5 perspectives for better city experience – sharing best practices

Wayfinding and beyond


How might cities design and develop wayfinding and guidance to enable better city experience? The Nordic cities are sharing the aim to make the city space a better experience for citizens and visitors. The Nordic seminar in Allas Seapool Helsinki gathered the Nordic Smart Cities Network and the Finnish 6AIKA Smart City Guidance project to discuss and share the insights gathered in a collaborative project on wayfinding and better city experience.


1. People first


City wayfinding is an integral part of urban development, and one central issue related to the domain with multiple stakeholders is how to tackle challenges for public-private collaboration. Mike Rawlinson from the design agency City ID opened the day by giving us an introduction to the topic from the design perspective: how to put people first, and how wayfinding serves to create better walkable cities. It can be a strategic tool to make cities more welcoming, convenient, and easy to use concentrating on cities' accessibility for pedestrians. Wayfinding design is humanizing the cities.


Mike Rawlinson from the design agency City ID


2. Co-designing with stakeholders


Helsinki has been working with wayfinding from many angles. Anu Kiiskinen from the Urban Environment sector gave an introduction to how sustainable use of public space is being carried out in the city. Furthermore, she opened how wayfinding and information services have been co-designed with stakeholders in the 6Aika Smart City Guidance -project. A pilot project last summer opened the many boat routes from the city center to the archipelago.


3. Public-private collaboration


Public-private collaboration is a key element in creating smart infrastructure in the public space - this has been a common interest for the Nordic cities. The cities of Tampere and Stavanger presented their recent pilots and projects.  Anni Joela from the city of Tampere presented their recent info-kiosks providing better city guidance and bringing the city cultural services and events for the users as well as a map view and routes. Gunnar Crawford from Stavanger was showcasing the digital directional signs, info kiosks, and bus stops that have been   recently piloted in the Norwegian smart city. The key element in these services lies in sustainable collaboration models, and not the least in producing compelling content. 


Gunnar Crawford from Stavanger was showcasing the digital solutions in Stavanger


4. Design from user perspective


In order to go people first, there is a  need to understand the content and context  from the user's perspective.  “Cities are living systems. Let's design accordingly”, states Sami Niemelä from strategic design and innovation consultancy Nordkapp, who gave a deep dive into designing technology and services for the city, its residents and tourists. Maarit Kahila from Maptionnaire opened how crowdsourcing citizen insights can be done in an effective way and gave a real life case from planning the pedestrian routes in the city center in Helsinki. The map based survey collected over 1600 answers, with 900 responses related to routes that need improvement. These results will serve as the foundation for Helsinki’s walkability development program. 


Sami Niemelä from strategic design and innovation consultancy Nordkapp


5. Utilizing data


People flow data is a relevant  tool to track and to understand peoples behavior and routes.  Pekka Koponen from Forum Virium Helsinki, Kim Spielberg from the city of Copenhagen and Anni Joela from the city of Tampere shared experiences on how the cities are collecting people flow data and using it for urban planning and designing city services. Challenges in cities are similar: it’s essential to solve the ownership of data, it’s use and privacy issues. Although the technology infra needed is available, cities are still tackling problems such as installing sensors that need electricity.


Panel discussion


Nordic Urban Labs -project financed by Nordic Innovation is a joint project bringing together the  Nordic Smart Cities Network to collaborate in thematic Urban Lab- cases.



Page main image: Mika Huisman / Amos Rex