How To Design Cities For The People Who Live In Them [PSFK London]

How To Design Cities For The People Who Live In Them [PSFK London]

We speak with one of the founding partners of Billings Jackson Design about how to create human-centered structures on a large scale.

  • 29 september 2013

We are looking forward to our return to London later this autumn. On 10th October, the team behind will host a morning of ideas and inter-mingling in the Purcell Room at the Southbank Centre. This informal and relaxed event connects readers and local creative professionals together over a series of short talks by inspirational speakers.

One of these speakers will be Eoin Billings. As the Director and Founding Partner of Billings Jackson Design, he is responsible for delivering high quality architectural project work and for developing commercially successful products that can be implemented on a human level.

We spoke to Eoin about the ethos behind his work, the Billings Jackson projects that have helped define that ethos, and what it is like to design solely for city dwellers.

Can you talk about your philosophy behind the work you do?

It’s very straightforward. We work to enhance people’s experience of the places they live in and to do that, we use practical problem-solving techniques – designing something that is fit for purpose, economic to produce, robust in use, of course. But more importantly, we work from the perspective of the people who will experience it, making sure it is easy to use, tactile to touch, pleasing to look at. It doesn’t matter if the object is a bus station or a light switch. The principle is the same.

Our philosophy embraces the notion that design should be informed by every party who is in one way or another a stakeholder in the outcome; each will have their own particular interests whether it’s the aesthetic, the functionality, the cost, the materials and so on. Because we move freely between architecture and manufacturing, we are able to address these interests holistically, not compromising one for another.

We called our first PSFK talk in 2011 “Industrial Design: ID for the City”. This wasn’t just a cute play on words – what we do is very much about identity and draws from a deep understanding of places at the human scale. Cities at the most granular level are the people that live and work in them. We work to give physical expression to urban societies in the fabric of their streets.

When we are designing products for manufacturers, our starting point is again to interrogate the brief by getting to know the people that make up the firm. This involves mining deep into every part of the operation from technical capacity through sales and marketing to establish trust and develop products that truly express the firm’s values.

Our expertise in intellectual property law allows us to identify and capture IP opportunities for the client as we solve problems during a project; our strategic IP/branding approach offers added value to our client’s product portfolio, which extends far beyond the delivery of the product itself. Each designer likes to think of themself as innovative but innovation to us is not merely invention: it’s the commercial exploitation of good ideas, and IP is central to achieving that.

In order to develop the work you do for cities, you have to stand back and look at what they represent to the constituents. Can you talk about this process a little and the reasons why?

We have to work from the perspective of the city’s ever-changing population. From materials to information systems, it is these elements that provoke an emotional response because people interact with them. So at the simplest level, an uncluttered streetscape with coordinated furniture elements of high material quality is seen to boost civic pride with a corresponding drop in vandalism and graffiti.

At the same time, this improved street is easier to negotiate, less disorientating, less alienating, ‘friendlier’. This is why it’s so important that our designs take their cues from the locality. And with advances in manufacturing, the one-size-fits-all, catalogue approach to designing for the street makes no sense to us. It need cost no more to tailor a response to its location and the sociological benefits are enormous.

What recent project defines your practice and the direction you are going? 

The New York City wayfinding system, designed by a team led by wayfinding specialists CityID, perfectly encapsulates our current philosophy for urban design. As a project it was a non-hierarchical collaboration between design consultants at the top of their game and a city authority committed to nothing less than excellence. And it has been welcomed universally by the people it was designed for as social media testifies.

I have to mention a product too because it’s very important to us that we have the twin strands of product and project work going on, as the disciplines inform each other. We launched an incredibly simple, modest and elegant LED light fitting for Trilux last year called Coriflex. It is the perfect expression of the technical brilliance and lack of ego of its manufacturing firm and is breaking all sales projections because of it.

Thanks Eoin!

Get your tickets today, don’t miss out on this fantastic event. RSVP below or directly on Eventbrite.


Fitness Advocate: Paving The Future of Workouts With Audio

Fitness & Sport
Brand Development Today

Swipe Left On A Dating World Built To Keep You Single And Disconnected

Hinge's VP of Marketing Karen Fein tells us about the service's daring ditch of the swiping culture that's designed to attract advertising revenue, not meaningful connections

Arts & Culture Today

Marvel Comic Tells The Story Of A Heroic Syrian Mother

Madaya Mom is the true tale of a family trapped inside a town for over a year


Get PSFK's Related Report: Future of Work

See All
Retail Today

Brooklyn Cafe Lets Customers Pay By The Hour, Not By The Cup

Glasshour is an establishment that provides free coffee and pastries and charges for the time guests spend there

Technology Today

Electric Spoon Changes The Way Food Tastes

The Taste Buddy is being developed to manipulate your taste buds and make everything more delicious

Related Expert

Tan Siok

Filmmaker, Technology, Social Media

Travel Today

Bike Path In Poland Can Glow For 20 Years Using Solar Power

Cyclists can follow the shimmering blue lanes for better safety each time they ride

Technology Today

Open-Source Toolkit Lets Communities Build Their Own Street Furniture

The Wikiblock database contains 30 blueprints of different neighborhood fixtures including benches, bus stops, and kiosks

Food Today

Tiny Pub Only Has Space For Three People

Make Time For It is a small London pop-up bar that encourages conversation without the distraction of technology


Future Of Automotive
Scenarios Driving The Digital Transformation Of An Industry

PSFK Op-Ed Today

Community Builder: How to Hack Slack

Claire Wasserman, Founder of Ladies Get Paid, describes how she's using an internal team communication tool to build a network of thousands

PSFK Labs october 21, 2016

PSFK Picks: Top 5 Performance-Enhancing Wearables

Our new report looks at innovations pioneering the future of performance through intelligent activewear and predictive analytics

Advertising Today

This Beer Was Brewed Just For Scotch Drinkers

Highland Park Scotch Whisky & Sixpoint Brewery have teamed up to create two limited-edition pairings for New York City boilermakers

Mobile Today

Let An AI Librarian Help Sort Your Digital Bookmarks

A new app uses machine learning to help organize your virtual life

Mobile Today

Pizza Hut Tattoo Lets You Place An Order From Your Body

The latest gimmick from the fast-food chain is a tattoo-like sticker that lets customers get delivery with a simple tap on their arm

Travel Today

Reinvented Bicycle Inspired By Supercar Design

The yellow bike based on a Lamborghini has sharp edges and an aluminum alloy frame

Health Today

Health Platform Gives Perspective On Your Weekly Habits

Gyroscope is a new wellness app that works by amalgamating data about your life into beautifully designed visuals

Beauty Today

Korean Beauty Brand Uses VR To Let Customers Pick Their Ingredients

Innisfree created a unique experience for its Shanghai Disneyland customers with a virtual reality trip to select what goes into their purchase

Arts & Culture Today

3D-Printed Creations Resemble Floating Paper Outlines

Japanese design firm Nendo's exhibition features works that look like sheets of material being folded, torn, and crumpled

Technology october 21, 2016

Concept Camera Designed To Only Take Unique Photos

Camera Restricta is tool that prompts photographers to only capture one-of-a-kind images

No search results found.