Business Week: ‘IDEO’s Urban Pre-Planning

The story behind the BusinessWeek article, IDEO’s Urban Pre-Planning, is already creating a buzz in the real estate industry.

First of all, who is IDEO and second, what is urban pre-planning? IDEO is like the Apple Computer of the design world. They’re experimenting with a new practice called Smart Space (it’s not even on their website yet), which is to utilize the wads of dollars wasted on marketing after a development is completed and invest in it before the development is designed.

Much of that is translated into a user-focused document, highlighted here (pictured). “We realized we didn’t have enough experience to actually go in and design the space, so what we decided to do was tell a story about what the space could be that would help guide everyone else to do it,” says IDEO’s Smart Space leader, Fred Dust. “We design for time instead of designing for space,” he explains. At 18th & Vine, the Smart Space team imagined different encounters with the neighborhood – a first-time visit, going out on Saturday night, going to church on Sunday morning, a regular weekday – and only then considered what places would support those ‘moments.'”

Their steps:
1. Research – exploring, interviewing, photographing.
2. Argument – identiying both the emotional and functional aspects of the planning process
3. Design Brief – translating ideas into themes, and themes into specific, tangible solutions
4. Design Principles – guiding principles become suggested services, places, events
5. Time – identifying the ‘when’ of rituals in the community, and designing places, activities around that
6. Tone – envisioning what the place could look like with vignettes.

The article ends with this note from the writer, who visited one of the completed projects in Oakland, “For all the nuance of IDEO’s sense of Oakland and all its success at communicating that to Forest City, the project looked like any other project.” Ah, that’s why you need a beta community to translate those inspired ideas into inspired built reality.

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