Sunday, July 13, 2008

To CAD or not to CAD

Oooh I have been a little held up with my post on courtyards - awaiting an approval to use someone else's photos and so thought I better get on with an interim post as it has been so long. I do apologize.

As I've said previously I do use this to download things that are swirling around my mind and this post I fear may not be relevant unless you are a professional or semi-professional designer. The thing that is swirling around my mind currently is CAD or computer aided design.

When I did my design training all of it was done on paper. We sketched, we bubbled (see below) we drafted our plans in pencil on paper then meticulously transferred these into ink onto tracing paper which we then took to the printer and had plan printed. I still use this process but I need to drag myself into the 21st century.
"Bubble" sketch - redefining the spaces in a garden

Partly this is driven by the fact that I have been carrying out some planting plan designs for another designer - they provide me with the concept plan which they draw up using CAD. They then print this design for me on a large A1 sized plan and then I go through my process and hand them a completed planting design on paper which they then have to transfer back to computer. Not the most streamlined process. Aside from this when I'm doing my own work all is fine as long as I don't have to make changes but if I do - everything must be redrawn by hand - an incredibly time consuming process.

So I have decided I must bite the bullet and invest in a CAD program. But what a dilemma - they are on the whole very expensive ranging from about $ 2,000 - $ 6,000 so it is quite an investment. Plus then there's the question of whether I work it all out myself or invest in some training another reasonably substantial investment of time and money.

Overall I prefer the look of hand drawn design - it has a life and an energy that you simply don't get from a computer design but the advantages of computers (like in many areas) are such that they cannot be ignored. Many have linked in plant databases so you select a plant and it will be drawn to the correct size and planting space. You can also add your own plants to the database. And of course when you change a plant it is automatically changed on the plan. Not to mention the ease with which you can make changes to measurements of hard landscaping. Aaah bliss. But getting to that bliss is going to be quite a steep learning curve.
Not to mention the decisions to made between AutoCAD, Land Cad, Vectorworks etc. Oooh my brain hurts just thinking about it.

I am glad however that my training was done without a computer. I will always probably sketch first to work out how something might look from a certain perspective, I will always pace around my house working out the actual physical space of an area and I will still make up plant lists under their visual qualities before I make my decisions on what to plant where and with what. I envy my younger colleagues for their ease with which they can manipulate their computers but a pencil and a sketch will always be the quickest method for me to initially come up with a design solution. I certainly feel that I will never have quite the same direct mental connection to a computer mouse as I have with a pencil. So I feel quite smug that I have this ability but in saying that I look forward to the day when I have more mastery with the mouse.

A hand coloured and hand drawn Concept Plan


The Intercontinental Gardener said...

Hi - I've been on vacation & so not reading anything... And this week, our things from Stockholm will arrive (after 2 months on the sea), so I'll be really busy too. But to CAD: I've contemplated the same thing so many times, as I've done quite many garden drawings for customers. It is mainly the revision phase of the project that can get a bit frustrating, when i draw by hand. And also, revising the plant lists, sometimes consisting of hundreds of species. But I haven't got to investing in any CAD programs yet, as I feel that the investment is too high: not only the program, but the down time needed to learn to use it properly. I mean - I've seen so many garden plans made badly by computer! They look horrible, impersonal and ugly. So this far I have rather taken the time (and the cost) of drawing by hand, but in the future this might have to change.

An English Gardener said...

I too have started using CAD for my design work. I still do initial drawing, rough work and doodles by hand but find the accuracy and speed that I now achieve in using this method enlightening. Another benefit is that I can design my own symbols as well. I have been printing off some designs and coloring by hand with some success. I just bought a simple CAD system for $150 but will consider a more sophisticated expensive one in the future for sure. A world with both hand and computer design is attainable.