Saturday, April 17, 2010

The *Challenges* of doing "the Landscaper's Challenge"

So... back to "The Landscaper's Challenge" concept, which the HGTV that we all know and love (most of the time) has introduced to us homeowners as a good way to gather competing designs, meticulously and thoroughly thought through by each professional landscape designer, as sort of a reality show that we could host on our own dining room table, as a way to select and award the "best desginer."  Well, there are definitely a few problems with that concept....
1.  Sometimes the "landscaper's challenge" brings the TMI factor, the "too much information" for you to consider in the process, with a lot of the information or ideas getting thrown out, which results in some uneccessary expenditures of everyone's time involved.  In addition to the designer's time, this definitely includes your own precious time.  Every design has options to consider, and now you will be factoring these options x 2, 4, or 6, or more!  How much time do you really want to waste thinking over and factoring in some mediocre to bad options that could be included, that will ultimately need to get thrown out for better options, with too many options now muddling up the decision.

2.  The "TMGI" factor.  The "too many good ideas" problem that also might come out of this will cause the client to want to combine and synergize several design ideas into one project, often to the level where the design turns into a mish-mash.  Again, every great feature doesn't always belong within one landscape.  There is such a thing as a "clutter" in the landscape.  Also, the time spent revising the plan, then revising the estimate, then revising the plan, then revising the estimate, then... again, again, again, can be counterproductive as well.  And that targeted budget that you had set aside might no longer be attainable at all,with all of the things being added and subtracted.

3.  There is also the time vaccum in the time-value continuum, where any designer who needs to earn a living and support a family in a seasonal industry can not afford to craft the perfect design for 12-15+ hours for free.  Instead, they might "throw things together" and the design is not at the level it could be, or is way too ambiguous to start.   Anyone who is busy is probably *good* or at least might likely be *better* than the ones who have much more idle time to donate for their services. Anyone who is donating lots of time will likely expect to reap more than the usual amount of money from the project.  Landscapers, or landscape designers don't get rich, nor they should not really plan to get rich on one or two projects instead of  10 or 15.    

4.  With the lack of a more *genuine personal connection* and commitment between you and any one particular designer, there are some personal-level details and design touches which don't get into the design.  When one designer makes a connection and is able to communicate and relate with you, well... that is good!   You could be spending *a lot* of time with them in the future, possibly even seeing them at times years after.  Landscapes are things that grow and evolve, and often even look their best three years later.  It is good to make a connection and a friend out of your designer.  This is why I sometimes get hugs from a few clients when I go out to visit.  We've been through a lot together and they have become my friends.  ....It is an on-going relationship. 

The point of this is to make the suggestion that you host a thorough interview and discuss your project in a systematic process that will identify who is best for you.  Rather than try to host "the Landscaper's Challenge", I would host an interview with the three people you are considering, which focuses on *your needs*, and then their work history, their skills, their references, and how well you and the designer can connect and are able to communicate and relate with each other.  Again, you could be spending *a lot* of time, and maybe *a lot* of money, with them in the future.

But, if you do happen to host Landscaper's Challenge on a major network, like HGTV, to give each designer the chance to do the project and be on national television showcasing their work.  Then, I will gladly do a  "Landscaper's Challenge" without hesitation.  The HGTV "Curb Appeal" show was not so bad, it was actually pretty fun working with the clients and the production crew, but was a bit stressful.  I think I did lose some of my hair in the process and the camera added about 15 lbs.  Here is the link to that episode (hopefully they will post a partial video clip of it in the future):

Best of luck!

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