Concepts are approaches to problem solving and ways of thinking that allow the designer to select and arrange components in a design to meet the permaculture principles. While components are things, concepts are guiding ideas. These may be ideas about how the design process should take place, techniques that may be used to achieve design objectives, or an all encompassing view into which all the pieces have to fit. Concepts are derived from an understanding of the site, appreciation of client needs and desires, and the designer's own belief system and experience.

In any particular design there will be a process that is used to arrange elements and determine their form, the choice of materials and construction methods. Even a seemingly random, intuitive placement of elements is a process and in some situations may be appropriate. Conscious placement is generally more successful in more complex design situations. In any case, concepts are being applied even if they are not explicitly recognized or expressed.

Many designers use a systematic approach to analysis of site and user needs and for making recommendations for placement of elements. This process reveals the thinking behind decisions and makes it easier for client and
designer to reach a common agreement on the appropriate solution. Ultimately, however, decisions are not fully objective and are made based on the client's and designer's ethics, beliefs, ways of thinking and creativity. The design is a blend of science and art tempered by human philosophy.

What a designer and client think and the information internalized into decisions is important. A number of guiding concepts were presented at the Permaculture Design Course at the Ovens' Natural Park in 1995. The concepts presented here are not a complete list and it is intended to be expanded as new ones are found or invented. On the other hand, for an individual designer or in a particular design situation, all concepts will not be fully applicable to the site and people for whom the design is being done. Concepts are tools for achievement of design goals; we select the appropriate ones for the tasks at hand.