Placemaker was born out of a simple question, "What would civic engagement look like designed for the digital world?"  The goal was to design and build a prototype mobile application that takes the user beyond the utility of reporting complaints to the city (i.e. 311 services), and transition the utility into a representation of the city as a platform -- comprised of the places, people, and city officials shaping its everyday identity.  In essence, a visual representation of the city's social graph, one in which the user can immediately discover what is important around them, whether that is civic, recreation, or other.


Keerthana Manoharan { UX Design }

Karan Rajpal { Android Frontend }

Radhika Bhanu { Android Frontend }

Sanhita Mukherji { AWS Backend }

Ilana Taxman-Mendoza { MBA Advisory }

Blair Sullivan { Branding Advisory }



The project was done in collaboration with the Cornell Graduate Schools of Information Science and Computer Science.  I engaged with the departments as one of a select number of clients to test technical and venture feasibility of the product.  The project fulfilled the technical project credit required by Master's students in engineering and information science.  Further consultation was enlisted from the Johnson School of Management for considerations around app feasibility, capital requirements, and business/launch strategy.  Administrative guidance provided by:

Professor Walker White { Programming, Architecture }

Professor Gilly Leshed { project management }

Steve Gal { venture feasibility }

Tom Schryver { Concept expansion }


see project deck


Vibrant Citizen Polling

User research demonstrated highly visual polling systems performed far superior to text polling in A/B testing.  By constructing feedback citizen polling designs within the guidelines of regular discovery content we found overall response rates increased +250%.  Current community vote tallies are hidden from the user prior to casting their vote; this aligns with research revealing how displaying voting tallies after user action transitions the cognitive response from "cog in the wheel" to "unique and communal" -- further this method increased subsequent participation of call-to-response features.



Capture & Share

In capturing content the user can choose to upload public feedback to the municipality, or post socially to both the community map and their other social platforms.

The backend algorithm will auto-generated which city department is responsible for the feedback based on user tags, location, and text sentiment analysis.



Localized Discovery

John Carroll's lab at Penn State University has dedicated exhaustive amounts of time understanding how mobile technologies transition our perception of places as we digitally interact with them.  Built from their comprehensive research, we encourage users to find "tribes" aligned with their interests, and to comment, advocate, and share what matters most to them.  These actions, when positioned thematically within a place, or event, have been proven to heighten a sensation of community awareness, social presence, and hyper-presence.  All cornerstones in delivering the belief and behaviors that constitute "community membership."



Crowdsourced Community Stories

The propensity to become involved in social gathering and movements is a function of the number of people in a community observing the interaction.  This combined with the asynchronous broadcast ability of smartphones enables the platform to drive visibility of interaction higher allowing for and increased opportunity for local interaction.  By geo-fencing the site origination (Google Maps Location, Facebook Event API), we were able to algorithmically gather distributed posts into a more cohesive storyline, detaching any reliance on a user-generated and organized hashtag system.