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What does a designer do, anyway?

( and why does it matter? )

Brad Holley

Randy Angell Designs

January 11, 2018



     n your day-to-day life, you sometimes find yourself having to choose between two things you want.  Maybe you have to choose between having something done quickly or having it done well.  Maybe you have to choose between eating something delicious or eating something that’s actually good for you.  Perhaps you can choose to buy something cheap that gets the job done temporarily, or you can choose to buy something expensive that will help you now, and for many years to come.

It's not hard to think of other examples like these, because it’s a very common quandary we find ourselves in.  In most cases, we’re stuck choosing between time, affordability or quality.  The real problem here is that we find ourselves having to “settle” for less than everything.

In an ideal world, we would always get both:  Fast and cheap.  Durable and affordable. Delicious and healthy.  In stock with free one-day shipping.

Well, this is exactly why we as designers do what we do.  We’ve grown tired of having to choose.  We’re idealists that see the world for what it could be; a world where compromise doesn’t have to exist. A world that includes everything that we want, with nothing that we don’t want.

Some people assume that a designer’s purpose is simply to make something look good.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  That’s not to say that we don’t enjoy making things look good—we absolutely do.  But our real purpose is being what I like to call a “functionality expert”.  Another way of saying this would be to say that we don’t ever do something to meet just one need.

"For a designer that genuinely cares about what they're doing, compromising on any of this should be considered failure"

A truly passionate designer wants something to last a long time, go together easily, be unique, function well, elicit a feeling of intrigue, work efficiently, take up no more space than it needs to, and feel just the way it should.  For a designer that genuinely cares about what they’re doing, compromising on any of this should be considered failure.  A good designer will go back to the drawing board with revision after revision until he/she knows that the finished product or concept is as perfect as it can possibly be.

So as an outdoor designer, when a client seeks us out, it’s because they’re in the market for the ideal outdoor space.  They have a certain lifestyle they envision for their outdoor space and they need an expert to help them bring it into fruition without compromising any part of it.

When you call us about designing a swimming pool, it’s because you don’t just want a hole in the ground, adorned with rocks, tile and plaster and then filled with water.  You want your very own, well-thought-out, personal, backyard resort that your family and friends simply cannot wait to experience with you.

When you contact us about a fire pit, it’s because you’re looking for more than just a lonely circle of bricks with some chairs around it.  You want it to be a comfortable, stylish, easily accessible, night-time group entertainment destination where drinks are shared and hours of conversation ensue.

When you email us about an outdoor living room, it’s not because you’re looking for a generic awning and recommendations on a simple outdoor seating arrangement.  You enlist us to design an outdoor extension of your indoor-living lifestyle.  You want all of the creature comforts found inside your home, but thoughtfully emulated in your outdoor environment with taste and elegance.

When you query our team about designing an outdoor kitchen, it’s not because you need a place to put a stand-alone BBQ on or near your patio.  You do so because you want a place you can entertain.  You want prep space, cold storage, the right appliances to get the job done efficiently, and a way to stay cool and comfortable while you prepare food in the open air for the ones you love, and you’d like all of it organized in the most functional way possible.

"What is the purpose here, and how will each of these things affect you?"

When you ask us to create a landscaping concept that compliments your space, you’re not necessarily just looking for some plants you saw on your last beach vacation.  What you really want are trees, shrubs, flowers and grasses that are beautiful, that are easy enough to maintain, and that won’t fight one another for resources.  You want something that brings life and movement to your space, but can also survive there in the long run just like a native species would.

And what’s even more likely is, you didn’t contact us because you wanted one of these things.  You probably contacted us because you wanted all of these things.  What's more, you wanted them to be custom-tailored to your space, your lifestyle, your needs and your good taste, all in a purposeful and intentional way that far exceeds your expectations.

When you give a designer a list of objectives, we will look at all of them and ask, “What is the purpose here, and how will each of these things affect you?

We want to know what the intention is for all of these items.  What is the goal?  How will these additions suit you and your lifestyle?  What style of architecture do you like?  Are there existing objects or features that we need to protect or be wary of?  Are there existing design cues we should be paying attention to?  How is sunlight going to play into the enjoyment of these things, from morning until night?  Can these additions continue to be visually striking and impactful even when you’re indoors?  How will we organize these features while maintaining a sense of “visual weight” and “balance”?

A designer considers all of these things, and so much more.  He/she doesn’t simply make a list of entertainment features and then carelessly cram them all into a single space.  A talented designer takes their time with a design and considers every possible benefit or consequence of an object’s size, shape, finish and location, and the affect it may have on every other object that will exist around it.

"You want perfection, and we want to help you figure out what that means"

A designer takes into consideration the amount of space they have to work with, the number of people that will be accommodated, the furniture that the space will be filled with, the activities that will take place, and the traffic patterns that will need to exist so that people can experience these features in a positive and efficient way.

To put it simply, we are here to provide you with everything you want.  We’re here to protect you from “settling” and to defend against compromise.  We want to ensure that once our work is done, you’ll never spend a single minute wondering if there might have been a better way.  You want perfection, and we want to help you figure out what that means.

Oh, and I should probably mention that we really like to make things look good too.

Brad Holley

Randy Angell Designs

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