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Industry partners support new placemaking research

Creative Industries professor, Louis Etienne-Dubois, employs VR to investigate the effectiveness of placemaking in urban design
September 22, 2020

With support from leading arts, culture and design institutions — The Daniels Corporation, Entro, Lemay, and MASSIVart — Creative Industries professor, Louis-Etienne Dubois, has embarked on a new research study to compare the return on investment of placemaking - a community-centred approach to collectively reimagine and reinvent public spaces. Joining Dubois in this study are research contributors, Jonathon Anderson (director, Creative Technology Lab at FCAD), Frederic Dimanche (director, Ted Rogers School of Hospitality and Tourism Management) and Dogan Tirtiroglu (chair, Real Estate Management, Ted Rogers School of Management).

Dr. Louis-Etienne Dubois, Assistant Professor of creative industries management

Dr. Louis-Etienne Dubois, Assistant Professor of creative industries management at School of Creative Industries

“While we can all attest to being influenced by our surroundings, actually demonstrating how placemaking moves the needle is much harder. For cities, institutions or organizations contemplating such interventions, having a clearer picture of the full range of tangible benefits is key in being able to justify the investments.”

Measuring the ROI of place-making

For the purposes of this study, placemaking is a concerted effort to work with local communities to design spaces that reflect their culture, identity, or narrative. It allows public spaces to be transformed into dynamic spaces that contribute to the health and well-being of the people who engage with the environment. Examples of placemaking tactics include experiential graphic design, signage and wayfinding, public art installations, and architecture and landscape design. 

“While we can all attest to being influenced by our surroundings, actually demonstrating how placemaking moves the needle is much harder,” says Dubois. “For cities, institutions or organizations contemplating such interventions, having a clearer picture of the full range of tangible benefits is key in being able to justify the investments.”

This experimental study will compare the impact of placemaking in a series of virtual reality environments designed by students from the School of Interior Design and curated by the project’s industry partners. Participants will be randomly assigned to a control (no placemaking) or augmented condition (with placemaking interventions) and asked to immerse themselves in these environments for as long as they wish. The study’s methodology borrows from Dubois’ previous research on destination image — a concept that looks at how people evaluate a destination they have interacted with, in an attempt to effectively isolate the impact of placemaking and to measure associated affective, behavioural and cognitive responses. 

Together, these metrics will generate an original dashboard that can be used by stakeholders to discuss, assess and communicate the economic, social and aesthetic value of placemaking in the planning and evaluation of projects.

Daniels logo
Entro logo

“As a builder and developer, Daniels has always taken an intentional placemaking approach to building vibrant and inclusive communities. Through innovative design, integration of arts and cultural elements and the creation of thoughtful commercial and public spaces, we build communities that reflect and celebrate the culture and identity of each neighbourhood,” says Heela Omarkhail, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Daniels, external link. “We applaud Ryerson University for recognizing the need to demonstrate that there is a return on investment through placemaking, and we are excited to work with project partners Entro, Lemay and MassivArt who, like Daniels, believe in the real value of placemaking as it relates to city building.”

“Entro is thrilled to be supporting this important research on placemaking. When you are in a great place, you know it. Yet, defining what makes a great place is difficult and the value of placemaking is often intangible,” said Laura Sellors, Partner, Entro, external link. “Entro uses design to connect people to place. Our work gives places identity and meaning; it makes complex places navigable; it reveals the history behind new places; and we fundamentally believe that we can make everyday experiences inspirational. We are especially curious for the results of this study and to more fully understand the nuances of purpose, design, and value that must intersect to curate meaningful spaces.”

Lemay logo
MASSIVart logo

Lemay, external link [a leading provider of integrated design services for the built environment] is proud to support this research initiative,” says Andrew King, the firm’s Senior Partner and Chief Design Officer. “A study of how we can effectively design spaces that become witness to the richness of humanity aligns with our belief in design’s unique value to create open and meaningful space. At Lemay, we frame a design process where architecture emerges through hybridized methodologies, where curious and critical art and placemaking strategies help define the architectural armature, embrace the history of the site, and create experiences that uncover diverse identities.”

MASSIVart is a global art consultancy and production agency, with offices in Montreal, Toronto, Shanghai and Mexico City, that collaborates with artists, architects, developers, and designers to creates art-driven experiences that bring people together. "MASSIVart is looking forward to collaborating with Ryerson University on this research project," said Coralie Olson, Managing Partner, MASSIVart, external link, opens in new window. "We believe that creative spaces, cultural programming and placemaking can create a tangible ROI because it brings people together and creates stronger emotional connections through experiences that people will want to live, revisit and share.”

Dubois and team commenced work on Measuring the ROI of Placemaking research project this week with an expected completion and sharing of findings in April 2021. Visit to stay current on Dubois’ research and initiatives, such as FOL!E.

FCAD at Ryerson University

Entering its eighth decade, FCAD is a global centre of media and creative invention. As a disrupter in innovative education, FCAD is dedicated to developing creators with authentic voices who engage directly with creative industries around the world.

With 23 undergraduate and graduate programs that are shaping the future of their fields and tight-knit partnerships around the world, FCAD offers more opportunities to educate the next generation of creative leaders than anywhere else.