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Landscape Design to UX Design

When I was brainstorming what to write about for my first Medium post, I found myself hesitating to write about UX directly. I felt like I didn’t know enough about UX to speak on it. I imagine this is how most new UX designers feel. For me, it’s the ‘publish’ to the world’ part. My writing being out there, flaws and all for everyone to see. Something Julie Zhuo said in a podcast I was listening to today stuck out to me. As Julie says, it’s more about pushing yourself to do that action item every week. Hitting that publish button even though you could try to spend ages perfecting it. I think Julie’s right; just write what comes to you and learn from the process of writing itself.

As I continue to learn UX and create my portfolio, my plan is to post one piece a week on something UX or design related. Maybe it’s something I’ve learned about UX that week or just something I found interesting having to do with design. Either way, I’m going to use this to become a better designer by synthesizing what I’m learning, organizing my thoughts and drawing new connections through writing.

As I enter the UX world, I find myself trying to bridge the gap between the familiar and the unfamiliar. Finding the similarities and connections between landscape design and user experience design has been surprisingly easy.

I don’t think user experience is limited to using products, either digital or physical. A homeowner using their backyard and having an experience or journey is also a user experience — just in physical time and space. Everyday I am met with the challenge of turning an underutilized, chaotic space into an enjoyable, functional area. Clients come to me and say, ‘I don’t like my property. I never use it and I don’t find it enjoyable’. To me, one of the worst user experiences is being discouraged from using something at all. It’s so bad, you don’t even want to go near it.

After synthesizing all of this data from my user interviews (consultations and phone/zoom calls), I slowly piece together a plan and vision that solves their pain points and makes their outdoor spaces truly enjoyable and usable for them. Every project is different. Every project has its own unique constraints, whether that be budgets, spouse style differences or difficult neighbors (hello politics!) and it is your job to design for a solution that works with these challenges.

Can you imagine being presented with a 50K home renovation project and immediately think, “Wow that sounds great, no questions here, sign me up!”. No? Well, neither would most people.

It’s not necessarily that you’re defending your design or only trying to justify the cost, but really you are walking the client through the decisions you made, element by element until it all comes together to form the larger picture. By providing insight, we are able to form a mutual appreciation for the design as a whole.

Good design doesn’t happen overnight or in a silo. The best solutions come from collaborating with your team, getting client feedback and improving upon the last version. That is why I try to always be prepared to make big changes in my designs. That’s not to say just let the client steam roll you into what they want while ignoring design principles, but rather hear their considerations and synthesize this with your design knowledge to propose a solution that incorporates both.

One thing I was taught early on in my design training was to question everything. Analyze every element of the design by asking yourself, “what purpose does this serve? Does this ultimately provide value to the client?”. By doing this, we can eliminate unnecessary design “baggage” and find ourselves closer to the best version of our design by only providing what truly brings value to our clients’ lives.

There’s more connections between landscape design and UX design to uncover, but these four are at the forefront of my mind. As my UX journey unfolds, I’m sure I’ll discover new connections I never thought of before.

Thanks for reading!

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