As the design process proceeds into preliminary design, where some realism takes ef­fect, a designer may have some preconceived ideas for design elements and their ma­terials, patterns, character, and so on. It may help to stop and document any ideas that may exist. It is not that these ideas represent the final design decisions, but they should be documented before they are forgotten.

It is good to record ideas through the development of a “character palette.” Figure 9—36 shows an elevation of a house (top of figure). The drawing below it is a “character palette.” It is a group of design ideas for patios, fences, and overheads that are developed based solely upon the architectural character of the house. It is developed by “pretend­ing” that selected patterns of the architecture could be adapted to resemble landscape structures. The following chart shows the relationship between the design ideas in the character palette and the feature of the house each design idea was modeled after.

Design Idea Architectural Feature

Patio “A” Decorative Vent over Garage Door

Patio “B” Main Window in Right Gable of House

Figure 9-36

A "character palette" can help to record your preconceived design ideas that relate to the architectural character of the house. Design #N3600/N3601 (top) © Home Planners, LLC Wholly owned by Hanley-Wood, LLC. Blueprints available, 800-322-6797.

Patio “C” Double Gable at Left Side of House

Fence “A” Front Porch Railing and Archway

Fence “B” Top Left Gable with Diamond Pattern

Overhead Front Porch Archway and Roof

If you were to look carefully at each of these mini-designs in the character palette, you would notice that the general pattern of each architectural feature selected was transformed into a landscape structure for the hardscape. Exact replica­tion is not necessary. It is not important to use each and every portion or detail of the architectural feature. The emphasis is to pretend and to explore ways that existing characteristics of the house can be blended into the character of the landscape. It is a design effort undertaken to provide opportunities to enhance and enrich exploratory techniques in developing design alternatives.


Preliminary design is the most realistic and comprehen­sive phase of the design process discussed to this point. It is based on all the previous steps, though it goes be­yond these in scope and detail. While the earlier steps gathered important site information and studied the general organization of the design, preliminary design emphasizes the visual and emotional aspects of design. Having completed this chapter, you should know the following about preliminary design: [23]

• Three primary design principles and their signifi­cance to design

• Definition of order and alternative ways to create it in a design

• Definition of unity and methods for establishing it in a design

• Definition of rhythm and techniques for creating it in a design

• Purpose and content of a character palette