UX for Landscape Garden Design

.. When Trees Matter..
trees shape the User Experience

.. pruned branches frame the view

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.

1) What we see first, are the trees slightly above our heads

     approximately 15 degrees up, to 10 degrees below horizontal eye level.

2) Our viewing comfort is 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


Physical Condition: – physical discomfort occurs at 25 degrees upwards from horizontal being the maximum upward rotation of our eye movement,
Reaction: – a wall is perceived to be ‘a wall’ at a 27 degree incline upwards from horizontal.
Result: – our brains ‘borrow scenery’ (shakkei) when the visual is 8.3 degrees upwards and located between 9.4 degrees and 7.2 degrees (Higuchi)


Garden Design Position: –  Compressed View is positioned 9.4 degrees and up and lower than 7.2 degrees, leaving a gap
– the brain compresses reiterated data because of organization and position of objects at these angles for quicker reference with ‘danger / no danger’, while observing the uncluttered central ‘borrowed view’.
Reaction: – higher levels of data above and below create a ‘space between’ these angles so that the framing causes our brain ‘to borrow’ a view as shakkei that see’s the lesser details of the main view,
Result: – our brain compresses and ignores, the up or down view and separates data from the borrowed view – utilized in design as a ‘compressed view or condensed view’* (shukkei).


another 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:

Drama = sharp edges

In the same vernacular, flattened shapes of branches, and especially shapes that appear windswept, elongated or extreme artistic shapes are pulled/pushed in one direction or another, the movement adds a sense of drama refined with a sharp edged finished.

When these shapes are at the ends of the branches, the effect can be deemed interesting, however the lever action with snow is highly unstable and mostly unsustainable unless managed with experience.

The important aspect is that the shape we see, emotionally shapes our experience and that emotional response determines the use of that space.

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

– often the experiencer has the feeling of being watched, as if the personality of the trees has become too humanly animated.

At first the combination of pointed shapes with sharp defining edges is exciting, seeming sleek, refined and spaciously soothing, yet, after a while discomfort begins because the visual elements ‘demand attention’
Like pointed remarks, landscape communicates the same commentary in silent dialogue so that items such as pointed fence posts, spruce & fir trees, topiary cones, generally all pointy objects cause wariness and do not allow a rest causing an increase in heart rate and blood pressure

Rounded Tall = Stately

Tall rounded shapes, tall trees with coned, high round canopied shapes cause a sense of watchfulness and steady guardianship. An example is the Beaver Hats of the Royal Queens Guard at Buckingham Palace to which the human mind responds to in a positive reassured way. An example of using shape by design.

In Japan the hedge shape is called ‘karikomi’ used most often at or around corners marking borders or entries, when in single use, and massed row use is ‘O-karikomi’.

Rounded Shapes = tamazukuri

make people happy and the pruned equivalent is a half-rounded shape known as ‘tamamono’, that use a round shape at the top with the widest point of the arc forming a stable and secure feeling at ground level. The viewer is intended to feel the happy, as well as a grounded stability.
Round shapes simply make people smile, as the round, resonates with the roundness of a newborn infants eyes, the eyes of a kitten.
As a result the category of balls or pompoms on the end of branches can be seen as a happy whimsical,
the drawback is a higher maintenance cost when the loss of entire branches occurs if one breaks during a winter.

Canopies = roof, create feelings of 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 drip-line and as a result, the inside feels calm, gentle, safe and secure.

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.