Open Glasgow: Designing future services for smart cities

Developing citizen engagement services for Glasgow Council’s £24 million Future City Demonstrator Programme

Citizens engagement at the Nan McKay Community Hall.
Street intervention in Glasgow.

What is the future of road repairs and waste management services? For 6 months we worked with Open Glasgow, to co-design future services for the city.

We collaborated with people and stakeholders across Glasgow to research, design and prototype how road repair and waste management services could evolve from now to the next 25 years. Our focus? Concentrating on people’s needs to ensure better multi-channel experiences.


Snook and Open Glasgow

Open Glasgow is part of the Technology Strategy Board-funded Future City Glasgow programme. Its aim is to make data accessible and open so that everyone can benefit from it.

The programme is aligned with the Glasgow Council customer care strategy, focused on simplifying how people contact the Council, and giving them a positive customer experience to build strong relationships between citizens and the Council.

We got involved through by developing an engagement strategy to understand what “Future City” really means for citizens. We highlighted improvements that could be made to crucial services, for the benefit of the people who use them.

Future personas building workshop - Snook Studio.
Visual prototypes for the new My Glasgow desktop app.

Here’s what we did

Can future services meet citizens expectations?

We engaged with communities and service providers across the city, uncovering how people relate to the Council.

Which problems do people face when using Council services? What are the obstacles that prevent citizens from reaching their goals? How do road repair and waste management services impact on people’s lives?

We set about answered these questions using ethnography and qualitative research methods. We interviewed citizens in their homes, in our office and on the streets of Glasgow. We ran design workshops to explore the future of the city and to co-create new service models.

Shaping future services

We made a compelling case for putting citizens first and defined core design principles that should inform future service re-design. Keeping it “Open and Transparent, Visual, Engaging, Educational and Responsive”.

The team gathered insights, research findings and proposed designs into a report for the Council. We included step-by-step examples of how people might use future services, showcasing both customer facing and backend processes essential for services to work well. We also created profiles of future citizens and a series of mock-ups, to help visualise how new services might look and feel.

As part of the project, we developed a future technology map which showcased opportunities and the direction of where services could be developed. Helping the Council continue the approach of citizen-centred service design, we created a Future City design toolkit.

Our research informed the development of a day in the life of a Future City, detailing the redesign for ‘MyGlasgow’ and how services would operate in the future.

The point of using ethnographic and design methods was to produce insights that can be actioned and drive digital innovation. Insights became actions and development lead to the creation of the new ‘MyGlasgow’ app.

“I’d like to be able to speak to my bin, find out where my waste is going at the point of contact. Having to go through pages and pages of a website isn’t going to inspire me to do good”

– Citizen, Glasgow

Smart Waste - Idea ecosystem for one of Snook's concepts.

Our impact: culture shift and people-centred digital transformation

Road repairs and waste collection alone account for 85% of why citizens contact the Council. This project showed how digital assistance could optimise services and reduce costs significantly.

We worked helped remove scepticism, facilitating the transition towards good, digital, Service Design. Using prototyping and visual methods to communicate ideas to Open Glasgow and the Council, we initiated a culture shift towards openness, creativity and collaboration inside working environments. The Council has carried this forward into their Customer First programme with us.

The Change and Development department is currently working on a channel shift and evaluation of their end-to-end service processes, using a customer first approach and taking the insights into the MyGlasgow App developments.

The service principles for Glasgow future city were publicly published and designed for all people involved to integrate into future service development.


  • “I’ve not yet seen a vision that articulates all of this together in one succinct mockup.”
    – Dr. Colin Birchenall is Lead Architect, Glasgow Future Cities Demonstrator at Glasgow City Council

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