Luminato, Promoting Social Cohesion

Toronto celebrates cultural diversity but how can we prevent people from being marginalized in our growing city?
OpenCity Projects developed creative solutions for public spaces in Toronto neighbourhoods that bring people together.

Background
For 10 days in June, Toronto’s stages, streets, and public spaces come to life during Luminato, Festival of Arts & Creativity. Luminato asked OpenCity Projects to explore communication as part of a larger theme for the 2009 Festival. In partnership with OCAD University, we worked with 3rd year design students to identify communications gaps that exist in Toronto between demographics, socio-economic groups and cultural communities.

Solution
Our project began with desk research to learn about urban settings such as the demographics and history. Students visited neighbourhoods to observe people first-hand in public spaces and conducted one-on-one interviews with relevant stakeholders who regularly spend time in the place. Back in the classroom, students developed personas fictional portraits of people interviewed and mapped those stakeholders’ experience to help pinpoint opportunity areas.

Based on research insights, we identified communication gaps between Toronto’s many different cultures, communities and demographics. Design solutions were developed including objects, spaces, signage or rituals. These “icebreakers” serve as interfaces to connect people and promote social interaction. An installation showcasing our work, titled Icebreakers – Creating Common Ground by Design, was exhibited at Luminato on opening day as well as at XPACE Cultural Centre.