Step By Step Guide To Designing Landscapes

Landscapes are an extremely important part of every design project. It not only enhances our design, but also defines the space itself. 

It might be a bit difficult to figure out what type of landscape will suit our design or how to start designing it. If you're a beginner, there are multiple ways to help get started. In his book, Foundations of landscape architecture, Norman K. Booth explains one such method.

Basics Of Landscape Design

Tips To Start Designing A Landscape

  1. Define a form
  2. Transform the form
  3. Organise the forms
  4. Unifying Principles

1) Defining a Form

Define A Form

The word "form" is a very loose term which can describe a lot of phrases like the formation, arrangement, shape, figure etc. of a particular object or a group of them. Forms can be grouped into several categories based on what they look like. 

Simple Or Complex

This category is pretty self-explanatory.

  • Simple: A form made of basic and limited number of figures and shapes
  • Complex: A mix of multiple figures, arranged in desired forms

Controlled Or Spontaneous

  • Controlled: A form is referred to as controlled when it does not appear very organic or natural.
  • Spontaneous: Spontaneous forms are more unforced and uncontained.

Human, Organic Or Repetitive 

  • Human: When the design style looks like something that doesn't occur in nature or "human-made".
  • Organic: Organic refers to a more natural or a harmonious pattern.
  • Repetitive: Repetition involves repeating the same form or pattern over and over.

Symmetrical Or Asymmetrical

  • Symmetrical: Follows a symmetrical or a geometric pattern
  • Asymmetrical: Does not follow symmetry

One single form can also fall into multiple categories too.

Components Of A Form

A form is a three dimensional structure defined by its outline or silhouette. This is basically the edges on all sides.

  • Edges of vertical plane
  • Edges of ground plane
  • Edges of overhead plane

2) Form Transformation

Transforming The Form

Once the primary form is defined, the next step is to modify it to make it more elaborate and creative. These changes can be minimal or extensive based on the designer's creativity or the client's requirements.

There are five basic types of transformation of forms.

  • Addition: Addition is the process of adding similar shapes or forms to create a complex one.
  • Subtraction: It is the process of removal of certain parts of the form for enhancing it further.
  • Rotation: As the name suggests, rotation is a type of transformation where the form or forms are rotated along a fixed axis or a point.
  • Intervention: Intervention is similar to additive transformation. The difference between the two is that in intervention, a contrasting form or element is added to the present one.
  • Synthesis: Synthesis is the transformation in which multiple types of transformation are used. It is a fusion of the above types.

3) Organisation

Organizing The Forms

The next step is to arrange or organise the various forms developed into a composition which is legible and enjoyable by the users.

These organisation structures are mainly divided into five categories.

  • Mass Collection: This type of organisation refers to randomly placing the various forms together by clustering them.
  • Line: In this type of organisation, the forms are placed next to each other in a linear or a chain-like pattern.
  • Grid: In grid organisation, the different elements are placed in a parallel manner or at constant intersections.
  • Symmetry: As the name suggests, in this type, the forms are placed in a bilateral, radial or cross axial symmetrical manner.
  • Asymmetry: In this type, symmetry is not followed.

4) Unifying Principles

Unify The Forms

Randomly putting together forms might not always turn out to be a good or an appealing landscape design. There should be certain unifying principles to make the design more purposeful or meaningful.

Similarity And Variety

Making the forms similar to each other means giving them something in common like size, pattern, shape or material. However, one should be careful of the fact that too many similarities can make the design boring or monotonous.


Dominance is a method by which one element visually stands out more than the others. This technique is usually used to highlight the special features of the landscape. 

Dominance can be achieved by making that particular element different in colour, height, size, shape or material.


Interconnection involves connecting one form physically to another. This causes individual elements to be perceived as one whole design.


Compartmentalization involves enclosing the various forms into one enclosure.

The job of a landscape is to contribute to the functional, ecological and the aesthetic needs of the design. It should be cohesive, purposeful and expressive.

Step By Step Guide To Designing Landscapes