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Making Sense of Place

The number of places you must create to reach an audience efficiently is increasing every day. Where we used to be satisfied with simple site maps and flow diagrams, we now need to map the “experience of a user” with consideration of the many places they might interact in and contexts they might be in when doing so. Placemaking is a term that began to be used in the 1970s by architects and planners to describe the process of creating places like squares, plazas, and parks, within cities, counties and townships. 

The concept behind it is pretty basic: the meaning of the place we are making changes slightly with each object we place within it, and the location we give to those objects relative to one another. There is a tendency to think: I am just working on the mobile site or I’m just doing a search feature or I’m just redesigning this one form. And I am not saying we need to overly complicate design. But I do think in this world of increasing connections across channels and contexts, we need to start talking about what place it is that we are working on as it relates to the rest of the ecosystem we are within. 

When it comes to place making we are lacking a taxonomy for discussing and planning at the various and interconnected levels of place that we see across the digital and physical divide. We need to be able to discuss the places that exist between the objects and the ecosystem. 

In this keynote presentation, I outline a controlled vocabulary and taxonomic approach to talking about the concept of placemaking.