Book Review

Graphics for Urban Design

Bally Meeda

This is an update of the 2007 first edition of the book, and this second edition is 42 pages longer than the first. There is little comment on the changes between the two but there appears to be more focus on graphics production, and a wider body of people and organisations have contributed good practice examples.

As one of my favourite urban design books, this new edition is just as visually stimulating, and reminds us how to use visual media to engage, excite and include in an intuitive way, whereas so many planning and technical documents are text-based and do none of the above.

The document is logically structured; the introductory section, Setting the Scene, provides a reminder of the importance of graphic techniques for the communication of ideas and of the history of graphics to convey urban aspirations. It puts into perspective our ability to produce visualisations of largescale proposals today, and is described as a guide to help urban design teams to select the most appropriate form of graphics for any particular project and at the right stage.

The second section, The Process, emphasises the role of graphics within urban design – context and site analysis and the different diagrams that can be used such as figure ground, landmarks, historic evolution etc. Tracing paper, pens, post-it notes and photos highlight the value of simple tools people can use and are essential for good participation and engagement. The design rationale, which underpins the later more detailed ideas, can be presented via a storyboard of diagrams, photos, sketches, images and cartoons or in more graphical expression that can be easily shared.

A third section of the document covers the practical creation of drawings. The stepby- step progression will be of particularly value to students and newly employed urban designers. The final and longest section relates to Good Practice, useful for public and commercial design teams as they plan a project. It provides many good tips and useful examples of when and where to use different types of graphic representation such as photomontages and before and after images. It explains how graphical styles and techniques should become more definitive and measurable as the project moves towards final proposals.

The book is very legible and well presented with a full range of computer generated images (CGIs), 3D visuals, 2D plans and sketches. Pages are spaciously laid out and readable, practicing what it preaches – that breathing space is needed in final documents. Clutter and excess detail are to be avoided, a bit like in the built environment. The book does not speculate how graphic design might evolve, e.g. increasing its use of data-gathering smartphone applications or with artificial intelligence software. A comprehensive index of standard urban design graphic symbols and a summary of potential graphic pitfalls would have been useful, although the foreword contains the important warning that good graphics can mislead and beguile to justify poor urban design. Any criticisms would be marginal, as the book is a valuable, probably indispensable reference for those wishing to develop and employ urban design graphic skills.

URBAN DESIGN 148 Autumn 2018 Publication Urban Design Group

As featured in URBAN DESIGN 148 Autumn 2018

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Graphics for Urban Design Publication Urban Design Group
ICE publishing
Reviewed By
Tim Hagyard, freelance chartered town planner and urban designer