5 ways that design can help public sector projects stand out

November 5, 2021

Industrial design and innovation in public spaces



In this article, we take a look at industrial design and innovation for the public sector – at national, regional, and local level. Governments can have many design requirements for public space projects, and can benefit hugely from great design and innovation. Some of the projects we have worked on at Neko include cycling hubs, play equipment, renovation of public spaces and bespoke urban elements such as street furniture. But how can industrial design help these projects really stand out?


1. By listening to the decision makers



Public space projects usually have a clear objective and brief, as well as a defined budget. They can involve many different decision makers, and it’s important to consider each of them. What are their individual requirements and concerns? Sometimes the final designs need approval from a very diverse board of decision makers, such as this project designing bollards and kiosks for the renovation of a city public square. The design was subject to approval from the Public Spaces Authority, the National Institute of Anthropology and History, and even the priest of the local church. After discussing their ideas and concerns, we opted for a modern, yet unobtrusive design in muted colours. This fit perfectly with the beautiful historic surroundings. By taking each decision maker’s opinions into account, the final design is more likely to meet with everyone’s approval.



Bollards separating traffic and pedestrian areas in a historic city centre square

2. By making it easier for the users



Some projects need to be user-friendly and fit within an existing system. Working with experts in different fields can help to achieve this. This smart cycle hub design needed to fit within the existing public transport system, requiring access using the same metro card. Working with software developers and our client, the city government, we designed a system which allows users to switch between modes of transport quickly and easily. This has the added benefit of relaying key user data back to our client, allowing them to plan future successful developments. By providing an efficient and secure service, our client was able to successfully promote cycling to new and existing users.



Smart cycle hub featuring controlled card access and user-friendly Neko Double-Decker bike racks

3. By making a mark



Public projects are often part of a wider campaign, sometimes regionally or nationally, and brand identity is important. Working closely with key decision makers ensures that the finished product fits with their goals. This may mean simply including a logo or institutional colours. Or sometimes by going a step further, designing a whole element to fit within a wider public program. The custom Delta bike lane divider was conceived for Mexico City’s ambitious city cycling infrastructure program. The final design, in collaboration with AGENT design studio, achieved exactly what our client wanted. Eye-catching and streamlined, in keeping with their design objectives, and finished with hashtags and their logo for greater visibility and increased brand awareness. The goal with innovation in the public sector is to find the happy medium between providing a solution within budget, and successfully reinforcing the client’s brand identity.



Custom bike lane divider design with branding for city government

4. By being globally relevant



Innovative product designs can help clients to attract international recognition. We have worked extensively with the government of Mexico City on their inter-modal transport and cycling hubs. In 2017, they were awarded by UN-Habitat, winning a ‘Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements Award (Global Model of Green Mobility)’ for their Massive Bicycle Parking Facilities, featuring Neko bike rack and hub designs. Such awards really help to put these public sector authorities and projects on the map at a global level. For our client, being awarded as an international leader in Green Mobility was a reflection of their investment in industrial design and urban development.


5. By thinking differently



Some clients are not sure what exactly it is they need, just that they aren’t able to find it. Thinking outside the box can result in truly unique solutions. We worked with a national public space recovery program to design a play structure using their logo. Our client had approached playground companies and was disappointed by the lack of creativity they found. Most just offered to add the logo onto an existing product. Our client had a vision that they didn’t want just the typical plaque or sign. They imagined something more unique and impressive which would reinforce the program’s brand identity.


After meeting to discuss their ideas and goals in detail, we designed the ‘Ludic Object’. This eye-catching three-dimensional climbing frame maintains the essence of the logo and allows people to interact with it. The government selected our design as the official emblem for the nationwide program and we manufactured and installed over 1200 pieces. People were excited to climb on them and take photos of their children having fun. Creative design thinking helped our client to simultaneously improve unused public spaces and reinforce the brand identity of the program.



Children enjoying the Neko ‘Ludic Object’ – play equipment from a government logo.
Photo credit: www.ehui.com

How have you seen industrial design successfully incorporated into public sector projects?


At Neko we’re experts at creating innovative solutions that really work for our clients. If you have a project that could use some design inspiration, we look forward to making your ideas a reality!

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