UX for Landscape Garden Design

shapes of objects & trees in your landscape create a UX - User Experience
- designing details to enable a seamless and satisfying experience can be tricky
How is the UX of your landscape ?
Do your trees & objects do what they should?
on a scale of 0 to 10 ?
... if not 8 or above, read on..

People, Trees, & User Experience

In the most simple terms, what we see, is how we feel.

Comfort matters: then, how do we prune trees for viewing comfort ?

How we see a landscape, whether we see landscape in comfort, or if the view experience is uncomfortable determines how we accept a landscape. In other words, if we view from comfort, we are more likely to appreciate a view, and feel that we like the view.

What we feel is based on the types of shapes that we see around us. And what we normally see first, are the trees slightly above our heads at approximately 15 degrees up and slightly down from horizontal, to include 10 degrees below horizontal eye level. Our basic comfort level for viewing is closer to 0 degrees horizontal to 10 degrees downward. This illustration on the left shows the visual comfort zone as studied and determined by Henry Dreyfuss.

The open source free PDF version is found here as :
The Measure of Man: Human Factors in Design, Henry Dreyfuss
25 degrees is the maximum upward rotation of our eye movement, at which time the view will be uncomfortable, and the head needs to be lifted from the comfortable horizontal gaze. Adding to this detail, at 27 degrees rise above horizontal is the angle at which our brain decides that we are faced with a wall, rather than an incline.
And taking note the ideal view that decides that a view is ‘borrowed scenery’ (shakkei) is found to be, in Japanese gardens in Japan, is 8.3 degrees up and a +- variance of 1.1 degrees as researched by Higuchi. Higher than 9.4 degrees, and lower than 7.2 degrees, constitutes a distant view or often as a design device, as a ‘compressed view or condensed view’* (shukkei).
a Link for shukkei is the PDF: Reading Zen in the Rocks, Francois Berthier, as translated by Parkes as ‘The Role of Rocks in the Japanese Dry Landscape Garden
or siteLINES, The Japanese Garden: the Art of Setting Stones, Natsumi Nonaka, 2008
*(Note that shukukei is seen as ‘miniaturized landscape’)


Feelings Created by Tree Shapes:

Pointed becomes uncomfortable

If pointed shapes are added in combination with sharp defining edges of the shapes, then the feeling tends to be a discomfort, and this will cause an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, leading to a heightened sense causing wariness, even though at first the shapes cause the feeling of excitement. Pointed posts, spruce & fir trees, topiary cones, generally all pointy objects cause wariness and do not allow a rest.

Rounded Tall = Stately

Tall rounded shapes, tall trees with cones and high round canopied shapes cause a sense of watchfulness and steady guardianship. An example is the Royal Queens Guard at Buckingham Palace is an example of such a shape to which the human mind responds to in a positive reassured way.. in Japan the shape is called ‘karikomi’ and is most used at or around corners marking borders or entries, when in single use, and massed use is ‘O-karikomi’.

Canopies are Comfort

Wide canopied shapes in trees resonate a sense of happiness and comfort, a sense of home, or relaxed leisure without pushing for a need for action as the spruce trees do. And a note here on behalf of the benefit of spruce and fir, that the inside spread of these branches are often gently arced, (as above) useful in tree architecture to move water toward the outside to the dripline and as a result, the inside feels calm, gentle, safe and secure.

Adding to the wide canopy category of User Experience is the pruned tamamono shape of shrubs that use a round shape at the top with the widest point of the arc forming a stable and secure feeling at ground level, that the viewer is intended to feel. This shape simply makes people smile, as the round, resonates with the roundness of a newborn infants eyes, a kitten or Disney’s Mickey Mouse ears..

Rounded shapes, make people happy

As a result the next category of balls or pompoms on the end of branches can be seen as whimsical, which works well, except is a higher maintenance cost in the loss of entire branches if one breaks during a winter.

Drama = sharp edges

In the same vernacular, flattened shapes of branches, and especially shapes that appear windswept, elongated or extreme artistic shapes pulled, pushed in one direction or another, add a sense of drama when finely finished with sharp edges. When these shapes are at the ends, the effect can be deemed interesting, however is highly unstable and mostly unsustainable, thereby costly.

Round Unusual = Mystery

The same tree architecture and pattern when appearing lush, full and vibrantly green can reflectively bring to mind distant mysterious mountain areas if the foliage is managed with rounded ‘happy’ loosely managed natural growth that is more sustainable than the highly sheared or edge manicured version. In trees that give a sense of airy lightness, and very high mountain as an experience of the survival with abundance, or a sense of deeply shaded forest, the foliage can be thin, and along most of the length of branches.

The important aspect is that the shape we see, emotionally shapes the User Experience and thereby determines the use of that space.

For example, a pointed or spiky view is interesting and invigorating for a time, however, is difficult to relax in,

-often the experiencer has the feeling of being watched, as if the personality of the trees has become too humanly anthropological.         … Edzard Teubert