Chicago skyline. Photo by Austin Neill on Unsplash

Interactive design to help city leaders bring ideas to reality.

Financing Sustainable Cities Initiative.

Camellia Williams
May 31, 2018 · 4 min read

Ideas fail when they aren’t followed up with a clear plan. Knowing this, the Financing Sustainable Cities Initiative (FSCI) aims to help urban decision-makers charged with making sustainable and financially viable choices for their cities. Assisted by our expertise in making complex information easier to navigate, FSCI created a platform that guides users through the process of identifying financial solutions that will support sustainable projects to improve the quality of life for their residents.

Guided by sector-based research conducted by WRI Ross Center we had clear priorities to work towards. The information had to be easily digestible and accessible from multiple entry points so that city decision-makers could quickly identify and focus on the elements that are most relevant to them. The result is a beautiful, clear and simple interactive guide to each of the steps that lead to successful, sustainable solutions.

Local authorities looking for inspiration or guidance can explore what others have done, or find ideas similar to their own and see how they were put into action. The challenge for Dani, our designer, was fitting many pieces of information into one view. If they had been presented as a list you’d be scrolling through pages and pages of text to find what you need. His solution was to create a circular tree that shows the full picture, yet moves and adapts as each element is selected. The visual interactions create a sense of movement that enforces the feeling of progress throughout the experience.

For those who want to explore what others have done, a map offers a simple way to discover projects that are happening in the same region, or which tackle similar issues. These projects cover topics such as low- and zero-emission bus fleets and bike-sharing systems, among others, providing examples of what other cities have done. By making this kind of information easier to find, more people can learn from the experiences of others and identify potential options for their city. This improves their chances of developing an urban development plan that is successful and sustainable, aligned with both the needs of their residents and the environment.

A map view offers an easy way to find local or relevant projects.

Of course, planning doesn’t end with the creation of a plan. Sometimes making the plan is the easy bit. It’s putting that plan into action that can be tricky. Once someone has selected the parts of their plan and added their notes, they can save the details by exporting the plan to a PDF, which can be emailed or printed off and given to everyone else that will be involved in bringing the idea to life. This helps them engage with key stakeholders from different sectors and backgrounds to discuss their ideas. Each review contains a visual reminder of which elements have been added to the plan, to quickly remind people what they have selected.

The overview page has a visual reminder of what selections have been made.

Choosing the right design makes it easier to organise information into more digestible packages. And when information is more digestible, it’s more likely to be used. By bringing together all of the elements that need to be considered to implement a sustainable project into one tree, the design tool reduces the time it takes to identify and develop viable and sustainable plans. After all, the sooner we identify ways to improve the lives of people, the sooner they will begin to feel the benefits.

Explore the FSCI’s new tools here and let us know what you think in the comments below!


The Financing Sustainable Cities Initiative (FSCI), funded by the Citi Foundation, is a partnership between the WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities and C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group that helps cities accelerate and scale-up investments in sustainable urban solutions through the development of innovative business models.

Vizzuality Blog

Posts on data design, user research, open data, and software development. We create tools and applications with a lasting benefit to society and the environment.

Camellia Williams

Written by

Lead Writer at Vizzuality.

Vizzuality Blog

Posts on data design, user research, open data, and software development. We create tools and applications with a lasting benefit to society and the environment.

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