Design Process


A design process is a way of approaching a subject of design with an open mind, seeking the best arrangement of elements to satisfy a set of given conditions. A permaculture design process will emphasize that knowledge of the site, of the user's needs, and the designer's ethic are significant to making design decisions. The design "problem" is that of bringing site and user needs into a harmonious, productive and sustainable arrangement. We understand that both site and client are providing us with clues to such a resolution.

For most designs, the site is a basic point of reference and it has intrinsic characteristics that offer guidance. We must consider its geographical context and existing features. Location, orientation, slope, drainage, wind, vegetation, history and access must be considered. We may be looking for particular elements on the site we would like to feature as site themes and for aspects of the site that may present problems to us. In any case, a permaculture site is not a neutral element but a landscape with a story waiting to be revealed.

Our second point of reference in a design must be the user. Users have certain needs that may need to be met by the site. An analysis of the user's intrinsic characteristics, needs, and products and behaviors will help us to understand how well site and user match. Seldom will we find a perfect match between site conditions and user needs, so the designer will be in a position of having to adjust site or program to get the most suitable match possible. A helpful approach is to identify user "themes" that are to be developed in the design.

The designer is not a fully neutral party to the design. The designer brings to a project his/her training, work and life experiences and a philosophy that will guide decisions made. The role of the designer may vary from project to project. In some cases the designer may be in control of many design decisions and in other cases may just be assisting the client in technical or construction matters. The designer's work will be improved by having a design approach that can be articulated for the understanding of all involved.


 from: Permaculture, pg. 37