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Beautification vs. Problem Solving as an Approach to Landscape Design

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Design is not about beautification so much as it is about problem solving. While I expect the word “design” to be used when referring to beautification for decades to come, real design has more to do with making things better than making them look good.

No Amount of Visual Appeal Can Make Up for a Flaw in Function

A good example of what real design can do is a recent report on the cause of fire hazards of a popular cell phone that is currently being recalled. The authors of the report believe that the barrier between the negative and positive poles of the battery is too thin and that the empty buffer areas around the battery are not sufficient to protect the battery from outside pressure. This combination of design flaws is believed to have been enough to burn over one hundred cell phones and likely cause every single phone of the same model to burn if given enough time. People liked the phone for its versatility and good looks, and it was well received and well thought of by critics and customers; before they started blowing up that is!

Tree Placement Example

The possible damage to people and property is astounding when you think of the 2.5 million models of this phone that have been sold worldwide. But when you look at the common practice of planting trees only a foot or two from a house, you will have to admit that there are a lot more than a mere 2.5 million houses with trees planted close enough to cause damage. While it is easier to monitor the damage of a poorly placed tree, the removal for even a small tree comes close to the cost of one of these top-of-the-line cell phones. You also need to consider that most landscape architects, landscape designers, and landscape installers who choose to plant one tree too close to a building are usually planting more than one poorly placed tree.

Shared Responsibility to Minimize Potential Problems

Nature’s Seed is aware of the responsibility that we hold to the environment, and we encourage our customers to educate themselves of the potential problems that bad designs might present. But just as importantly we hope that each client, whether they are a homeowner, large property manager, or a contracted company are looking to use our seeds for the benefit of humanity and our environment. While we’ve done our best to minimize risk when using our seed products, there’s always a chance a particular grass, wildflower, or forb might start creeping out of its intended area and into the neighbor’s yard, or that a customer’s climate is just not conducive to a successful establishment of a certain species. Every customer shares in the responsibility to do the research needed to get the job done right while minimizing risk and failure. But don’t feel like you have to go about this alone. Feel free to ask us for help. We’re here for you through every step of the process. Your local Cooperative Extension Service is also a great resource for all questions regarding your seeding project.

Think Beyond Aesthetics

I firmly believe that big disasters will not happen if a designer places his priorities with improvement of the earth and the people that live on it. While this benefit-centered design will have mistakes and missteps, it would be hard to achieve the danger and damage that our current push for aesthetics and beauty is causing. Take some time to think about what you are hoping to accomplish with your designs. If your intent is only to beautify please take some extra time to see if you can find a way to help others and the world more deeply.


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