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Differentiating Roles of Landscape Professionals

What’s the difference between a Landscape Designer, Landscape Architect, Landscape Contractor, and Landscaper?


It takes all kinds of skill sets to bring beauty to our outdoor spaces; Landscape Designers, Landscape Architects, Landscape Contractors, and Landscapers each do their part. While there is some overlap between the work they do, each professional has their unique area of expertise. 

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Landscape Designers dream of outdoor spaces that do not yet exist. They may have gone to college for landscape architecture, architecture or design, or may simply have an innate knack for design and a passion for gardening, but are not licensed. Landscape Designers work closely with clients to reimagine how their outdoor space might be used, how people might move from point A to B, where people might pause or gather together, and how they want their space to look and feel. From there, Landscape Designers produce drawings that document designs for paths, gathering areas, and planting arrangements that support their client’s goals, including acquiring permits, if required. Someone could also identify as a Garden Designer or Land Planner, but Landscape Designer is the most commonly used job title.


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Landscape Architects are also landscape designers, but have received degrees in Landscape Architecture. They have worked under other Landscape Architects and have passed exams to become licensed in Landscape Architecture. They do all the same work that Landscape Designers do, but may have additional technical expertise in the realms of industry best practices, code compliance, permitting, grading and drainage design, construction documentation, and coordinating with larger interdisciplinary teams. Having a license allows them to work on a wider range of projects (including residential, commercial and civic projects) compared to Landscape Designers (limited to residential design and small scale commercial project); but they, too, produce drawings that document designs for paths, gathering areas, and gardens that support their client’s goals.

Meet the landscape designers and landscape architect at Open Envelope Studio HERE

Once a Landscape Designer or Landscape Architect completes their design drawings for an outdoor space, the Landscape Contractor arrives on the scene. These professionals use their expertise in construction to install all the paving, fences, gates, walls, pergolas, and plants documented in the design documents. In the process, they often collaborate with Landscape Designers and Landscape Architects to reconcile the design with unanticipated site conditions. Their ability to troubleshoot, manage the construction budget and schedule, and their careful craftsmanship are what bring designs to life.

After the design is constructed, Landscapers are charged with maintaining the landscape that lies before them. Landscapers prune plants, weed gardens, mow lawns, remove leaves, replace perished plants, and ensure the irrigation system is operating properly. Without proper maintenance, even the most well-designed and constructed landscapes will fade away. The stewardship Landscapers provide ensures landscapes will endure into the future. 


Design-Build firms offer design and construction services. Here, designers are able to learn in real time if the juice is worth the squeeze of a complex design idea as it's being built, and how to improve or simplify that idea in a future project. They continually absorb best practices on how to work with materials, including longevity and potential maintenance concerns, and create drawings and details that give more control on how items are built instead of placing this responsibility on a Landscape Contractor. Conversely, having Build Project Managers constantly in communication with Designers solves the inevitable construction surprises cohesively and thoughtfully. Small changes or errors in installation can snowball into larger and larger issues down the line; having a team working together on how to move forward really does make for a smoother project that aligns with the original design in a predictable way.

Landscape Designers, Landscape Architects, Landscape Contractors, and Landscapers all bring an important skill to the table. While you’ll find that some professionals wear many hats – and Landscape Contractors and Landscapers often offer design advice – it still holds true that the best outdoor spaces are a collaboration between experts in design, construction, and maintenance.


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