Designing for Digital Transparency in the Public Realm

Digital Transparency in the Public Realm is a project that seeks to facilitate the co-creation of prototypes that can advance digital transparency and enable agency in the world’s public spaces.

With cities increasingly embracing digital technology in the built environment, we believe people should be able to quickly understand how these technologies work and the purposes they serve. We believe that creating a unified visual language will be a critical starting point, and that digital tools could help people to follow up and learn more.

Expert groups came together in cities around the world in co-design sessions to collaborate and prototype an initial set of open standards for digital transparency in the public realm. These standards, as well as all the workshop activities and materials that generated them, are publicly and freely available for others to adopt, use, and build upon.

We’re looking for partners who want to advance the use and adoption of these standards in the public realm. Please get in touch at dtpr-hello@sidewalklabs.com.

Illustration of the DTPR development process

The DTPR Design Patterns and Prototypes - V1

There are four major components to DTPR - icons, a signage system, and a digital channel for communication - which together, help visualize and convey a taxonomy of key concepts.


You can download the icon files and visual system from Github.

Design Guide

The design guide has what you need to know in order to actually create signs using the icons or add the icons to existing signage.


The taxonomy is the full set of definitions on which the icons are based. These definitions are also used in the prototype of the digital channel. The initial draft of the taxonomy and the associated icons are managed in an Airtable, which you can see here.

Prototype for the Digital Channel

When you scan a QR code on a sign, it brings you to a webpage where you get more information. You can see our prototype for the digital channel - it’s currently set up for 307, Sidewalk Labs’ Toronto office and experimental workspace. Here’s the source code.

Co-Design Kit

In the course of developing the initial prototypes, we developed materials and a facilitation guide that was used to run our co-design sessions. All the materials are provided here so that anyone, anywhere, can take up these tools and use them to engage in this crucial topic.


The development of these design patterns and prototypes would not have been possible without the large number of contributors who invested their expertise and time in this project. They are listed here.


The Icons, Design Guide and Taxonomy for DTPR are licensed by the Digital Transparency in the Public Realm contributors under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0).
Portions of the DTPR Icons incorporate elements of, or are derived from, the Material icons. The Material icons are available under the Apache License 2.0.
The source code for the Digital Channel Prototype is licensed under Apache License 2.0.
Sidewalk Labs trademarks and other brand features within these works are not included in this license.