‘StickyWorld’ and an Alternative Approach to Democratic Design

by Andrew Wade

Image of a traditional design review in a school of architecture

A new web 2.0 platform, StickyWorld, has been created to further the democratic design agenda of innovative practice Slider Studio. This online design review platform essentially eases communication and transparency in the design process by creating the virtual equivalent of a design critique, client or contractor meeting, or project review with consultants.

While many architectural offices and design professions share graphic content through file transfer protocol (FTP) sites, StickyWorld allows multiple stakeholders to post drawings and comment on design options for others involved in the project to see. These virtual meeting places take place in "rooms" setup in the online account, each of which can be seen by included members. Permission levels (such as the ability to view content, comment on content, and post new content) are controlled by the administrator of each "room".

Screenshot of Slider Studio's StickyWorld platform in use during design of the Collaboration Café at The Building Centre 

This open source, collaborative environment not only sets the various stakeholders of a project on more equal footing, but it allows for feedback to be incorporated in an incremental design development process. StickyWorld operates especially well during the early, formative stages of a project, when key diagrammatic decisions are being made before being developed in more detail. In between physical meetings with members of the community, the client or consultants, the continuous thread of activity in the virtual meeting room of StickyWorld allows the workshop atmosphere of a design studio to be made more public if desired, allowing key parties to witness and comment on the evolution of a project. In addition, this format keeps a running history of items posted, comments made, and incorporated feedback which may be revisited at any date.

A strategy employed by Slider Studio to achieve greater collaboration in design has been to cross-pollinate the production of architectural design and software development within the same studio. Architects and software engineers work side-by-side to generate technology that specifically addresses the communication flows of design projects, rather than allowing the design process to conform to, or be generated by, the constraints of the adopted drafting and modelling software. StickyWorld has been tested and refined by four architectural practices in previous months: Make, Scott Brownrigg, HTA and Edward Cullinan Architects. The new version will be launched in March 2010 at the Building Centre in London.

Do you think the StickyWorld platform could further provoke the disintegration of an antiquated structure that divides designer/producer on one side and client/consumer on the other?  To what extent can such a holistic forum promote a more inclusive and democratic design process?

Credits: Image of design review from flickr user super.heavy. Image of StickyWorld screenshot from Slider Studio.


  1. hopefully yes. it would be amazing to see something like this applied to urban design and planning. perhaps it could also include some kind of archive of frequently used components or successful solutions that can be adapted for other projects. these kinds of collaboration between designers and clients sound excellent. i hope we can reach a point soon where no one is excluded in any way from internet access.

  2. Great questions. I'd like to see things move in this direction. You've probably read Networked Publics, but thought I would post a link since it seems especially relevant to this post and your ongoing thoughts on network technologies in architecture, planning, and development. There are also frequent updates at Kazys Varnelis's blog, varnelis.net.

  3. Thanks to both of you for your comments. Networked Publics is so relevant to contemporary practice. Varnelis also has an incredible description of dealing with complexity in his studio at Columbia: Evil. I love the concluding sentence: "In setting out to design buildings not diagrams, our goal is to see what the world is telling us, not what we are telling the world." In the same vein, platforms such as StickyWorld are about listening to multiple voices in a process of creating buildings.

    I think StickyWorld, by increasing the engagement of multiple stakeholders, begins to acknowledge and communicate the degree of complexity in design. Now the trick is to be able to sift through the resultant information and prioritise appropriately to yield a more effective outcome.

  4. There are two ways to use democratic design: First, it is a tool or mechanism to arrive at a concept or idea in which a consumer can easily translate the concept or idea into their daily life. And second, it is a marketing gimmick that some designers will use to lure consumers to their non-functional, but very well designed, concepts or ideas to make them believe that this is the thing they just must have.