Digital Placemaking with PopMap


7 minute read
Jo Reid

Jo Reid

Chief Executive Officer

Digital Placemaking

Image of CityID maps and the base for PopMap


Bristol is home to more than 460,000 people, a thriving culture and arts scene, and a city centre with an ever-evolving outdoor space. These public spaces are critical to cities as they can support the local economy, provide cultural opportunities, improve public health, and help the environment (along with many other benefits).

While public spaces provide clear socio-economic advantages to any city or town, a study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that their success, in fact, “relies also on people adopting, using and managing the space – people make places, more than places make people.”

But how can we encourage people to use these spaces and, consequently, contribute to their success, if they are unaware of the activities or events that they may be interested in, to begin with? This is where our newest digital placemaking project, PopMap, comes in.

Although the world has become increasingly global and technology has made it easier for us to move from one place to another, giving people an easy and simple tool to find out which events and activities are available where they reside will allow them to forge a stronger connection with the city—to perhaps, see the city in a different perspective and have a deeper appreciation for what it brings to their livability.

PopMap Objectives and Key Features

City ID and Calvium with the support of Bristol City Council, have secured funding from the Digital Placemaking B+B R&D Cluster to develop PopMap — a prototype app that shows a detailed map of the events and activities that are happening in real-time in Bristol. 

PopMap will be curated by and for the people of Bristol, as opposed to a selection of global mapping services. We have come together with City ID in their drive to make this a distinctly local Bristol voice, not a generic corporate one.

Calvium meet with City ID
PopMap workshop with Calvium & City ID.


One of the intentions of PopMap is to give cities a more distinct emphasis and brand. The map services we currently use tend to be car-centric and globally uniform. PopMap sets itself apart by being people-centric, locally curated and distinctively Bristol.

This digital placemaking project also aims to measure and explore what value it can bring for the city’s residents, businesses and its visitors. Ultimately, we intend to promote more interactions between the people of Bristol and the city to hopefully forge a greater sense of inclusion and belonging to every user. 

Key Features

Apart from a real-time map of events and activities, PopMap will also present the city from a human rather than a car perspective, making it incredibly useful for pedestrians and cyclists.

The app will also allow users to easily tailor what they see based on the time of day or night, where they are, and what their needs are right now. For instance, one of our user stories is “I’m at work. I have an hour and a half between meetings – is there a talk or some other interesting event I have the time to visit?” The app can provide results based on these preferences.

By doing this, we hope to engage community members to illustrate how a rich and more community-authored set of events might be offered within PopMap. 

Visually, the interface will also include easy references to what’s around a user within a five minute walk that is open now, plus the ability to see how that changes if they want something to do later on. 

Calvium’s Role in Developing PopMap

Our team is no stranger to working on projects with fast turnaround time. For PopMap, the call for proposals came out in November 2019, we did the interviews in December 2019, and the project officially kicked off at the start of 2020. 

For its first iteration, the idea is to create an experimental prototype that includes an intuitive map interface and a ‘radar’ that reveals real-time information to a user based on their preferences.

We envision this as a cultural map of Bristol that exposes the invisible. Innovations will be around the understanding of what people want to be exposed to and what they don’t. The app will also be time relevant, so it will show what’s going on around the city right at the moment that users fire up PopMap.

Calvium will be responsible for developing the prototype which will demonstrate some of these ideas. Working with our R&D partners, the aim is to get feedback from a diverse set of people across the city. 

So far, we have shared our design process with City ID, so that they can adapt their workflow to suit digital and mobile. We have also introduced user stories as a way to agree to a common ground for developing the prototype in an agile way

Working together we have agreed on the best way to utilise the mapping resources and assets developed by City ID upon which we can further develop the interactive interface. We have also been doing technical investigations into how best to implement features so that they are scalable. 

Of course, due to the timing of the project, initially our meetings were face to face whereas now we are all working remotely, and dealing well with all the shifts that this entails.

We are looking forward to agreeing to the final designs developed by City ID to start the full development sprint phase.

PopMap workshop at the Calvium office

Our Background in Digital Placemaking

The team here are excited to collaborate with City ID and bring together our collective expertise in physical and digital placemaking. We are looking forward to bringing our joint experience in creating mobile apps, as well as our extensive portfolio in the digital placemaking sector, to help bring PopMap to life.

Our experience includes our work on Bristol Parkhive (an app that showcases Bristol’s parks and green spaces) and The City of London Visitor Trail (an app that lets users explore the Square Mile on foot through a series of routes, itineraries, personal insights, and stories) — both of which allowed us to introduce a city’s hidden gems to its people and promote more visitors.

Our work on The Lost Palace (another project with a short turnaround time) gave our customers the opportunity to reconnect with the past and see, hear, and feel how The Palace of Whitehall looked 300 years ago before it burned down. 

Meanwhile, our ongoing project NavSta, an indoor wayfinding app designed for those with invisible disabilities to confidently navigate railway stations, brought user research and testing to the fore—to discover their wants, needs, and preferences and tailor-fit our digital solution for, and with, them. 

Project Progress

The project is currently in progress and there will be showcase in the summer, where people can react to the prototypes and give us their feedback on the ideas presented. 

From this event, researchers and stakeholders can get feedback on PopMap’s value proposition and understand wider questions around data ownership, willingness to submit information, and inclusiveness.

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