Let us start by asking you a question. Take a moment to reflect on your hometown or city. If you could pick any place, space or object local to you and make it interactive, what would you choose?

Would you pick a statue with a story to tell? 🗽

A benevolent bench? 🪑

How about a helpful hospital waiting room? 🏥

We believe every street object has the ability to serve people – whether it’s by sharing useful information, gathering insights or simply putting a smile on their faces! Playful experiences using public spaces – sometimes referred to as ‘placemaking interventions’ – have been popping up all over the world. A recent study from Toronto Metropolitan University, The Daniels Corporation, Entro, LeMay and MASSIVart reports that placemaking interventions result in a 63% increase in positive feelings towards locations. And that individuals perceive their environments to be more stimulating, beautiful and comfortable.

At Hello Lamp Post, we love imagining creative deployments and bringing them to life with our clients. And being creative doesn’t mean you can’t make a positive impact. As we’ll discuss further on in the blog, evidence shows that it’s quite the opposite. Some of our more imaginative deployments have saved our clients time and money, helped to widen participation and boosted engagement amongst the community.

Here are some of the top benefits of implementing creative placemaking projects in your local area.

Increase levels of engagement

In our deployment with the Harbour Trust Federation in Sydney, the engagement data so far shows over 16,000 people have interacted with Hello Lamp Post across the six sites we are active at. Without our accessible technology situated at different landmarks, including a lighthouse, maritime dock and a scenic viewpoint, visitors would require support from Harbour Trust staff. But having a simple tool like Hello Lamp Post readily available 24/7 📲, Harbour Trust visitors can access historical information, get customer support and share feedback at the touch of a button.

Boosting engagement isn’t just about reaching a high number of people. It’s mainly about building connections with the people you do reach. You might be familiar with the well-known social experiment called ‘The Fun Theory’? The experiment featured Volkswagen, in which they turned some metro station steps in Sweden into a musical piano 🎶 for a day. The results from this experiment highlight how playful experiences can boost engagement – 66% more people chose to take the stairs over the escalators than usual.

In one of our own use cases with the Electric Medway festival, we saw similar results that showed how people love engaging with fun, interactive experiences. For this project, we created two walking heritage trails to share the stories of the area’s maritime past. This included making three large cranes interactive – we even created our own storyline in which the cranes were siblings…who doesn’t love a little bit of sibling rivalry! At the end of each experience, we asked if visitors had enjoyed their time on the trail. We’re delighted that 94% of participants said yes.

Another factor in building stronger connections? Time spent in a particular place. 👣 High footfall is useful in creating an engaged community, but dwell time is also an important point here. The study from Toronto Metropolitan University we mentioned previously also reports a 50% increase in time spent in spaces with placemaking interventions – giving places more time to strengthen relationships with their communities.

Save time and reduce labour costs

In the previous section, we highlighted how Hello Lamp Post supported Sydney Harbour Trust Federation’s staff by automating some customer support and administrative tasks. This is another area where creative deployments can really bring benefits to internal teams, by freeing up more time and easing the stress of busy periods on staff. We’ve found that the total number of interactions with our technology at Sydney Harbour sites is equivalent to saving the Trust 807 days of staff time that would be otherwise spent on customer service tasks. This includes completing admin tasks and collecting and sorting data.

Similarly, we’ve partnered with Environment Agency South West to come up with a creative way to engage passersby in conversations about flood risk and plastic pollution. Just one of the ideas – talking flood defences! One of Environment Agency’s biggest challenges is scaling engagement while maintaining local relevance. By coming up with a more entertaining method of interacting with the public, they have been able to share highly important information about flooding at scale in the places where the issues are most pressing. After just 6 months, the number of engagements via Hello Lamp Post is equivalent to Environment Agency’s South West team conducting 40 in-person events, saving their internal teams valuable time.

Liz Taylor, Flood Resilience Engagement Advisor at Environment Agency – “Finding new and interesting ways to engage people is key. And using Hello Lamp Post technology will help make us more relevant to a newer audience who prefer texting.”

Widen Participation

Including underrepresented groups poses a significant challenge to all decision-makers, so another reason to bring creative placemaking initiatives to your place is to help widen participation.

The UK Government found that people aged between 16-34 were less likely to have engaged in any form of civic consultation than those aged 35-74. Furthermore, when it comes to civic participation, people from wealthy areas are represented more than those from low-income areas by 47% compared to 34%.

This tells us that traditional ways of driving engagement and building connections have their flaws. So to overcome this, thinking outside the box could open up pathways for those harder-to-reach communities to have their voice heard. For example, in Hello Lamp Post’s project in Belfast – in partnership with The City of Belfast, Titanic Foundation and Tourism Northern Ireland – our data shows that tourists from six different continents engaged with the deployment. Visitors to a destination might not always know the most accessible ways to interact with local authorities. We provided them with a simple way of sharing feedback, learning more about the city and discovering local businesses along the Maritime Mile.

We also helped to widen participation with the Harbour Trust Federation. Engagement data from this deployment suggests that visitors who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders are represented through our platform by 33% above the national average. Without Hello Lamp Post these communities’ voices would not be heard, meaning vital opinions and feedback would be missed out from any decisions made by the Harbour Trust regarding the visitor experience.

Boost your destination as a tourist hotspot

With travel very much back on people’s agendas in 2023, now is the time to put your destination back on the map. And placemaking plays a huge role in making public spaces inviting, comfortable and desirable for visitors, as well as the local population.

Placemaking interventions can act as a form of marketing for places in two ways: helping to win awards and gain press features. Accolades like awards 🏆 and press features help to boost destinations as tourist hotspots, which encourages more visitors and more money into the local economy.

For example, we’re delighted that our Hello Maritime Mile deployment in Belfast won ‘Best Use of Digital Technology to Improve the Visitor Experience’ at the 2019 Northern Ireland Tourism Awards. Our projects, being so unique, regularly capture the attention of local press outlets, like Fox 5 Washington DC which featured a video on our deployment in the City of Hyattsville. What made this deployment so creative? Well, it’s probably the first time Hyattsville residents have met a talking zebra! 🦓

Let’s come back to the all important question we asked at the beginning of this blog. If you could pick any place, space or object local to you and make it interactive, what would you choose?

This blog highlights the positive impact of playful experiences that give purpose to physical environments. These sorts of placemaking interventions can really help to boost engagement amongst local communities and visitors, widen participation from underrepresented groups and save engagement teams time and money.

Hello Lamp Post has helped to make a fascinating range of places, landmarks and objects interactive. From 170-foot-tall storytelling cranes to napkin holders encouraging UBC students to recycle, we’ve reached over 300,000 people worldwide.

For a bit of inspiration, here’s a list of some of the other fun objects and spaces we’ve made interactive:

  • Guards around Windsor
  • Giant rabbits in Iowa City
  • Trash cans in City of Scottsdale
  • Self-driving vehicles in Alnwick
  • The Marble Arch Mound
  • Art murals in Leicester
  • Fire stations in South Yorkshire
  • Dinosaurs in Mesa
  • A secret bunker in Sydney
  • A giant butterfly in INTU Shopping Centres
  • The Big Fish in Belfast

We’re constantly wondering what’s next. If you have something exciting in mind to give your place a boost, share your ideas with us via our contact form to see how we can work together. 🤝