2017 Excellence in Visual Digital Storytelling, Small Newsroom winner

Future Cities

Yvonne Brandwijk and Stephanie Bakker

Future Cities

Excellence in Visual Digital Storytelling, Small Newsroom


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About the Project

Future Cities is an inspiring web documentary that provides a new perspective on emerging cities. It incorporates journalism, storytelling, audio, photography and video in an innovative way.
Innovative aspects of the project:

1. An example of constructive journalism.

By recording and putting across life in emerging cities we aim to transmit the inspiration, energy and knowledge from upcoming urban areas. By no means all consequences of urbanisation are positive, but in order to touch a broad audience it is not sufficient to draw their attention only to problems. A constructive approach influences the audiences’ emotional state and engagement and we believe that stories about people who are able to turn the tide and come up with solutions for big issues such as inequality, poverty and exclusion – have a deeper impact.

2. Future Cities is an experience.

We have deliberately chosen a digital platform to tell our stories because it allows us to completely immerse the audience in the city. The use of mixed media really creates the feeling of being in the heart of a ‘Future City’; you hear the city, meet the people and feel the energy.

3. Transmedia approach.

By producing mixed media content that can be used across a range of channels and platforms (web doc, print stories, live events and exhibitions), we are able to serve a diverse audience and to maximise the project’s impact.

About the interaction design:

One of Future Cities’ most compelling aspects is its user driven pacing. The viewer can hear, read or see bite-size chunks of information which ultimately paints a bigger picture. However, we decided not to give the viewer too many options to choose from. In order to create a user experience that feels fluid and life-like we decided to offer one linear narrative for each city. This story captures the essence of the story. After the main story the viewer can choose for more personal stories. On top of that, in-depth information about economics, demography, history and social issues is presented in an attractive way; on various pages in the web doc a swipeable card can pop up to annotate what is written on that page with contextual information.

A menu makes it possible to switch any time between cities, people and in-depth information.

Results & impact of the project:

The project has drawn a lot of attention, national and international. We won an ‘Innovation for Development Grant’ of the European Journalism Center, financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation and received funding from the Dutch Mediafund for Creative Industries, the Dutch Fund for special journalistic projects and a grant from the Freepress/Dutch Postcode Lottery Fund for journalists.

In collaboration with Amsterdam cultural venue Pakhuis de Zwijger Future Cities organised a series of live events. Last October the United Nations invited Future Cities to exhibit the project at Habitat3, the UN conference on housing and sustainable development in Quito/Ecuador. The exhibition received 24.800 visitors in 10 days.