, inspiration, and subjective creativity. The design process is not a substitute for these qualities. But it does provide a framework for design talent to be used effectively.

The design process involves both rational and intuitive judgments and skills. Some steps in the design process (such as site inventory, site analysis, program devel­opment, and functional diagrams) require rational and logical thinking. Other steps in the design process (such as form composition, spatial composition, material com­position, and incorporation of the design principles into the design) require more intuitive skills and aesthetic appreciation. The designer needs a sensitivity to shapes

and forms in addition to a feel for space and volume in undertaking these particular steps. Although these skills and sensitivities can be talked about, their execution often depends on an internal subjectivity that defies clear and logical explanation. Thus, the design process can also be considered a structure for the designer’s both objective and subjective abilities.

One other thought should be expressed about the design process. Owing to its importance in systematizing a designer’s thoughts and methods, it is essential that the inexperienced designer proceed thoughtfully through all the necessary steps. Just as in learning any new skill or procedure, it is helpful to move slowly and methodically. The beginning designer should carefully record and document each step of the process as a learning experience. Consequently, the use of the design process may seem rather tedious and laborious the first several times it is applied. But as one be­comes more accustomed to the process, many of its steps will become more intuitive and may often occur more quickly. For the experienced designer, much of the process is apt to be second nature. Having used the process countless times, the seasoned de­signer will apply the process effortlessly yet intelligently. And having worked in a par­ticular locale for some time, many of the aspects of the design process become com­mon knowledge and standard methods of procedure. For example, soil, climate, building codes, plant materials, and construction methods are apt to be well under­stood and appreciated as standard working knowledge.


The design process should be considered a useful orga­nizational tool for the designer. Despite the particulars, it should guide a designer in seeking an appropriate design solution in a thoughtful yet creative manner. In conclusion, the reader should understand: [20]

• Three key aspects of preliminary design and how they affect the preparation of a preliminary site plan

• Four types of drawings that are prepared during the construction documentation phase of the design process and what information is shown on each drawing

• Reasons for preparing construction documents

• Two primary steps of the implementation phase of the design process and what activities occur in each step

• Different activities that occur during the mainte­nance phase of the design process

• What questions should be asked during the evalua­tion phase of the design process


Updated: October 6, 2015 — 8:25 am