Mapping vision and the homeowner’s dreams onto paper: the draughtswoman that brings garden-joy to life

Ronel Cockett builds life-like pictures that sell dreams. In this case, the dreams of homemakers who are eager to turn their investments into green garden-sanctuaries.

To become a draughtsperson, you are required to have excellent mathematical and analytical skills, superior drawing abilities, and great hand-eye coordination,  according to Academy IDT for CAD draughting professionals. 

Or simply put, you need to apply both right and left brain to translate a rough illustrative design concept, plotted in technical software, into a representation that is both mathematically and visually accurate. An uncommon combination, and the skillset of a successful draughting specialist.

Not taking things too seriously, Ronel jokes around the gender description of what is traditionally referred to as a draughtsman. “I find it is just easier to refer to myself as a draughtsman,” Ronel smiles over the phone. “I like the fact that we don’t gender job-stereotype… female draughtsman and male designer…”.

Draughting Specialist at Contours Design Studio, Ronel is part of a 4-strong team of qualified creatives who specialise in landscape design and installation.

Eager to get to know the quieter team member with her magical digital wand, we invited Ronel for a cup of Zoom-tea and snuck in a few candid questions.

15 minutes with Ronel Cockett, Contours Design Studio’s Draughting Specialist

Where and how was the seed planted for you to pursue a career that would lead you to become a draughting specialist?
My current destination came via a very wide detour. I initially started in marketing communication and from there moved on to graphic and advertising design. But spending time with employees, I got to know the industry and the options out there. I remember the day that a fellow colleague at the time introduced me to AutoCAD and it was love at first sight. My husband gave me a fully paid correspondence course as a Christmas present, which was the final nudge I needed. I started studying Architectural Draughting after hours. I was then granted a huge opportunity to transfer from one department within Contours to CDS as a junior landscape designer, but soon realised that I didn’t really enjoy dealing with clients directly. From there it was free sailing to where I am now.

Today I can’t imagine my day without my AutoCad software.

Do you remember that moment when things just clicked, that made your career-journey worth it?
Honestly, no. I think the universe just gently nudged me along the way. I’ve always been curious about “how things worked” and would often open up my cassette players, clutch pencils or toys to see what was inside and put it back together before I got in too much trouble. I knew from a very young age (much to my younger brother’s disgust), that I preferred his Lego and Meccano over my own toys. My dad used to ensure I knew how to do anything from changing a plug to a tyre and everything in between. If I look back at it now, I see what he was trying to do, even though it used to irritate me tremendously when I was younger. What other careers would have allowed me to dissect and analyse things and draw pictures while doing math for a living?

What is your role as a draughting specialist at Contours Design Studio, and at what point in the design life cycle do you step in to translate a garden design concept into something tangible?

Each of our team members has a very specialised skillset. Mine is hardscaping and building structures. Most design life cycles start with the design team collecting the brief from the client. Some designers have something very specific in mind and then come to me with an idea and leave the technicalities up to me. Others again, give me free reign to come up with a design or concept and we build on that. Because we have such a diverse team at CDS, we very often work hand in hand. That way we ensure that each project gets the best possible input each time. The designers will very often draw something very rough on paper and leave it up to me to make it look presentable to take to the client. My role stretches from just transferring the designers’ vision onto computer/paper, to dissecting something inside out so that it can be costed accurately and be clear for our teams on site.

© Contours Design Studio 2020

© Contours Design Studio 2020

© Contours Design Studio 2020

You studied architectural draughting while your teammates studied landscape design and plants. So, if you could design your own dream garden for this season, what would it look like?
I am a huge fan of Sydney-based garden designer, Peter Fudge. His use of simple, clean lines and contrast planting satisfies my need for organisation and structure.

Source credit:

Source credit:

Source credit:

What energizes you outside of work? 
Without sounding cheesy, I have to say, my family. Whether it be having coffee with my husband or cooking with the kiddos to our Labradors getting uncontrollably excited after returning from another room. If I have ‘me time’ I try to read non-fiction, build puzzles, do some (beginner level) yoga or swing some limbs onto a punching bag. 
What’s the best career advice you were ever given and who was it from? And is there any advice that you could give to someone who is at the beginning of their career path as a draughtsperson?
Someone’s answer to me once was very simple – “why not”? So my advice, in turn, is, why not? Why not do what you enjoy doing every day. Spending 8 hours+ of your waking day doing something you hate can be soul-destroying.


Contours Design Studio is giving away a landscape design plan valued at R20 000. Enter the competition at the official competition page.

Ronel Cockett is a Draughting Specialist at Contours Design Studio.
Architectural Draughting Certificate (SAID Reg no: A13200)

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