How do art direction and social communication contribute to participation projects aimed at improving public spaces?
Participation processes involve people who want - and can - have a voice in the decisions that affect them. These processes help make decision-making more transparent, responsible, and inclusive.
In urban planning, citizen participation means that neighbors get involved in the design of their immediate environment. This includes defining the needs and demands of the neighborhood and proposing specific and concrete alternatives that contribute to urban analysis.
Citizen participation projects may face general and specific challenges. General challenges may include a lack of commitment or interest from citizens, a complex participation process, or a lack of resources and support. Strategies that have worked well in other contexts can help with these challenges. On the other hand, specific challenges in a local context may include a lack of trust in institutions, a limited budget, or a lack of access to information. Specific strategies must be developed to address these challenges and consider the culture, norms, and characteristics of the local context. The combination of general and specific approaches can lead to better implementation of citizen participation projects and this is partly what makes projects so complex.
Social communication and graphic design are a key part of citizen participation in urban planning. Participatory design processes have the potential to create communities.
In terms of communication, the two main priorities are inclusive communication and the creation of spaces for active participation. Inclusive communication means using clear and accessible language to reach local audiences. This means avoiding technical jargon and adopting colloquial and approachable communication. The creation of spaces for active participation is focused on facilitating people's involvement in the design and communication process of the projects, using tools such as surveys, debates, and workshops.
Both priorities can lead to tangible and intangible results. The most complex to sustain are intangible and may include:
- Fostering and maintaining community.
- Promoting a sense of belonging.
- Ensuring safe spaces.
It is important to consider these results, as they go beyond the project and seek to have a long-term impact, which is why they are important and complex.
The Place of My Recreation
This project involved procuring and motivating collective thinking on how to transform playgrounds and the surroundings of nine schools in the district of Arganzuela in Madrid during 2019. Mothers, fathers, teachers, and boys and girls participated in improving their play and schoolyard environments.
The project was supported by social communication and art to make it accessible and easy to understand for all stakeholders. The goal of social communication was to encourage children's participation, make play spaces more inclusive, redistribute spaces so that everyone had equal opportunities for play and fun, and raise awareness about the importance of considering the needs and perspectives of everyone involved in the participation process.
We Drew The Gardens
In this project, art and social communication focused on supporting participation. The goal was to facilitate urban analysis and development for a better understanding of the project. The "Redrawing the Gardens" project focused on improving Plaza Carlos Paris, the Amaniel Aqueduct, and its surroundings, with active participation from residents in the Tetuán neighborhood.
Clear and accessible visual materials were created to allow for effective transmission of information. Communication strategies were developed to engage the community in the process and encourage their active participation. The art direction was responsible for creating the project's visual identity to make it relatable.
I Propose Bike Lanes
In 2017, Bicitekas carried out a project to support citizen participation processes with a perspective of sustainable mobility in Mexico City. Workshops were conducted with a sustainable mobility perspective, and an exercise was carried out to make the value of a street transparent. This exercise allowed participants to better understand the importance of infrastructure and to value its impact on safety and comfort of urban mobility, as well as to make more realistic proposals. Personalized advice was offered to those who had a specific proposal for improvement in their neighborhood.
Social communication supported a greater dissemination and reach of the workshops, facilitating active participation of people in decision-making processes related to sustainable mobility in the city.
The art direction and social communication have been key in facilitating participation and disseminating relevant information in the project. Clear visual materials have improved understanding and fostered active involvement. Emphasis has been placed on inclusion, diversity, and sustainable mobility. Overall, the projects have yielded positive results in citizen participation, gender perspective, inclusion, and sustainable mobility.
Furthermore, in the case of "El Sitio de Mi Recreo," it was observed that some AMPAS (Parents' Associations) adopted the project's design to create their own calls and announcements. This can be seen as an indicator of how organized citizens take ownership of graphic visualizations, reflecting the desired purpose of empowerment.