Steps to designing great places, with Howard Blackson


“So do you sell your work on Etsy?”

Howard Blackson is probably best described as a placemaker.

A what?

For you planners or engineers out there, that’s a familiar term. Have you looked around LinkedIn recently? Even place-destroyers are using placemaking as part of their professional experience to get attention.

Howard starts off our conversation describing the life of a placemaker. If you aren’t familiar with planning and design jargon, this will be really helpful.

If you love planning and design jargon, Howard’s explanation will give you some ideas about communicating with other people about what you do for a living.


Urbanism: why should people care?

New urbanism, lean urbanism, tactical urbanism… everybody has an urbanism!

What’s so great about these various forms of planning and design? People like Howard have been motivated for years to work on projects that fit into the ___ urbanism labels. Blogs, Facebook pages, meet-ups — this is a highly active group of professionals.

Howard gives his observations about the history of new urbanism and offers some predictions about what’s next in the field.


How friendly are your streets?

Walk-friendly. Bike-friendly. Those perspectives are hugely important in the context of a transportation network.

You won’t want to skip over this part! Walkability is not a specialty design topic for big cities like New York, Boston, or Chicago. We talk about the opportunities in the public realm where most people live: Nowheresville.

Ok, maybe that’s harsh. (But seriously, we do talk about Nowheresville.)

Communities don’t have to be characterized by miles of sameness.

  • The few 6-lane roads with 45 MPH speed limits and stop lights every few thousand feet.
  • The same fast-turnover restaurants, big box developments, and vast expanses of unused surface parking lots.
  • The schools, libraries, churches, stores, and homes built within a few miles of each other, but unreachable by foot.

Spoiler alert: Howard’s ideas will make you happier, you’ll lose weight, your kids will love you more, and you’ll live forever. I dare you to disagree.


Advice for the next generation of designers

Howard ends the show by offering some advice to young planners or designers.

Although, I shouldn’t limit it to “young”. If you’re a planning commissioner, community volunteer, health advocate, or anyone else with a pulse – Howard’s comments will be meaningful to you.


Enough! I want to connect with Howard!

He’s blogging here:

He’s on Twitter  here:

And over on Facebook here:


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