Article – Landscape Architect vs Landscape Designer: What’s the Difference? – Written by Lisa Hallett Taylor


Attending the University of Washington for Landscape Architecture was a great experience. I met incredibly talented individuals who expanded my views through academia and others who inspired my designs to push boundaries that I wouldn’t have seen in the beginning of the program. Two widely-used terms caught my attention as I made my way into the real, working world: Landscape Designer (LD) and Landscape Architect (LA). What’s the difference?

While a landscape designer may go through some educational courses or the ever-popular side-hobby and self-taught route, they are not legally allowed to call themselves Landscape Architects. “To legally call yourself a landscape architect, you must have a bachelor’s and/or master’s degree in landscape architecture from a university and be licensed by the state in order to design and work on landscape projects. Traditionally, they attend colleges accredited by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) and have passed the required exams to become licensed. A good and reputable landscape architect has experience or has training to work with challenging issues” within:

  • Commercial and Residential Sites
  • City and State-wide Planning (bike trails, greenways, etc.)
  • Public Outdoor Spaces (parks, plazas, campuses, gardens, resorts, etc.)
  • Transportation Facilities (light rail, train stations, etc.)
  • Waterfront Developments
  • Ecosystem Restoration Projects
  • And Many More!

First and foremost, I don’t want to discredit landscape designers, because I have learned many things from them in my developing career. Their knowledge, while it may be simple in broad spectrum of the LA profession, can be incredibly in-depth with the tangible work created by their hands, typically dealing with smaller scale projects, such as a garden. Basically, the amount of science and math-based analysis, from existing site conditions to cutting-edge new technology, may be less than what Landscape Architects consider the “full” approach. Other specialists also play an important role as landscape designers, such as horticulturalists, arborists, environmental studies majors, and many others who, should be somewhat educated within a field of the natural world. This type of education enables us to think on a more holistic level creating a more profound, positive effect on the environment and its users. As the quantity and quality of education increases, so does thorough and multifaceted analysis.

A quick example: Where an LD may envision a beautiful garden of specific colors, the LA takes into account native plants of the region that will not only look beautiful, but also perform in the correct conditions pertaining to the specific site.

So, formally, I am not able to call myself a Landscape Architect. After graduating from a 5-year accredited program, I still call myself a landscape designer with a degree in Landscape Architecture. It is when I have completed three years working in the field under a licensed Landscape Architect, that I will be able to take the necessary exams to become licensed myself.

This is a clear distinction for finding the right person for the job. It takes about eight years to become a Licensed Landscape Architect, who is able to open up their own firm and give their signature to documents that only a licensed professional can sign, typically for larger scale projects, such as master planning a new neighborhood development. That’s fairly close to some doctoral degrees! It’s this difference that I want to highlight in tangent to the design industry:


The Simple Difference of Freelance vs. Agency vs. Heliosphere: No Extra Fluff


Simple branding design work: (not web, not packaging, nor marketing)

  • Freelance – max. $75/hour
  • Agency – max. $600/hour (New York)

Overall, you get what you pay for when you have a well-rounded team. At Heliosphere, we have adopted and adapted our own holistic approach to the unique niche we have put ourselves in. With equal attention to branding, packaging and marketing, our process has forced us to look at every project with a wide-angle lense. Having these three divisions working side-by-side, we are able to streamline the client’s process no matter where they need to start. Over time, the client begins to notice the cycle of a quality brand, and after a couple of years, they need to launch a new product, increase variation within the brand’s identity, and create new packaging, which needs to be marketed. It’s a beautiful thing to watch when it’s done right, but that was and is rare.

Make sure to have a flushed-out 5-year plan.


Most companies that produce a product either have a back-of-the-office, small and unkempt design “department” that is fulfilled by a side-hobbyist or they will outsource the job to a freelancer, thinking, “this is the best time to cut costs.” In recent years, there’s been a demand for quality beyond your typical designer. Your audience is looking for their attention to be grabbed. Brand recognition holds it’s place at the high-podium. It’s become the same concept as “the first 30-seconds of an interview.”


The Handshake matters.


And when you stare at the chip aisle, about to make your decision, it’s the brand that calls attention to you that we most lean towards. Everyone is beginning to catch onto a new standard for presentability, function and aesthetic. To go beyond that, another growing trend is the public’s eye looking for a sustainable message and transparent corporate responsibility. Society is slowly starting to push for more knowledge in way of the source of their produce to the quality of life of the textile workers for the fabrics of their clothes. It’s the beginning of a new era for truly honest corporations and businesses alike. This is how we will run Heliosphere. We want to empower our peers and partners to grow with us – to be a cohesive system that works by sharing a wealth of knowledge that can only be expanded through collaboration and seamless communication.

So, don’t short-change the importance of the visual appeal of your brand! It’s more than worth it. And if you’re planning the complete strategy of your business and products, we are here to guide through any part of the process. In conclusion, find the right person for the job, and of course the budget, but don’t forget the importance of your 5-year plan and The Handshake!

Written by KK