OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign up, Login or Learn more

Trace: Dream - Draw - Inspire [UPDATED]

How do you see the world around you and what do you imagine it could become? The core concept of trace is drawing on top of an image of our environment. It's a quick and fun way to visualize a new reality and to communicate ideas with others.

Photo of Wout Helsmoortel
27 17

Written by

How do you see the world around you and what do you imagine it could become?


The core concept of TRACE is drawing on top of an image of our environment. It's a quick and fun way to visualize a new reality and to communicate ideas with others.
TRACE gives citizens the space and opportunity to connect, to generate ideas, to share their favorite places, and to show what they think can change for the positive.
All you need is some transparent material or a window, draw on it, and you're done! The concept is very broad and can go from sketching by hand, to drawing on a touch-screen.

LOW- VS. HIGH-TECH [image 2]

Transparency is key, but this can be accomplished in different ways. The main division is between low-tech and high-tech. As explained in [image 2], the advantages of a rear camera capturing a view is that you have a fixed image to draw on. This is convenient when you move around. I discovered this issue when doing a small test [images 9 &10], here you can see that it’s hard to trace correctly when the background image moves constantly.

Digital registration makes it possible to build a website where users can share their ideas and even draw on images of others.
The strength of the low-tech option is the simplicity of execution, and the fact that windows are everywhere! Window-painting has been around for a long time, but TRACE can reenergize this technique and add value by stimulating interaction with the surroundings.

  • 1. WINDOW PAINTING [images 3 & 4]

Tracing with board and marker or window-painting can be done at all places where there is a certain level of oversight. We want the participants to understand the broader concept and prevent random drawings.

When drawing, the background image changes constantly. Luckily, the outcome of “how do you see the world around you?” can be seen from every angle. The fact that participants draw, makes them think. And although their drawing might not be perfectly aligned with the background, you can still see the visualization of their dreams.

o Bars & Restaurants

As Johan pointed out, bars, restaurants and also many other shops have windows that are not stacked with items. By making drawing tools available and explaining TRACE in the store, customers can draw while waiting for their order, or just have a fun and playful customer-experience.

o Public Events

As suggested in the openIDEO comment below, events could be hosted where local artists re-imagine space. Visitors will immediately grasp the concept, and have the possibility to experiment themselves on other windows nearby. According to the setting and budget, digital tracing boards could be used as well.

Klementyna came up with the idea to have a city-sponsored contest for local residents to make their environment better. They would look out of their own windows and draw on the glass how they imagine their view could change. Maybe they want more trees outside, a 24/7 supermarket or a playground for children. Then they would shoot a photo of the drawing and send it to the local municipality or upload it to the trace website. This way there would be no place for vandalism and all of the photos would be displayed on-line and serve as a database for future development. Every month another neighborhood could participate in the project, as shown in [image 4].

o Schools

In schools, kids can use windows of the class. The teacher could aim at the playground, and ask: "what could we add or change to make it better?". The possibility to sketch out a new reality for others to react on has strong educational benefits.

  • 2. TRACE-BOARD [image 5]

The original idea of the trace-board can still be useful. In some cases, like outdoor events, windows are not always nearby. A trace-board can also be aimed in every direction possible. As TRACE is a broader movement, there are different ways for users to get to know the concept. As suggested above, pictures can be taken from the results and uploaded to the website. This way it’s easy to integrate all individual projects.
When there is a certain level of supervision, the board can be put anywhere to gather thoughts and connect citizens. All kinds of groups and originations might find this method of brainstorming useful.

  • 3. TABLET APPLICATION & WEBSITE [images 6, 7, 8]

A major improvement to the above is when we use tablets or other devices with a touchscreen and camera.
The camera registers the background, you can snap the view, and start drawing. It’s easy to upload and geotag your location [image 6].
To improve input, it’s possible to add pre-existing shapes of all kinds by browsing the shape library. This makes it possible for everyone to visualize his or her ideas [image 7].

The website will be the place where you can see the drawings of others. The images reflect the creative spirit of the community, but at the same time capture all kinds of views that where hidden before. Imagine the variety of views that participants will upload!

This technology is new; the rear camera on the iPad for example was only introduced in March 2011. Other innovative technologies, like transparent touch-screens, offer new possibilities for this concept. See [video 2].


> It’s not necessary to have a live image to be able to draw. On the application or website, the same image could be distributed so all participants have the same starting point.

> The TRACE app could become a visualizing tool for all kinds of artists. A possibility could be included to add another image on top, trace the shape, and remove it. This would be the digital version of a ‘light’.

> Revenue could be generated in different ways. Product placement in the shape library, letting shops sponsor the event, or advertising on the website.

> Philip commented that the concept currently focusses on the mass public. It is also possible to use the tool for specific purposes. For example; the government needs input on new uses for an old building. They could 'ask' the trace network to generate ideas for a new purpose for this building. Another example could be ideas for a new park design, what do citizens want?


Ideas of all kind can be captured by this project. But maybe more important is that citizens reflect on their environment and inspire others.
Participants will look around and spot opportunities. They will share dreams, as individuals or in groups.
If found successful, this concept can easily - because of it's simple core idea - spread out to other countries worldwide.

How does your concept inspire collaboration between individuals, private sector organisations, and the government in an effort to create cleaner neighbourhoods?

By drawing out our desires, we show the community what can be improved.

How might your concept be scaled in a way that creates even more connections between people?

Going from low- to high-tech by developing a website to connect all projects.

How might you design a small experiment around your concept that would mobilise action?

Windows are everywhere to experiment with!

Evaluation results

6 evaluations so far

1. How easy would it be for citizens to get involved and take initiative for this idea?

Very easy; this would rely on ground-up participation from the beginning. - 16.7%

Somewhat easy; there are ways for citizens to get involved, but an outside organiser may be needed to sustain and grow this concept. - 50%

This concept needs to be led and maintained by the government or private business. - 33.3%

2. Can you build this concept on top of something that already exists, like an organisation, physical space, or system?

Yes. This could fold into, or extend from, something that already exists. - 33.3%

This concept taps existing networks for a few things, but also needs a lot of new processes, materials, relationships, etc. - 66.7%

This concept requires a new system to be built to support it. - 0%

3. After the initial launch and support, could this concept be sustained and cared for over time by the community it's designed to serve?

Absolutely! This concept is easy to keep going. - 33.3%

It depends. There are opportunities for growth, but it's not yet clear how the concept would thrive after launch. - 33.3%

Probably not. A lot of effort would be needed to keep this concept going. - 33.3%

4. Does this concept create community?

Yes. It naturally brings people together and inspires them to take care of one another. - 0%

There is potential to create a thriving community. - 100%

No. It doesn't galvanize people to come together for a common cause or interest. - 0%

5. Overall, how do you feel about this concept?

It rocked my world. - 33.3%

I liked it but preferred others. - 33.3%

It didn't get me overly excited. - 33.3%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Jiaorui Jiang

I love the idea of having people drawing what they would want in their community! I saw your comment below about digitizing the drawings - that just opens up endless possibilities for the idea! It's easy for people to see what other people have envisioned and build upon that. I can't wait for this to become a reality!

View all comments