Have city government officials and city planners thought about employing animators and illustrators in city hall?

ACTransit EasyPass from Jeff Lai on Vimeo.

I love this quick 30 second animation (likely made with Adobe Flash, which can be easily learned within a couple of months) showing how to use the AC Transit Easy Pass.

I’m always curious about whether city government officials (particularly smaller cities and suburbs or neighborhoods) have thought about employing animators and illustrators in the government.

Strengthening the working relationship between city government and local community groups, and people who live in the community is key in making an active citizen group in making a city a better place to live. If a government is actively engaging – and no, this does not include just a public meeting because these only reach out to a specific demographic of people, such as the well-educated, people who have time to go to meetings – in a community, and if a citizenry becomes more aware of their needs, think of the amount of potential federal funding that could go into improving local infrastructure or supporting local businesses, that improves the health and livelihood of a society.

For example,  lets say  there are very few public parks in a neighborhood. The neighborhood, unfortunately, is not very walkable, most people drive, and people don’t really care about  parks.

Now, however, what if they hired animators/illustrators/tech-savy public relations folks to educate the public about the health consequences of not having parks/proper playgrounds in a neighborhood? For example, there is a lot of research which show that when children play more and exercise, it improves one’s creativity, imagination, critical thinking skills (and of course, health), which means that children will do better in school, and thus in return, can help be active contributors to our society and economy. Playgrounds, while seemingly “expensive”, are actually important investments in society we should not take for granted.

However, how do you convey this in a very visually compelling story? 

I’m thinking of a video format similar to the one below that SPUR made showing the benefits of creating a second BART Transbay tube across the San Francisco Bay Area:

Why does this work? It paints a picture, a story to a your head that is user-friendly, not dense and technical; it is memorable because it synthesizes what would take studies, large documents of texts, and boring powerpoint presentations in public meetings into key, memorable, slap-stats that people will remember. It is a memorable video that can inspire support and actions.

Imagine if community groups and organizations used these NGOs ; imagine if more people who use the internet see these infographics /videos start to show their support  for these sort of videos. Local government institutions, then can use the statistics gathered from the video (i.e. stats, demographics, amount of Facebook likes, etc.) as key data that can be added to federal government grants, which local governments apply for (lots of writing! Think of a essay of why we need money) to show that we need money for playgrounds.

To be honest, you cannot get funding for a project if the need is not there – funding is key if you want to do projects. You need to demonstrate the need, and infographics and data can do this.

Thus, I believe that illustration/animations can help remove the barriers of public participation. It’s less time-dependent, less dependent on specialist/technical knowledge, and can reach out to a wider audience. If you can’t reach out to a wider audience, the government will also not really care and do anything.

I believe in the long run, if you invest in illustrations, animators, artists  public relations in government, you can help strengthen relationships and make it a lot easier to demand for a better, more healthier, sustainable society.

This entry was posted in city planning, drawing, lessonsfromparticipatoryplanning, participatory plannng. Bookmark the permalink.

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