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Reframing Landscape Architecture

This multi-year engagement generated research-backed strategies communicators can use to overcome core misunderstandings people have about landscape architecture.

Public awareness about landscape architecture is a long-standing challenge. The lack of familiarity or only surface-level perception limits society’s utilization of landscape architects and their expertise. Increasing public understanding of the discipline and its value is critical to all aspects of the field, from recruitment and university program budgets to licensure and the scope of professional services to advocacy and influence. 

In 2018, a group of the heads of key capacity organizations for landscape architecture – ASLA, CLARB, LAAB, LAF, and CELA – engaged the FrameWorks Institute in a three-phase applied communications research and knowledge translation process to uncover the most effective ways of communicating about landscape architecture. 

Using their multi-method Strategic Frame Analysis® approach, FrameWorks’ staff of PhD-level sociologists, psychologists, and linguists identifies widely held assumptions and mental shortcuts that people use to make sense of an issue. They then empirically test ways of communicating that “reframe” the issue by building from the pre-held assumptions to activate more productive ways of thinking and overcome core misunderstandings. 

The findings can be summarized in four key framing strategies:

  1. Paint a vivid picture of how landscape architecture directly benefits people and communities.
  2. Appeal to the value of community cohesion to reinforce the value of the field.
  3. Explain how landscape architects use their expertise in design to build a better world.
  4. Offer strategic examples of your work.

Additional resources and trainings will be forthcoming to help the landscape architecture community get “on frame” to effectively communicate about the discipline and build a bigger constituency for its role.

FrameWorks Research Process and Reports

Decades of social science research show that people rely on mental shortcuts to make sense of issues and ideas. If we communicate in ways that cue unproductive ways of thinking, people dismiss our ideas or jump to unhelpful responses.

FrameWorks Strategic Frame Analysis®, uncovers people’s deeply held worldviews and widely held assumptions then uses social science methods to  find the most effective ways of talking about an issue. The process occurs in three phases:
 - Phase 1: Mapping the gaps between expert and public understanding
 - Phase 2: Developing and testing frames to shift public thinking
 - Phase 3: Application - Training and dissemination (current)

Reports from the first two phases are available below.

Various images of plants, gardening with text "what my parents think I do, what architects think I do, etc"

LAF is grateful to the many individuals and organizations that provide financial support towards fulfilling our mission to support the preservation, improvement, and enhancement of the environment.

Much of what LAF is able to accomplish would not be possible without the thought leadership and financial investment of our major supporters, including ASLA, which provides over $125,000 of in-kind support annually.