Better graphic communication of plans

A+DS has helped to facilitate a workshop session on 'graphic communication' at the recent National Development Planning Forum hosted by the Scottish Government in Glasgow.

After a short introduction which considered examples of city / regional plan making from across the UK (Irish, Welsh, SW England) and Europe (Emsher, Randstaad, Montpelier) the delegates assessed examples of Scotland’s Strategic Development Plans against 6 criteria:

  • Place: is the plan rooted in appreciation of place identity?
  • Vision: does the plan convey an inspiring vision?
  • Focus and hierarchy: does the plan communicate the scale, location and priorities of change?
  • Richness: is there a three-dimensional richness to the plan that makes it come alive?
  • The Story: does the plan explain the rationale – Analysis > Strategy > Delivery?
  • Scaler: does the plan span the scales – from strategic to local levels?

Feedback from the event was positive, and some comments from the workshop were:

  • the need for a clearly expressed vision - preferably upfront in the plan (traditionally plans have located the key diagram/illustration at the end; as if to reflect a linear process of survey / analysis / PLAN and thereby substantiate and justify the eventual outcome)
  • who is the plan for? information needs to be accessible to different audiences, and at different times (different user groups need to access information - i.e. community groups; house builders; etc - AND planning development management decision makers)
  • the importance of using graphics - words are a barrier to engagement for different audiences
  • a need for different visual techniques at different stage/s of plan production - graphics to engage different stakeholders at different stages in the plan making process
  • the possibility that electronic hyperlinks can provide access to nested information – with the plan becoming a portal to access information – which raises an interesting debate about 'what is a plan?'
  • the challenge encountered by the first generation of new plans that have needed to reconcile a legacy of previous plans - looking back to accommodate decision making rather than looking forward / visionary
  • the opportunity to stitch together the different SDP (and LDP?) plans and unite them where required to provide consistent read across - almost as one larger map that divides into separate SDPs – with possible implications for the next scale up / NPF3
  • the potential for storyboarding to tell a process (i.e. how to make the plan + how to make a plan from considering what the graphic content might look like) and a story of change - more information sought to gain better understanding of this

A lot of interest was expressed in the final report which will be available later this summer. The project has been commissioned by the SDPA managers, Scottish Government and A+DS, and the report is being produced by MATRIX in association with Urban Graphics.