Place Agency- Global Award Winners

CLIENTMelbourne University, Myer Foundation, University of Queensland, Curtin University, University of Technology Sydney, The University of Adelaide, UNSW Sydney and The University of Notre Dame Australia
DATENovember 2017- 2019
FOCUSLaunch new product to Australian Market, develop all brand strategy, develop all brand, visual and digital assets, social media strategy and management, manage and create launch event, development of integrated website that is easy to use, fit for purpose, responsive and featuring a contemporary layout
SERVICESBrand Strategy, Marketing Strategy, Customer Journey Mapping, Digital Marketing Strategy, Brand Creative, Graphic Design, Platform Design, Code and Creation. Website Development, Social Media Strategy, Photography, Videography, SEO & SEM.

Place Agency is a collaborative group of academics from universities and placemakers across Australia who joined together to deliver an education program focused on the theory and practice of placemaking through partnerships with practitioners delivered through Studio projects. The Placemaking Consortium includes seven universities and 16 practitioners with support from 26 placemaking partners.

The aim of Place Agency is all about ‘creating the capacity for people to invest in space with meaning’

  • “Place Agency has created an inclusive process that empowers every group within the local communities to co-create space that is: resilient, responds to the local culture, and increases their physical and mental health while providing a meaningful experiences or emotional connections between people and place.”

Place Agency is a platform to support industry, students, communities and governments to develop better cities through Placemaking capacity building, practice-led community engagement and education. Place Agency contributes to placemaking practice by providing a common approach to understanding concepts such as economics, engagement, governance, evaluation, digital activation, data, community and critically nature and First nation’s aspects of place.

OPPORTUNITYFull Brand and Marketing Launch Project

The Brief

The approach for Place Agency is to allow all architecture, planning and landscape architecture students to develop placemaking skills through a variety of new modules and engaging with community, learning and experimenting with place led approaches. Education Guided by the insights of placemaking practitioners combined with the academic rigour of the consortium of universities led by the University of Melbourne, the Place Agency project was crafted to deliver a suite of educational and practice-based programs on placemaking and place development for graduate level students and early-career placemakers. Led by University of Melbourne the team of academics began this project with support from The Myer Foundation to re-position placemaking and challenge the status quo of traditional place making education and practice.

The project required;
– A Brand Strategy, positioning and creative (to reflect their unique and innovative approach)
– Full Marketing and Digital Strategy
– All creative assets
– Communications Plan
– Custom Online platform to support the administration of all aspects of the business
– A Website that integrates with internal platforms, ability to manage event marketing and ticket sales, microsites curated to suit each University
– Social Media Publishing
The Custom Website Application requirements included;
– The ability to manage all administrative tasks from new student enrolments through to reporting
– Managing studios, publishing all news and stages of Studio Projects
– Learning modules and teaching resources.
– Managing national studio database with interactive map
– Providing a place to promote up and coming events
– Connecting to social media to support community engagement
– Profiling students, universities and practitioners
– Social media strategy and launch

Digital White Space (DWS) won the pitch to tender against a suite of other businesses, due to their approach backed by a team of strategic digital marketing and creative expertise.

Key Challenges

  • The had never done anything like this before


In order to deliver on the client’s goals, Digital White Space began with our Discovery phase to understanding all the clients objectives, then Customer mapping from the students to all the stakeholders finally crafting a Marketing Strategy and all digital and creative assets from brand strategy, positioning and all creative. We brought the brand story to live via a range of Videos, Photography, Social Media, Website and the Launch of the Brand.

Marketing & Business Goals

This is a sponsored project from private philanthropic group The Myer Foundation. The Myer foundation’s vision for and desired outcomes include a desire to create a sense of connection to place, in order to see more people love the place and community in which they live.

The Myer Foundation in the past worked with co-design on a project which highlighted that university students knew a lot about the theory of place making but not enough about the actual practice and implementation process. University Academics acknowledge that students finish their studies with great conceptualising skills in designing place yet lack practical experience such as valuing the community perspective, poor communication skills with stakeholders.

The Myer Foundation Key Questions
“If we want to make a significant impact, we need to ask ‘how do we connect nature with urban landscapes?’
“Rather than just training existing professionals, why don’t we also go upstream and train the emerging workforce?”

The Myer Foundation Vision for the project
Supporting Better cities to become more walkable, liveable, with increased social interaction and greater interaction with nature. A focus on supporting individual streets and neighbourhoods, in conjunction with communities in the centre of the design process and applying tools like tactical urbanism. Universities combining both the practical with the theoretical to train existing (in councils and industries) and the emerging workforce to be good place makers “city-makers”
Help to tackle the mental health issues around loneliness respect and within the community and society.

  • Positioning Place Agency™ as the go to for Place Making Education across Australia and a resource for global place makers.
  • Get buy in from Universities to collaborate together in joining in the Brand and running Studio’s and projects Nationally.
  • Engage and onboard a range of Industry leading Practitioners
  • Create a easy to navigate online platform and website to support the growth of the Brand.

The Place Agency project Mission is to;

Projects be true to the objectives of place making creating better cities through integration of social and environmental actions. Enhanced place making by providing an outline of strategies to integrate nature in place and ingenious perspective. Simultaneously, strive towards having a real impact on the communities that we engage with through working to following three key actions:
Develop a comprehensive suite of placemaking modules imparted to built environment students through one or more subjects at each of the Universities within the consortium, where students can critically learn to address place issues through a strong theoretical framework.

Place Summits, events organised by the consortium to celebrate place and showcase much of the work of students and share learnings with local government and industry. The summits include training session where Place Agency share the information from the placemaking modules. The delivery of practice-led studios (referred to as ‘sandbox studios’), which provides a safe space for students to learn place practice and placemaking in partnership with local community groups, councils and/or developers.

The goals of Place Agency project is to;

  • Encourage critical thinking of placemaking
  • Practical skills – hard and soft skills of placemaking
  • Develop Common language and understanding of placemaking
  • Academic Rigour to Project evaluation
  • Adaptive to change
  • Vital Public Spaces – Ecosystem is a major component.
  • Robustness.
  • Adaptive governance enabling place
  • Encourage healthy council-citizen relationships
  • Empowered and active communities – contribute to social/place Relationship to place
  • Right to good design
  • Providing framework and processes to enable people to deliver placemaking projects easier
  • Creating a common language
  • Develop a collective body of knowledge
  • Collaborate across five Australian states to combine and provide insights, educational rigor and training for future generations
  • Nature is not included as a place making option; More nature integration,
    Enhance the theory and practice of co-designing places through core components:
  • Bringing an academic lens of analysis to placemaking and place development practices
  • Greater integration of nature through an emphasis on ecological aspects on place
  • Integration of Indigenous perspectives in representations on place.

These place-led approaches will enable current and future practitioners to plan and design civic places with the community so that shared values can be realised.

The Marketing goals of Project;

  • Develop a brand identity and positioning to clearly communicate the positioning of placemaking
    Create 4-6 sandbox studios for each university; 20-30 examples
    Develop theoretical content for place making “as education for built environment students”
    Each University to deliver one industry targeted event, 10 in total – delivering this training to industry
    Create a website that manages part of the administration for each university, platform to showcase studios
    Communicate across social media
    Create a common vocabulary for the process across the industry
    Engage with community, council and or developers, to deliver practice lead opportunities project for students


Based on the aforementioned research findings, the project team in conjunction with Digital White Space DWS identified an opportunity to differentiate their brand by developing:

  • A brand and platform to enhance cultural and gender diversity
  • There is regenerative and then there is placemaking- no one is doing both
  • Placemakers internationally – tactical urbanism (people who are recognised for doing urban activities, Guerrilla gardening- art, engaging movements organising people and putting plants everywhere) This is a tool to help placemaking.
  • Platform to automate the process of studio projects from enquiry through to engagement with council and university academics, place making practitioners involvement and approval finally through to setting up the studio’s
  • Cataloging all the studio’s and the project insights they produce, including working with the community and facilitating their journey with place
    Create different subjects to deal with a piece of the place making story-

Industry Challenges

The challenges faced by the project team stem from Built environment professionals were not well trained to be place makers in addition to the “Place wash” which lacks understanding of true place making, further background research  identified more gaps and opportunities for a project.


Challenge the Current Placemaking Definition- Re-defining what placemaking is (clearly communicating its potential)


A Lot of communities don’t know how to engage with councils and developers
Currently place making is only a small component with no practical training and no physical community engagement
Currently placemaking hasn’t been culturally and gender diverse
In Australia there is no strategy or group that is effectively teaching placemaking to professionals


Little budget and dealing with a lot of agendas, councils have a difficult role in servicing their community but lots of vested interests. They are overruled by federal and VCAT.
We need to help minimise risk, give them security in making decisions around community engagement
They don’t want to get community to hope too much. Upskill them to being able to support and facilitate better


Lack of International course for students,
There are key partners/business teaching councils yet no “go to source” however working with multiple universities there is an opportunity to spread the program across Australia and diluting IP issues (providing a broader body of knowledge- that is disseminated across all)
No subject that gives the whole picture- no opportunity for the students to practice the soft skills that are required to relate and engage with real communities
Students need more than a qualification they need to focus on job ready skills



Digital White Space (DWS) worked closely with the leadership team in order to support their growing needs, whilst focusing on delivering a range of strategic tools including a unique brand proposition, digital strategy, website, marketing communications and creative assets. On behalf of the project team, the DWS team addressed these opportunities by developing a bold and differentiated brand positioning and building an intuitive platform that communicated their unique value proposition and supported the administration process of studio’s along with the communication.

To achieve this, DWS took a customer-centric (student, community and council focused) approach by crafting a website to support and encompass Place Agencies online business model, complemented by a digital and social media focused strategy. This digital approach allows for active social listening and effective monitoring of consumer behaviour. This is achieved through the analysis of behavioural metrics including brand mentions, social sharing, open rates, click through rates, google analytics, multi variant testing, exit rate analysis and goal path analysis amongst others. Ultimately, this results in a process of continuous improvement, Place Agency are able to quickly adapt to ensure that they are always providing the best service and content on the best platform.

A consortium of universities where 35 academics and 18 industry practitioners collaborate to create the place agency education program
Creating Microsites to support each university
First planned a series of topics with team on the place making process- all what is needed to create a high quality place making process- based on expertise each uni took on 2 topics to develop 10 hours of educational content for these. This is what we called the modules which can be delivered as a comprehensive subject or delivered independently – as relevant to different subjects or studios.
As part of the collaboration process we also discussed the critical skills of the place maker- we created a list of 62 skills – we refined this until we identified critical head, heart and hand skills. (cognitive, effective and practical skills)
Taking on board the traditional studio model for built environment students (design students) what the studio are relatively small group of students get issues through their practice- they engage in theoretical analysis and come up with planning or design ideas to solve the issue- this is the model we used – paired with real world place making projects, for the students to engage with community – and deliver tangible opportunities for their project
We called these sandbox studios as represented a safe space to engage with trial and error practice to develop the skills needed.

Design- Our Creative Approach

DWS adopted a localised approach to the website direction through creating Microsites to support each university. Utilising studio imagery and opting to capture the local flair of each studio suburb. Each project is captured from initiation through the various stages of delivery and final reporting.

In order to create a distinct brand, the DWS team used map placement icons in the logo, colours and geometric shapes alongside bright vibrant colours to celebrate diversity in community. The brand has a distinct personality and to demonstrate to students, local government, developers and the community that Place Agency is both a strategic approach but fun and supports individual expression through play- hence coining the studio’s “Sandboxes”.



  • Photography
    Was a key component for each studio to capture and house, focusing on documenting the key aspects of project that highlight community engagement and student learning, as well as showcase the final outputs.
  • Social media
    Streaming for real time and relevant information on the studio’s;
    Sections of the platform to share event calendar and promote summits and sell tickets to events/summits etc;
    Showcase student and community engagement
    The research findings, studio case studies and learnings; and
    Articles, blogs and other relevant links.
    Digital White Space team created an overarching strategy with multiple social media accounts for Place Agency. Including:


    Across all media, owned, earned and bought we ran promotional campaigns that drove impact, featuring them in specific lifestyle targeted spaces to drive impact and cut through.Unique features
    Following industry trends inline with a digital strategy all in order to maximize the benefits of SEO, a microsite for each University Place Agency service was created. Providing specific information for students and communities to understand the process and the benefits of placemaking “sandbox projects” over six microsites feature:
    -Integration with event publishing
    -Event calendar
    -Global Map of studios
    -Social posts


Place Agency looks beyond the classroom by bringing our learnings to the industry and wider community. Place Agency provides engagement opportunities by participating in national and international conferences, as well as hosting events including;
– Regional training events hosted by consortium Universities involved
– Community activities across Australia, lead by Sandbox studios
– Updates of Place Agency programmes
– Events and work with practitioner partners
-Regional placemaking week events

Place Agency is a successful offline and online project, that has been responsible for delivering 12 stand box studios- that have allowed students to gain and practice their placemaking skills with the support of practitioners. With now two books being published, the strong educational modules and sandbox studio methodology incorporates a process of continuous analysis and improvement.

DWS has mirrored this approach to continuous improvement through ongoing engagement and support of the team, workshopping new opportunities, cataloging the successes of the practices and the brand growth. Creating monthly reporting and tracking user behaviour via heat mapping, bounce, exit page analysis, etc. DWS responded accordingly by including more relevant content, restructuring content, menu’s, created new sections and pages. The following results recorded between 1 Jan 2018 and 30 July 2019 include;

Created a successful digital platform and presence successfully delivered (2018-2019),

  • 21 Sandbox Studios across 5 universities.
  • 22 studio related events and activities
  • 350 students passed through the program to date
  • The Studios have engaging with well over 5,000 people across AU
  • 12 modules
  • 2 books
  • Public events including 2 place weeks
  • Three place summits for industry (for developers, councils, architects, place makers, students and academics)
  • Industry workshops which has triggered new project called rating place- “how people rank the effects of placemaking projects”
  • Presented national and international conferences, ASA, Townteams conference, world urban forum, NUSS
  • Reflections from students have outlined how much they value the deeper education
  • Some really successful projects where students have been hired to deliver final reports or temporary place interventions

“Performing landscapes – in this studio it was for landscape architect students in their final semester challenge was to deliver a performance space- in ballarat botanical gardens.. The studio was run as a design competition. They engaged iey stakeholder through the semester and pitched their design ideas to the botanical gardens- who choose 2 winners – they were then provided the budget to build their designs as part of the begonia festival in 2019

The studio also engaged with the local drama students of university – who through the semester crafted a story and performed it during the festival. (performing landscapes story)
UTS studio, the students went to the area known as sydney olympic park, worked to (Gorilla) started engaging into the indigenous stories of place – engage with indigenous people who knew about the area and stories. The stories shared the cultural stories and native vegetation of the wetland
The students created design that represented the stories

Customer testimonials;

  • Receive on average 200% uplift in unprompted inbound testimonials per month, that recognise our brand recall and customer service approach
  • Returning users have increased to 92 from 12 in July 2018 which demonstrates a positive impact on brand recall and recognition that has been created.
  • The site has achieved 247% growth in average sessions per month, from July’18 to July ‘19.



WINNER: Place Agency & The University of Melbourne for Place Agency

THURSDAY 28 NOVEMBER 2019 @ QT CANBERRA. Place Leaders Asia Pacific is delighted to announce the recipients of the 2019 Place Leaders Asia Pacific Awards.

The Jury recognises the significant contribution of the Place Agency in building the capacity of new urbanists in the field of placemaking with a world-first tertiary national placemaking program.


Video Gallery