Faux Parks is a semester-long research and design project focused on breaking down a complex topic into visually rich storytelling.
Over the course of 10 weeks, I developed a thorough research document, a 25-page publication and a web prototype looking at the curious nature of publicly accessible private spaces in the City of Toronto.
Throughout, I had to present my research, workshop my prototype and work to tell a story through my design choices.
The full work can be viewed below.
As the semester began, I was tasked with developing a 'call to action' — to research, develop and present an argument against (or for) a topic of my choosing. I chose to dive into the politics of urban planning, and its relationship with the private sector.
Over the course of ten weeks, I compiled a research document with my findings, turning the presentation into an editorial piece and an interactive prototype.
While not explicitly a piece of design, the research document got the ball rolling, so to speak. Alongside the paper itself, I had to disseminate my findings into a presentation for my peers.
In short - Toronto, alongside a handful of other western cities, has a longstanding partnership with the private sector (real estate developers and property owners) to create additional public spaces for recreational use. While seemingly beneficial - creating open spaces for the public at no cost to taxpayers - the arrangement creates faux-parks, where expected rights and access are at the whim of the landowner.
This 'faux-parks' system of publicly accessible privately-owned spaces is shortened to POPS in most municipal agreements.
In more recent decades, that partnership has extended into the realm of transit infrastructure and utilities.
Following my research, I really got to dig into the design. With something as local as urban planning, I wanted to emphasize the 'in-your-backyard' impact of POPS as much as possible.
So, I merged location with layout. For each page, I'd provide (at least) one real-world example of the concept (for example, when discussing POPS' origins, the layout 'took place' in Lower Manhattan, where the scheme originated). The images, paragraphs and captions were all masked and aligned to the streets near that example.
While unconventional, I felt tying the layout to the narrative made a greater impact, encouraged readers to explore the page and drove home the 'local' setting of my argument.
In the final two weeks of the semester, I followed up the publication with an interactive look at my project.
While not as intensive or detailed as the publication, this final leg of the project had me developing a proof-of-concept - in other words, how could I bring my argument to the web?
The result is a personalized version of 'Faux Parks' - here, visitors could input their city, region, town, neighbourhood, address, and get micro and macro looks at the private sector's involvement in public spaces.
In my proof-of-concept, I created high-fidelity wireframes exploring the City of Toronto's involvement in private-public spaces, allowing the user to find a narrative on their own.
Each topic, page and region comes with associated tags. For example, a user interested in the outsourcing of garbage collection would be met with 'tags' related to the topic.
While a generic search bar allows them to find more specific topics, the tag system is my more 'handholding' solution to such a complex and personal topic. Want to learn more? These tags let you dive deeper into areas of interest without knowing specific search terms.