Here's a picture of my front yard last summer... obviously unfinished. This year I will be getting rid of the lawn on the left hand side and planting more drought-tolerant, low maintenance perennials. The front yard is east-facing and fairly sunny close to the sidewalk.
Last year when I expanded my back hill garden (now dubbed the "Adventure Garden" for the kids), I posted about some key elements of design when planning a perennial bed, like grouping plants, repetition, contrasting shapes and textures, planting in drifts, and adding depth. I also posted a drawing of my plans (which I sort of followed!)
This year as I plan the rest of the front garden I am being much less organized (maybe because I just have less time?) Anyway, I'm still keeping all the design principles in mind, but I plan to acquire all the plants first, then just place them wherever they happen to look good to me when I'm ready to plant.
This means slightly less planning, but I still have to make sure I pick a good variety of perennials. I want things that bloom in various times of the year, I want things with a variety of foliage shapes and textures, and I want to repeat various plants throughout the yard to tie everything together. Plants that can be left standing all winter are a bonus. So instead of a drawing this year, here is my chart explaining my choice of perennials. For each season, I want to make sure there repetition of at least one thing that is blooming, and each grouping of plants should contain at least one plant that has foliage interest all season (so that even when things in one area are not blooming, the combination still looks good).
ornamental grasses X X X