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How should garden designers present their ideas to clients?

In short, there is no right or wrong answer. What works for one client may not work for another. Imagine you're a garden designer, fresh out of college, and you've just landed your first client. They're in their early forties, have a couple of kids, live in a four bedroom new build home and are looking to re-vamp their medium sized garden into a funky space that's child friendly and has areas for lounging and playing. They've asked you for some concept ideas to help them decide on a budget and get a feel for how you work. You have lots of ideas buzzing around in your head, but how would you present them to your client? Mood boards, hand drawn sketches, CGI, physical models - where do you start?
Sketch of garden design with lawn and decking
Firstly, don't panic. As long as you remember that your main goal is to help your client understand what you could make their garden look like, then everything else is just purely a matter of style, and style, as we all know, is a very individual thing.
Your style will develop over time and the more projects you do, the more honed it'll become. When I look back at the style of some of the drawings I did for the first few projects when FORK began, they were truly awful. But over the years, and with input from other members of the team, that style has developed into something that I'm happy with and most importantly communicates to a client an accurate representation of how their garden will look in the flesh. 
Sketchup image of a garden design with paved stepping stones
I think it's fair to say that when it comes to the use of technology, garden designers are not leaders in the field and the use of hand drawn plans is still pretty common. But a quick Google of 'garden design drawings' now throws up a vast range of styles and ideas with more and more people turning towards CGIs generated by software such as Vectorworks and SketchUp.
I've been a big lover of computer generated images since the beginning and now everything we produce is drawn up in either SketchUp, CAD or a mix of both. Everyone has their own way of working, but as a company we have developed a process that I feel works well for 95% of our projects. 
When we start a new project, rather than spending lots of time concentrating on one design we use SketchUp to produce three or four 'rough' concepts From the survey we draw up a template of the existing garden boundaries and leave in all the items that won'y or can't change, like walls, buildings and trees. We then play around with ideas, not worrying too much about what materials will be used or the exact size and shape of areas. What we are trying to achieve are possible layouts that give the client what they want in different orientations. The idea behind this is that it's much easier for a client to visualise their garden in 3D than on a CAD plan.
Once we have several of these layouts we pick the best two or three and take snapshots from different angles, render them using Shaderlight (a plugin for SketchUp) and run through them with our client, generally over email.
Shaderlight CGI image of a garden design with lawn and decking
The feedback we get is generally always the same, the clients like different aspects of two or three of the designs​ - maybe the bigger dining area from Design A and the curving walls from Design B, oh and they quite like the water feature in Design C, but think it would be better if they could see it from the lounge window. From this feedback we then draw up a final layout in SketchUp and spend more time working out the exact sizes and materials before rendering it again using Shaderlight.
Once our client is happy with the new layout in 3D we then draft the working drawings in CAD and price every detail down to the last penny. This way works really well for us as most of our clients are very busy people, so having everything in a digital format that can easily be emailed to them is vital. 
Computer sketch of a formal garden design for a country garden
So, getting back to the question of 'how should garden designers present their ideas to clients?', well, the answer is simply in a way that you feel comfortable and that shows as clearly as possible to your client what their garden will look like. 
Look at what other designers are doing on the internet and play around with ideas, but most of all have fun with it and you'll find that enjoyment will help you develop a style that is unique and works for you. 

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