Title: Graphic design tools for public engagement: the life-cycle of urban landmarks and their impact on social identity.

Subject Area

The purpose of this project is to develop a graphic tool for public engagement and to explore the potential of graphic visualisation to play a new communications role in the process of city regeneration. The National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement defines public engagement as ‘A two-way process, involving interaction and listening, with the goal of generating mutual benefit.’ The graphic tool focuses on defining and exploring urban-landmarks which confer on a community a significant sense of emotional security through that community’s shared experience of it.



  1. To enrich public engagement processes by developing an emotionally driven graphic visual tool that will amplify local voices and enable inhabitants to communicate more effectively with commercial and government stakeholders.
  2. To explore how local perspectives of built landmarks have been formed and re-formed to produce emotional security for individuals and communities.




Previous research and documentation of other public engagement projects will be evaluated to cement and broaden insights of this scheme. Historical and spatial research relating to, and interviews with, the current community of Kings Cross will be carried out to aid in the analysis of the life-cycle of landmarks in the area.    Consequently, community groups will be identified and relevant stakeholders contacted to reveal which are the important built landmarks.

This research will inform the creation of a prototype graphic visual tool as design fiction, which is an approach that combines the invention, creation and construction of possible futures, which are explored, tested, evaluated and improved through a constant attempt to materialize their central features (Grand and Wiedmer). The generated design fiction will be shared as a creative guideline and discussed with the community groups through a series of workshops. The workshops will explore which built-landmarks are most significant for local people and facilitate them in the creation of their own visual stories as design fictions featuring landmarks of the future. Meetings will be held with commercial and government stakeholders to present the outcomes from the workshops, and the discussions in these meetings will be conveyed back to local residents and workers. This cycle will be iterated and the graphic tools will be refined and synthesised into a design method. Furthermore, exhibitions will be set up in which the previous cycle’s results will be shown and tested, facilitating encounters between the local inhabitants and commercial and government stakeholders.

As a final stage, the project outcomes will be disseminated through print and digital media and practical workshops held at both local and international levels.


Historical Context

In 1990s, the public consultation which is community organizations and the business sector do not participate in making the decisions had been shifted to public engagement, more user centred process. I will focus on Jeremy Till and his work that is exploring between scarcity and creativity in the context of the built environment as the project reader of SCIBE. Also the design council’s CABE, Proboscis, High Line in N.Y.C and Spatial Agency will be analysed as successful public engagement projects.

Contemporary Context

King’s Cross area is now in the midst of a transformation into a new cultural hub for London with new landmarks, such as Granary Square and the new concourse and entrance to King’s Cross station. The area is undergoing massive change and the skyline and urban landmarks are shifting on an almost daily basis. This can be quite bewildering for both long term residents and newcomers. The rapid change makes Kings Cross a very fertile ground to explore the importance of built landmarks and how residents and stakeholders have a dialogue about the significance of these landmarks.


Theoretical Context

I am relying on the contemporary work of the Los Angeles School. Particularly, Soja’s concept of the thirdspace will be relevant to my analysis of the image of landmarks in the urban space. I will be drawing on Kevin Lynch’s various criteria for imageability to understand how landmarks function in the lives of urban dwellers. In the Image of the city, Lynch’s aim is analysing the mental image of a city which held by its citizens, and research about particular visual image, then these are unified as clarity/legibility (imageability) of the city scape. Rose (2003) clearly outlined how visual research can be conducted. I will apply her visual methodologies so as to emphasis local voices as visual story telling, such as compositional interpretation and photo-elicitation method to ask participants to take some photos.



Analysis of public engagement case studies, will be complimented by interviews with public engagement practitioners to contextualise and inform the research. Analysis of Argent’s current urban regeneration strategy in King’s Cross will further focus the research on specific geographic, spatial, social and economic issues. Literature on the role of built landmarks in providing emotional security among residents will be analysed to provide guiding criteria for the design fictions.

An ethnographical approach will be adopted to identify target local communities and to help draw out latent local perspectives towards towards urban landmarks in the on-going urban regeneration at King’s Cross. The main anticipated target groups are: people living in King’s Cross for over 20 years before the rapid regeneration started people commuting to the area and finally students and staff at CSM.

The data from this human, spatial and historical research will inform the graphic visual story to be presented to the community to provoke reaction and encourage engagement.

In the series of workshops,with local people, using techniques of co-design, the graphic visualisation will be developed into a creative tool that will enable people to tell their stories visually. I will record processes in the workshops and put attributions on them, then I will analyse them to synthesise to create design methods.

They will apply the methods to express their own narratives as a visual graphic/design fiction. These outcomes will be presented at meetings and exhibitions for comment from other stakeholders.


How will the tool be turned into a design method?

How will it be tested?



This project will be disseminated through a regular on-line report and a dossier containing documentation of all the conferences, workshops and exhibitions. In order to facilitate opportunities for encounters between locals and commercial and government stakeholders the exhibitions will be held on emotionally neutral ground for both parties, at Central Saint Martins, then the design method will be tested and evaluated in the workshop as open debate.


Prediction of the Form of the Final Presentation 

1. An exhibition and exhibition catalogue documenting the process, and a written thesis.


































Main Study List and Bibliography

  • Boyer, C. (1994) The City of Collective Memory. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • CABE (2012) the Commision for Architecture and the Built Environment. [Internet] Available from: <http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk>[accessed December 1st 2012]
  • David, J. Hammond, R. (2011) High Line: The Inside Story of New York City’s Park in the Sky : Farrar Straus Giroux.
  • Finnegan, R. (1998) Tales of the City. Cambridge University Press,
  • Grand, S. and Wiedmer, M. Design Fiction: A Method Toolbox for Design Research in a Complex World [Internet] Available from: <http://www.fhnw.ch/hgk/idk/themen/mediendaten_themen/design-fiction-a-method-toolbox-for-design-research-in-a-complex-world> [accessed January 10th 2013]
    • Laurel, B (2003) Design Research: Methods and Perspectives. London: MIT Press
    • Merrick, J (2012) Transforming King’s Cross. London: Merrell
  • Hoyt, H. (1972) The Structure and Growth of Residential Neighbourhoods in American Cities. Washington, D.C.: Scholarly; Reprint edition.
  • Lynch, K. (1995) City Sense and City Design: Writings and Projects of Kevin Lynch MIT Press
  • Lynch, K. (1960) The Image of the City. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press,.
  • Lefebvre, H. (1991) The Production of Space. Oxford: Blackwell.


  • The National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement (2013) What is the Public Engagement? [Internet] Available from: <http://www.publicengagement.ac.uk/what> [accessed January 10th 2013]
  • Park, E. Ernest, B. Roderick, M. (1967) The City. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • PROBOSCIS (2012) pioneers of pie in the sky | makers of mischief. [Internet] Available from: <http://proboscis.org.uk>
  • [accessed December 1st 2012]


  • Rose, G. (2001) Visual Methodologies: An Introduction to Researching with Visual Materials. London: Sage Publications Ltd


  • Soja, E. (1989) Postmodern Geographies: The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory. London: Verso.
  • Soja, E. (2010) Seeking Spatial Justice. Volume 16 of Globalization and Community Series. University of Minnesota Press.
  • Spatial Agency. The means through which this action or product is achieved. [Internet] Available from: <http://www.spatialagency.net>
  • [accessed December 1st 2012]