Jamie Schneider

Render by Tim Stephens

Studying a map is a great way to understand relationships between geographic areas. Spinning around a globe (remember those?) and seeing these areas in a relative way is even better.

Our world has been changed by technology. With GPS based 3D satellite map environments, we have access to an immersive and increasingly accurate perception of the real world. The same is now true for designers who convey perceptions to the people who will inhabit these spaces.

It seems like gone are the days of the ‘pin-up’ at the local library. Thanks to the adoption of building information modelling we have much greater power to communicate our ideas effectively. It is up to us to figure out ways to leverage these new capabilities to achieve the desired outcomes.

In a recent article by Tim Stephens, a Digital Innovation Lead, Registered Architect and Associate Principal at Jasmax, visual imaging is discussed along with his learnings of the tool.

Read the full article here.

With the latest technologies, we are producing higher quality visualizations through our design process, faster than ever before. With the growing ease of producing ‘photo-realistic’ visual outputs, comes the risk of miss-managing the design process with our clients.

Tim Stephens, a Digital Innovation Lead, Registered Architect and Associate Principal at Jasmax


David Premi

At the recent Bay Area Climate Change Summit, a Hamilton audience of 150 people was told by Sustainability Consultant Yuill Herbert that the city could become carbon neutral by 2050. This, according to increasing scientific consensus, is the necessary target that all cities must strive for in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

This is particularly timely as Hamilton city council also recently voted to declare a climate emergency. It is amongst the first few cities in Canada to do so after Vancouver, Halifax and Kingston.

Herbert said that governments have a lot of leverage to change the way we design our cities. He suggests the following:

Change regulations

Governments should enforce a net-zero carbon agenda for any new construction. Provincially, this could be enshrined in the building code if the Government considered climate change an important issue. Locally, bylaws could enforce a higher level of sustainability, for example, Toronto’s requirement for green roofs.


The way a city is designed has a direct impact on its carbon footprint.  In an automobile dependent community, a great deal of carbon is produced driving around.  More expensive and resource-hungry roads and infrastructure are required in low-density environments. Cities must urgently adopt new (or finally get serious about enforcing existing) rules that promote compact urban form and intensification. Less sprawl and more density mean a more livable environment locally and a healthier planet. There is no downside to this concept.

Stop Designing for Automobiles

Parking requirements should be greatly reduced or eliminated. Parking stall sizes should be decreased. Require bike storage and car share in all new buildings. Build complete cycling networks. Cities must start to create redevelopment plans around both local and regional transit networks

Photo by Ken Mann – Global News

We are running out of time. All designers should feel an obligation to radically change the way we design cities and buildings and need to act to work quickly towards this goal. By declaring a climate emergency, the City of Hamilton has announced its commitment to this goal. We now have a new lens through which to justify and judge our actions.


For many years, we’ve known about the benefits of reducing automobile dependency in cities. Environments that prioritize pedestrians, cycling and public transit over automobile mobility are cleaner, healthier, quieter, more pleasant and more conducive to outdoor activity.

According to a recent article by Forbes writer, Carlton Reid, cities that reduce automobile dependency see a boost in retail spending.

This is another example of how good design decisions can yield social, environmental and economic benefits. Read the full article here.

Twenty million anonymized transactions were analyzed by the bank and Madrid city council, and it was discovered that the decision to limit road access to the city center by motorists led to a 9.5% increase in retail takings on Madrid’s main shopping street, the Gran Vía.

– Carlton Reid


Design is everywhere. It’s in the spaces we occupy, the objects we use, and the systems that govern our lives. Look around; our clothes, phones, homes, cars, neighbourhoods, cities and even political systems are all products of a deliberate design process.  

It’s complicated and messy, and it’s fair to say it’s the source of many of our problems. But, within design we can also find many of the solutions to those problems. Just as bad design has the power to reduce our well-being, good design has the power to bring positive change. 

The social, environmental, urban, and political challenges we face are a direct outcome of design processes, but we are optimistic that it can also solve many of these challenges.  

We can improve our social well-being by designing walkable cities, achievable by first designing policies that promote these ideas. We can reduce carbon emissions by designing denser cities with more connected and more efficient transit networks. We can design sustainable structures that last longer and use fewer materials that will end up in our landfills. We can design alternatives to single use plastics such as reusable containers for our groceries, and through policy design we can limit the use of single use plastics. 

Our productivity, happiness, health, and general sense of well-being are impacted by the quality of design that surrounds us – and it’s within our control. Just as poor quality design has a deleterious effect on our lives, good design can support higher purposes and important agendas, like health, learning, sustainability and community building.   

Our new blog, Shape the World, was conceived to advance the discussion of how the world is impacted by design. Please join us in this endeavour by subscribing and engaging.   

Together we shape the world.