Imagining the future of community placemaking and transport planning with the Royal College of Art

Our Future Towns is an ongoing project developed with people across the country to reimagine how they can engage with the challenges of community place-making and transport planning.

The project focusses on how we can build communities together, how we get around towns and how to listen to people’s ideas and values when they think about their future.

The project is a collaboration between the Intelligent Mobility Design Centre at the Royal College of Art and Design Science. Phase 1 was supported by the UK’s leading transportation planning organisations including the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation, Integrated Transport Planning and the Transport Planning Society.

What we did

Our Future Towns consists of a creative and playful set of online and offline tools for community place-making and transport planning designed to help communities and planners imagine their future towns together.

As communication design lead, we developed a strong and adaptable visual identity that can be used across a variety of towns and touch points. We also supported the development of the prototype toolkit and communication system that was launched at Transport Planning Day 2020.

The problem

The current way we plan our towns and communities isn’t working. We’re building more roads, more car-dependent communities and ignoring the challenges of health, social isolation, economic costs and climate change.
 

 

The communities

We worked with three communities across the UK, each with their own local issues. The project happened in the midst of lockdown so a challenging time for everyone, but also an interesting time to reflect on the importance of our towns and the places that we live.

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the current fragility of our interconnected world; from the importance of our local communities to the impacts on global trade, jobs and our natural environment.”

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Systems approach

We developed a systems approach that understands that the greatest levers of change happen when we engage with, and change, people’s philosophies, feelings and knowledge.

The four stages of this approach include listening to each other, learning together, helping people to imagine the future and support to make changes that matter.
  


Community engagement 

We listened to over a hundred citizens and created a small booklet for each town that summarised the different perspectives that they provided and fed this shared knowledge back to them.
 


Prototype toolkit

We created the toolkit as a way to help bring people together – to talk about the things that matter in their town, and to see how we can build on each other’s knowledge and on the ideas that are happening across the UK and around the world.

Visualisations developed by the Royal College of Art design team incorporated the modular system of our identity.

 

We also imagined augmented reality tools that allow people to see what these changes would look like on their mobile phones.

 


Publicity

We reached out online through Instagram, Facebook and local media to ensure we made contact with all sectors of the community. The project was also featured via the project partners including the Transport Planning Society and the ITP.  


Next steps

We are now establishing future partners and funding streams as well as working with existing communities and new developments to find ways of testing and developing these tools collaboratively.

Project links
RCA Research project post
> Transport Planning Society project post
> Integrated Transport Planning project post

Environmental sustainability is an integral part of Design Science’s ethos and expertise. Do get in touch to talk to us about how we can help you to radically reimagine the future in ways that care for each other and our environments.