Engaging citizens in urban planning processes by raising awareness of urban change and providing opportunities for participation through contextual experiences.

Time Jan 2022 – June 2022
Tools Figma · Adobe Aero (AR) · Procreate · Pen & Paper
Role User Research · Interaction design · Prototyping · Visual Design

An app that encourages young citizens to participate in urban planning processes

The Spacemaker app engages citizens in urban planning processes by raising awareness of urban change and providing opportunities for participation through contextual experiences.

App Clip

Location-based and lightweight participation on the go without downloading the app.

contextual experience

Spacemaker App

An overview to stay informed and to engage in discussions about city development.

in-depth experience

The Challenge

Empower young citizens to get involved in participatory planning processes by providing them with tools that better meet their needs

Cities are heavily investing in the digitization of participatory urban planning processes. Yet their efforts to involve young people remain unresolved, despite their growing interest.

The Process

Identifying what prevents people from contributing to take part in shaping their city


Gaining insights from experts and citizens about structures and experiences within planning processes

Interview questions focussed on understanding the structure of current participatory planning processes. The questions try to unveil existing pain points from the municipalities and citizens perspective.

An snippet of the list of people I interviewed.


Unveiling citizen motivation and frustration around current participatory planning processes

The tasks in the workshop seek to uncover the reasons for people's lack of participation in planning processes, as well as their desires, frustrations, and motivations, and trust in their municipality.

Emotional Journey Mapping: Learning how and why people move through the city.
Future Scenario Building
Mapping memories
Mapping memories outcome
Asking the citizens of Umea: Seems like some people didn't like my question.


Turning findings into relevant insights

I summarized the vast majority of the findings into 6 overarching pain points that can serve as guidelines for future designs:

Insight 1

Lack of visibility of participation opportunities

Citizens stated that they simply do not know that they can participate in such processes and that such opportunities must be actively sought.

Insight 2

Municipalities struggle to especially involve young citizens

Whether analog or digital, experts state that the target group does not change. Current campaigns targeting young people have little to no noticeable effect.

Insight 3

Participation requires high effort

Especially young people’s willingness to get involved in city planning processes is challenged by the amount of time and effort that active participation is required.

Insight 4

Difficulty to imagine something that does not exist yet

Interviewees mentioned that it would help if citizens could experience projects in VR somewhere on the location where the project is happening.

Insight 5

Lack of transparency

If trust in the government is lacking, people do not feel that their opinion matters and are thus reluctant to participate in such processes.

Insight 6

The content is perceived as too complex and factually

Interviewees stated that the way topics are usually presented are very dry, difficult to understand and too factually.

Ideation Workshops

Brainstorming ideas around insights synthesized from the user research

I held several workshops to gather as many ideas as possible in order to spark my imagination, start discussions and explore them further.

Brainwriting: From save space to brave space. I asked the participants to go bold with their ideas, which led to many great results that I used for further explorations.
Brainstorming about wishes and ideal engagement in planning processes.
Summarizing and sorting ideas
My favorite tool is pen and paper. Before going digital, I like to do many quick sketches.

Final Project

Design the functions around insights synthesized from the ideation phase and user research

After the workshops and inspired by the input, I ideated on several ideas from the user research results and finally narrowed them down to one solution.

Contextual experience

App Clip

With the App Clip, I found a solution that meets users' need for non-commitment, as they do neither have to download an app nor sign up. By simply opening the App Clip and instantly exploring concepts in AR on the location, the user is provided with an easy, quick, and engaging experience that has no strings attached.

Following their vote in the app, user will receive information on how other citizens have voted thus far. To receive detailed information and updates about the project, users are encouraged to download the app.

Raising awareness
Learning about urban change and participation oportunities by walking around the city.
Low barrier entry & Project overview
Simply scan the App Clip and get informed about the project.
Exploring design proposals on location
Explore proposals in AR in context to better envision the final design.
Provide detailed information
Leave an explaination why a design is your favorite.
Learning how other citizens voted so far.

In-depth experience

Spacemaker App

I opted for a map-based overview of current projects categorized by topic. Users can explore projects and find out about meetings or opportunities to get involved. They are also able to get notified of the latest happenings.

The Dialog Feed allows citizens to discuss ideas, wishes and complaints with the municipality and other citizens. With the predefined topics by the municipality, I attempt to bypass the fact that, as with similar open citizen portals, complaints mainly accompany.

Learn about all ongoing (participatory) projects.
Explore projects
Explore, participate and follow projects.
Receive updates
Notifications to stay up to date on your favorite projects.
Join the discussion!
Join topics of your interest
Enter the dialogue spaces or propose a dialogue topic to the municipality.
Share your ideas with the community
Comment and push your favorite ideas.

Visual Design

A human approach

I put a lot of emphasis on the UI design to better appeal to the target audience and create a contrast to the often very factual, anonymous and text-heavy similar platforms.