Collaborative Idea Banks for Design

by Andrew Wade

In February of last year I documented the public launch of democratic design platform StickyWorld.  In a continuation of that thread, this post updates the progress made in Slider Studio’s attempt to level the playing field when it comes to contributing ideas on design - who can contribute, how the engagement works, and how these contributions filter into an end product.  HTA Architects have embraced the virtual ‘Public Rooms’ developed by StickyWorld as a means of suggesting possible issues and interventions, while allowing any concerned stakeholders (individuals or organisations) to login and post their comments in the form of ‘StickyNotes.’  Ideally, this generates a thread of comments with direct replies and discussion with the architects involved in the project.  A live example from the Brunel Estate project is embedded below:

While striving to create new levels of transparency in the design and consultation process, this technology can also be leveraged to disseminate knowledge on design innovation.  A similar public room has been setup to walk viewers through a sustainably retrofitted East London home - placing on display ideas that could be replicated to utilise existing building stock in a modern and innovative way to reduce energy use and lower the per capita carbon footprint.

In supplementing real community consultations with a virtual platform of discussion, logistics of meetings, time constraints and availability are replaced with more dynamic and ongoing threads of consensus and dissensus.  Viewing participation with a critical eye is essential in driving this technology forward, however such new ways of engagement open up design discussions to a whole new audience - one that must be embraced rather than held at arm’s length by professionals aiming to enact positive change on a wide scale.

Credits: StickyWord public rooms from


  1. Thanks Andrew, great coverage. This is very much an issue that interests me. My heart is really with the face to face, get your hands dirty type engagement but I've really come to see the value of web 2.0 in a move towards the built environment profession critically engaging in and taking it's portion of responsibility for the social, economic and political issues of the time. I really think it's the initiation and facilitation of dialogue that moves the age rather than just the dissemination of good design.

  2. Hi Imogen, thanks for your comments. This is certainly an interesting way to open up a dialogue on design and development projects, and I think it is very successful in breaking down some of the barriers and skewed power relationships of often crowded public forums that take place in a very limited time frame. These virtual rooms widen the moment of opportunity for anyone with a vested interest to voice their thoughts and perspective, and receive a response not just from the person with the microphone but by anyone who wishes to comment. I'll watch with interest as the uses of web 2.0 develop in the future ...

  3. This seems like a fantastic idea.

    I would however be a little cautious about assuming too much of the reach of such technology. A quarter of households don't have the internet at home, and a fifth suggest that's because they don't have the requisite IT skills.

    I suspect those figures are demographically sensitive, so you might assume that in some cases an attempt to reach out the 'the public' for consultation through such an approach might miss a significant majority of stakeholders.

    I don't know whether there's crossover between people it's hard to reach by traditional methods, and by tech-driven methods - so it could be argued that this new appraoch just enhances the communication with those already reached.

    I suspect the main thing is to exercise caution and to be aware of the people you're not reaching, as well as those you are, with tech-driven engagement strategies...

  4. Hi James,

    You bring up great points, and I agree with you completely about being aware of what groups have access to different methods of consultation. I was checking for UK internet usage statistics as well and came across this bulletin, which surprised me with slightly lower figures than I had expected.

    I certainly wouldn't see this method as replacing all others, as face to face engagement (as Imogen mentions) is key, but I do see this as a very welcome supplement to the 'town hall' meeting style. I would be interested to see social media such as facebook and twitter used for disseminating quickly planned, more informal working design reviews in key communities. This would be more of a hybrid approach, in which networked technology is leveraged to facilitate face-to-face interactions rather than maintaining them as separate worlds ...