The Future Of Urban Spaces with Supernormal

By Kate Lau

Hello fans of the Supernormal…! No, not the supernatural, though ~SpOokTobeR~ is upon us so I get why you’d think that. But this October, Scout kicked things off with a visit from Supernormal, an urban planning and design group that use data analysis to model, update, and create urban spaces.

Sounds complicated, but Will Cohen of Supernormal’s urban planning team brought his A-game with a superinteresting presentation on how it all plays out. Essentially, a variety of data sources with the ability to track everything from population density changes over time to gentrification and its impact on urban spaces, get used in the designing process for creating and updating urban spaces. So, for example, those pesky ads you get on the cell-phone you rarely put down and might even be reading this blog post on, are sending information about where you go and what you’re doing- all the freakin time. Scary? Maybe. Helpful? The people at Supernormal think so, because they use this data to understand how people navigate through their environment, which can inform future projects in those areas.

Cohen explained how data analysis has to be, as he put it, people oriented. That is, it has to be collected on people’s actual behavior and applied back to innovations and projects for those same people. A lot of data is collected and isn’t necessarily used as effectively as it could be, but Supernormal puts great emphasis on making sure the data they collect is specific to what they are trying to get out of it and create at the end.

Supernormal works on a variety of projects from mapping the popularity of cigarette brand, American Spirit, throughout regions of Boston- in an effort to find where the hipsters are at I kid you not …

To measuring the growth and gentrification of areas throughout Pittsburg in an effort to maximize investment and community development opportunities.


One project in particular brought up at yesterday’s event was for SolBe Learning Centers, who were looking to create a pre-school that is both scalable and flexible within various local communities. They turned to Supernormal with this idea of going beyond a traditional day-care to create something personalized, replicable, and easily accessible. Supernormal analyzed the real-estate and demographic data and returned to them with the concept of a learning center based on an interchangeable pod-like structure providing individualized care based on age group, located in well-known, trusted areas near parent’s homes and work.


Basically, this sh*t is really cool and if you aren’t convinced of that yet, you can read about more work they’ve done here.

Scout loves to look at all forms of design, and we hope you’ll keep joining us to learn more! Coming up, we’ll be looking at the redesign of a typeface and content first design strategy, and we hope to see you there!


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