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7 of the best insights on how to become an Outdoor Design Expert

how to become an outdoor design expert

I asked some of the best landscape designers, owners, and managers the following question:

What is your one piece of (unique) advice for someone who wants to become an Expert Outdoor Designer?

I’ve been completely shocked by the wisdom and insight every person had to share. From gaining experience is crucial in learning outdoor design to being a great listener and hearing the client's needs and wants.

Read the tips below to help you become an outdoor design expert!

Note: Responses are not ranked and are placed in random order.

When you finished reading tips from the masters, we would love to hear what tip has helped you.

Ketti Kupper, Owner of Conscious Life Design

Ketti Kupper Website

“And expert outdoor designer should recognize that a creating a comfortable ‘sense of place’ is paramount in calling people outdoors to enjoy a health-supporting natural environment. In the western part of the nation that means a destination with seating AND shade! That can be accomplished with garden structures, or trees, or a combination of the two.

Other very important goals include creating a sense of sanctuary, or privacy, so that the neighborhood and cares of the day can fall away, and a ‘world all our own’ materializes. I recommend a combination of native plants along with other climate-appropriate plants. In this way, people can take delight in observing butterflies, birds, lizards and other life processes that support a natural habitat.

Our outdoor design says a lot about who lives there and who we are. It’s another form of self-expression and a great way to bring the out-picturing of our life into alignment with our changing sense-of-self. In other words, our outdoor design is also part of our identity design. And identity design is a key component for all life on earth. have you considered that an Expert Outdoor Designer has an opportunity to play such an important role for others?

Viewing our design contribution through the lens of identity and well-being not only helps us to see the bigger picture for our clients’ lives, it also dramatically increases our personal satisfaction with a job well done.”

Learn more about Ketti Kupper

Bill MacKinon, Owner of Premier Horticulture

“The best way to become an expert at doing design or anything is to get a job with someone that is already an expert. School is not enough, and school teachers are not experts, you need hands on working and learning with someone that makes his living at being the best. If they won’t hire you, work for free, it will be worth it because if you are any good at all, they will start paying you with in a week or a month.  If you can’t keep the job and stay working with them for free, than you will need to do something else with your life or find a different expert to learn from.”

Bill MacKinon Premier Horticulture
“I will first tell you that designing with plants in the outdoor design is a much different and more completed skill set, then just designing using hardscape materials, patios and Gazebos, because the hardscape won’t change in size over time. Plants on the other hand, always grow and change a lot over time, especially here in Miami, Fl. It takes a long time to learn the skills designing with landscape plants. I recommend hiring a professional to do the design to avoid the mistakes a beginner will make. It get’s expensive if you do things twice or three times. Stay away from landscape designers in their twenties, they have the energy but not the experience yet. I would go with one in their Forties or more for a much better design, that’s just common sense, and exceptions to every rule of course.”

Noah Mabry, Principal and Lead Designer at Foreground Studio

“Listening to the client should be your first priority. You can come up with the most beautiful or innovative design, but if it does not meet your client’s needs and desires it won’t be successful. The way we tailor our designs to each client is by listening intently to what they are communicating about what they are looking for in an outdoor living space. We pull out a common thread in what they are saying and can then produce a design that is unique and personal to them and their family. Because of this our client’s rate us highly on interpreting their  dreams into plans that are beautiful, functional, and one of a kind!”

Learn more about Noah.

Noah Mabry Foreground Studio

Keith Rose, Retail Sales Manager of Proficient Patios & Backyard Designs

“Be a good listener.  Listen to your customers wants and needs for an outdoor design project and become an expert on the various products available.  Keep up with the new products and developments within the outdoor design industry.  Don’t ever be in a rush, and spend as much time with the customer as needed to build a trusting relationship.  Always have an answer to your customers questions, and if you don’t, write them down and get back to them as soon as possible.  Always be available to them by phone, text, or email.  Customer service is as big as product knowledge is when being a good designer.  I always said, People buy from people they trust!”

Learn more about Keith.

Keith Rose Proficient Patios and Backyard Designs

Todd Haiman, Owner of Todd Haiman Landscape Design

“Get an academic background, then study under a designer or two you admire.”

Learn more about Todd

Todd Haiman Landscape Design

Steve Harbour, Owner at Steve Harbour Landscapes

“The unique advice I give to budding designers does not pertain to learning the nuts and bolts of actual design concepts and drafting at all. This should be more than apparent; anyone learning this profession needs as much education and experience they can obtain to become proficient at landscape design. I believe one essential aspect that turns a good designer into a great designer – not taught in classrooms — is the art of working with each client, not assuming to know what they want, or worse, deciding what they need without their input. The designer needs to take the proper time to really get to know clients, listening to them, and work jointly together throughout the design process.”

Steve Harbour Landscapes

“Each design is a collaborative effort. The process begins with lots of questions: welcoming questions the clients have (and they will have plenty) as well as asking a slew of questions to draw them out and learn what they really want to accomplish. I was originally trained as a newspaper journalist, so the ability to ask questions has become second nature, yet I still like to work from a list of set questions and then ask any other questions specific to the project that may seem pertinent. I also welcome any pictures or sketches they have saved that show landscapes they like, and then ask what it is they like about them.

Lastly, it is helpful to get to know each other on a personal level, which brings a comfort level to each unique job. I have gone to dinner, to concerts, and to parties at my clients’ houses, staying in touch for years after the project is completed which, as a bonus, allows me to see my design work as the landscape matures. There is no such thing, in journalism or in design work, as gaining too much information.”

Learn more about Steve.

Joshua Gillow, Founder and Lead Designer for MasterPlan Outdoor Living

“Pay attention!  Study how your ideal client uses space, spends free time, where they like to go on vacation, their likes/dislikes, pain points…etc.  In other words, get to know your clients deeply to help solve their understood problems so you can then solve the problems that they don’t even know they have!  This is a unique way to bring more value to the relationship with your client than anyone else.”

Learn more about Joshua.

Joshua Gillow MasterPlan Outdoor Living


What an amazing collection of useful advice!

From hearing tips about listening intently to the clients to getting to know your clients on a personal level so you can design for your client.

Now I want to turn it over to you:

What are your favorite outdoor design tips? Let us know by tagging Amish Country Gazebos in your favorite Social Media!

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