Landscape designers work on a canvas that is distinctly different from other art forms. The "art" is always changing as the plants grow, environmental conditions change, and people use the space. For this reason, landscape designers use a design process that systematically considers all aspects of the land, the environment, the growing plants, and the needs of the user to ensure a visually pleasing, functional, and ecologically healthy design. Elements and Principles
The design process begins by determining the needs and desires of the user and the conditions of the site. With this information, the designer then organizes the plants and hardscape materials, which are collectively referred to as the features. The features can be physically described by the visual qualities of line, form, color, texture, and visual weight—the elements of design. The principles are the fundamental concepts of composition—proportion, order, repetition, and unity—that serve as guidelines to arrange or organize the features to create an aesthetically pleasing or beautiful landscape. Knowledge of the elements and principles of design is essential to designing a landscape and working through the design process. This publication describes each of the elements and explains the principles and their application. Elements of Design
The elements of composition are the visual qualities that people see and respond to when viewing a space. Visual qualities can illicit many different emotions and feelings, and the more positive those feelings, the more likely people are to enjoy and use a space. Perhaps the most common element in a composition is line. Line creates all forms and patterns and can be used in a variety of ways in the landscape. Line
Line in the landscape is created by the edge between two materials, the outline or silhouette of a form, or a long linear feature. Lines are a powerful tool for the designer because they can be used to create an infinite variety of shapes and forms, and they control movement of the eye and the body. Landscape designers use lines to create patterns, develop spaces, create forms, control movement, establish dominance, and create a cohesive theme in a landscape. Landscape lines are created several ways: when two different materials meet on the ground plane, such as the edge of a brick patio meeting an expanse of green turf; or when the edge of an object is visible or contrasts with a background, such as the outline of a tree against the sky; or by the placement of a material in a line, such as a fence. Figure 1 shows common landscape lines, including bedlines, hardscape lines, path lines, sod lines, and fence lines. Lines can have one or more characteristics, such as those described below, but they typically serve different purposes. Figure 1.
Lines in the landscape.
Properties of Lines
The properties of lines determine how people respond to the landscape, both emotionally and physically. Straight Lines
Straight lines are structural and forceful; they create a formal character, are usually associated with a symmetrical design, and lead the eye directly to a focal point. Diagonal lines are straight lines with an intentional direction. Straight lines are most often found in hardscape edges and material. Curved Lines
Curved lines create an informal, natural, relaxed character that is associated more with nature and asymmetrical balance. Curved lines move the eye at a slower pace and add mystery to the space by creating hidden views. Vertical Lines
Vertical lines move the eye up, making a space feel larger. An upward line can emphasize a feature and has a feeling of activity or movement. Vertical lines in the landscape include tall, narrow plant material, such as trees, or tall structures, such as an arbor or a bird house on a pole. Hortizontal Lines
Horizontal lines move the eye along the ground plane and can make a space feel larger. Low lines are more...