hometown project posters

Inspired by our hometowns of Prince George, British Columbia, and Medicine Hat, Alberta, we chose to focus our thesis project on how these small cities can become places that support more local culture and economies, especially since their reputations aren’t typically associated with these ideals. Both of these places have populations of around 60–70,000 people and are known for their industries and the stereotypes that go along with them; forestry in Prince George, and oil and gas in Medicine Hat.

A problem in our hometowns and in other smaller cities is how they appear to get taken over by global forces instead of generating community from within. Walmarts and big box stores continue to expand on the outskirts of these cities, while their downtowns empty out. We wanted to find out how our hometowns can be leaders in innovation and creativity, and generate sustainable habits and lifestyles. Early in our research we realized that while there is no shortage of sustainable action plans and tools available in these cities, they are mostly unused or unrecognized. We understood there needed to be a shift in mindset: before people can start using more sustainable tools and habits, they need to recognize the potential their actions have on their cities. After this shift in attitude takes place, people will be more invested in the future of their community. The stories from our hometowns that most inspired us were those of individuals creating the places they wanted to live in, of people being the change they wanted to see. In his lecture “Creative Communities and Sustainable Qualities,” Ezio Manzini discusses how if you start acting like the change you want to see, those changes can start building around you [1]. We wanted to motivate people to inspire each other with their actions. We focused on making new places and being open and excited about change. We didn’t want to just ask what people loved about their hometowns or focus on what they already have, but instead try to push things forward and spark new and bigger ideas. By placing these ideas in Prince George or Medicine Hat, people can try to imagine them happening there, instead of feeling like they need to leave to a larger city. We designed a four-step system aimed at getting people interested in the potential of their hometowns.

Step One: Awareness

The first step is awareness and creating a buzz about our project and its ideas. We’re accomplishing this through online and print campaign materials. Our first major piece of campaign collateral is an animation to be shared on social networking sites. This video focuses on an individual city to get people more interested and personally invested in the project. We created a flexible branding platform to allow other cities to participate in the campaign by customizing the brand to tell their own stories.

Step Two: Alignment

We also focused on getting people aligned with our message, and helping them feel part of the movement. We accomplished this by creating ownable and shareable collateral such as stickers, zines, postcards and t-shirts, so people could visibly promote and identify with the campaign.

Step Three: Engagement

After the momentum of first two steps, people will be more willing to engage in our project and feel empowered to contribute their own ideas. All of the campaign collateral points to online sharing platforms, our website and social media feeds, where people can share their dreams for their city and support other project ideas.

Step four: Action

The hometownproject.ca web platform lets individuals share their ideas, and gives them the tools and support to make their projects a reality. Citizens can be inspired by other projects and cities, post their own project ideas, and reach out to their neighbours for help. The website is similar to project backing sites like Kickstarter; however, you can help out in more ways than just offering money. Each project has a checklist of items and goals it needs to complete or grow from, and by supporting a project you can offer your time, resources, and become an integral member of the project team. We believe that people can make the cities that they want to live in; we just need to feel inspired and supported to do so. The Hometown Project campaign and website system makes people aware of the possibilities in their hometowns, invites them to share their ideas of what would help their cities be better, and make projects happen from the ground up. By helping smaller cities realize their potential, we hope that they can contribute to and strengthen larger conversations on sustainability. For more information visit www.hometownproject.ca. Collaboration is the foundation of communication designers Jean Chisholm & Janine Merkl inspiration and practice, which they apply to behaviour change and systems design.


    [1] Manzini, Ezio. “Creative Communities and Sustainable Qualities.” SiG, Toronto. 7 May, 2012. Lecture.