Join, Play, Share

HEY! Imaginable Guidelines is a card game to discover how cities are designed. The card game is a design toolkit with a base of knowledge to explore the limits and opportunities your city offers. It offers methods for everyone to discuss livable cities with each other and suggests sensible solutions to real-life problems that can be implemented together. The sharing platform crowd-sources the knowledge from experts, designers and artist to empowers designers, citizens, and municipal actors to think holistically. Imagine, Explore, Discuss a shared vocabulary to generate solutions to realize livable public space design.


What is Imaginable Guidelines?

HEY! Imaginable Guidelines is a knowledge resource and empowerment tool for designers and citizen designers’ to imagine, explore, discuss and share city-design futures to realize livable, lovable and walkable cities. Imaginable Guideline’s content is crowd sourced from Istanbul’s active city design experts, professionals and sociologists and juxtaposed with artists, designers and poets investigating the city’s living culture. The gameplay approach of a ‘deck-of-cards’ offers each participant a dynamic pathway into the complexity of city making. Once participating – by reading, reflecting and debating – the ‘players’ re-organize the cards into a customized design guideline per their city design priorities and aspirations.

Imaginable Guidelines has a transdisciplinary methodology to city-making aiming to realize a self-organized city-design process that nurtures vibrant public life and celebrates neighborhood coherence. Framed under six categories, 101 topics reveal fundamental domains of the public realm. In this regard, the design guidelines are crucial reference in which the expert assistance, best practice standards and performance parameters are prioritized, negotiated and rehearsed to give agency to the imagination of urban design initiatives. Ultimately, fluid conversations, debates on priorities, stakeholder accountability and open-ended proposals for complex physical, social and economic issues are all parts of this game. The ‘deck-of-cards’ object and ‘playing’ concept tap into social-learning for workshops and meet-ups. Workshop facilitators of NGO’s, municipal policy-makers and design professionals can create an ‘imaginative’ role-playing simulation where parallel exploratory and strategy thinking can flourish with the outcome of a ‘winning solution’ (the customized guideline) based on stakeholder consensus, debate and priorities.

All cards could be reassembled and new topics written to respond to specific complexities therefore enable collective imagination, custom guidelines for idiosyncratic problems, with access to experts’ and design activist NGO’s. Blending the analytical, practical and creative intelligence, Imaginable Guidelines is a proactive playing tool to frame, negotiate, role-play and rehearse, review and debate, revise and innovate urban design solutions The project relates to SANALarc’s ongoing research into self-organizing urbanism in cities like Istanbul. The contemporary practices of micro-scaled interventions propogated by Tactical Urbansim, DIY Urbanism, Pop-up City, Fluid City-Making and Bottom-up Planning drive this research. The premise is that co-creating the city demands new collaborative based design tools and pedagogical resources. It prioritizes facilitation for the development of a shared language and base of knowledge to enabale meaningful citizen engagement and broader collaboration.

To fully embrace the 21st century city, defined by the sharing economy, the knowledge centered worker and the creative GDP, HEY! crowd-sources its content from Istanbul’s experts, design activist NGO’s and art practitioners and provides all resources online. In this project format, the innovative approach of engaging in the basics and complexities of city-making enable collective imagination, blending the analytical, practical and emotional intelligence required for meaningful and sustainable city design to flourish. This collective funding, generous contribution of the participants and step-by-step process has resulted in a fine-grained and nonlinear city-design guideline specific to Istanbul to empower its citizens to engage in their shared future.

Project Timeline



The Story

How the project started and progressed


SANALarc seeded the project in spring 2013 while meeting with Istanbul’s Greater Municipality Urban Design Department to conceive a design guidelines framework that could empower ordinary citizens to participate in city design. In early summer of 2013 the climax of the Istanbul citizens’ collective anxiety of disempowerment was internationally visible in the Gezi Protest where citizens and activists occupied Gezi Park in defiance of privatization of public lands and the degradation of natural resources wide spread in urban transformation projects. During these years, Istanbul’s city-design culture had been experimenting and struggling with new methods, design tools, and design activist organizations in response to the rapid urban transformation policies in environment regulations and economic reforms. By in large these emergent practices did not transcended to greater institutional changes nor empowerment to civic organizations. Cultural institutions became the steward of the design movement while few municipalities, private sector actors nor public policy think tanks considered the city open for alternative city-design strategies nor understood ways to engage. TAK in Kadikoy emerged as an exception embracing a partnership with the local municipalities, design activists and engaged citizens to inform progressive urban transformation.

During this period, SANALarc’s research group asked in what ways could the studio contribute a new imagination of the city’s shared future. The studio focused their aim first to empower the energetic design activists, citizen’s voices, participating cultural institutions, municipal urban design departments and consider the notion that a shared language of city-design terms with contextualized approaches may mend deeply divided stakeholders. We observed the emotional intelligence of the artists dismissed as disobedience and the know-how intelligence of experts dismissed as dogmatic, and both shouting (or screaming) louder and louder by the day.

Taking Shape

By fall 2013 SANALarc introduced a first trial of the design guideline gamification in a topical ‘deck-of-cards’. The cards were a diptic of the emotional intelligence (a visual image) and the know-how intelligence (a city design definition and action). Introduced at Arkitera’s conference for the one-day walkability workshop, the use of the topic cards allowed workshop participants to be equal players by prioritizing and debating topics on a card. It enabled refreshing discussions and propositions and participants could not default on being the expert, having professional experience or idea’ing – they had to use the cards or make new cards for their design proposal to progress. The walkability workshop demonstrated the tool did empower participants to be pro-active, discover new options on aspects of design and facilitated discussion towards specific design solutions.

Imaginable Guidelines came to its being in winter 2014 by SANALarc and set out to invent a gamified urban design guideline. Building on the design thinking culture of IDEO’s methods cards, ARUP’s Drivers of Change, and Center for Urban Pedagogy’s Vendor Power Poster the research team studied how these design tools are professionally used and ways they inform, inspire and promote inclusivity into the design discussions. In our context of urban design guidelines we aimed to provide topics of urban design definitions, why this topic is important in urban design and how to guide a decision to implement this topic as a city-design solution. Critical though was the access to both the emotional and expert intelligence of many actors and tap-into, share and celebrate Istanbul’s specific intelligence. The aim was to give a voice to the fragile and fragmented voices of city design, discuss the city design as built and experienced, and share the city’s charisma as fixed and plastic -- a dynamism with its living culture and built environment. The central question was how to reveal the diverse intelligence that are involved in co-creating urban form to support public life.  And, could we create an open-source platform that could give each city its own voice to share knowledge and express its unique intelligence and taste culture within an ever present globalized culture.

Writers meet-up at Studio X, Istanbul, 2015

Writers meet-up at Studio X, Istanbul, 2015

Initial Launch

In Spring 2014 the studio officially launched HEY! Imaginable Guidelines with the support of Studio X Istanbul with an open call to contributors. Their support ensured the design thinking, design communication and design excellence could underpin its realization and experimentation of this new city design tool. The fundamental value that drove Imaginable Guideline is a belief that cities are our civilizations great collaborations and co-created through diversity and through generations. In this spirit of the collective effort all content contributed is contributed in kind, the full content is available digitally for open public use, the project creative team co-creates in a process of advancing one-another’s design concepts of share and share alike (or sampling, borrowing, contextualizing), and all resources can empower workshop leaders with pedagogical tools. The result has been a collectively created design tool that is open-source for new communities to build-on, but reflects each community whom contributes with their distinct ‘touch’ and sublte voice. This experience is immediately when one begins to explore the cards and meet the 200 person unique contribution and they can imagine their own voice and its contribution to city-making.

After the Open Call launch in Fall 2014 at STUDIO X for contributors people would discuss the notion of gamification, how it could be played, would people know how to use it, is non-linear formatting too much. What they did not ask is why they should be contributing. This emboldened the project as it was clear people are generous and keen to share if the underpinning value proposition is knowledge sharing. Everyone seemed to suspend belief on the usefulness. The design process of branding, game design, communication began with different persons of Istanbul’s alternative creative industries community. By 2015 Imaginable Guidelines had a clear brand design, attitude and aesthetic approach – a call to action that is both naïve to encourage playfulness and bold to imagine changes is possible. In 2015-6, MAXXI Passion Joy and Fury and Antalya Architecture Biannual invited HEY! Imaginable Guidelines to contribute in group exhibitions. This recognition locally and abroad brought attention to the project to participate in Istanbul’s 2017 UNESCO bid for Design City. Our mission to share Istanbul’s creative community, city-design know-how and vibrant artist culture for Istanbul and beyond Istanbul was tangible. The project in all its maturation in four years through workshops, editorials, meet-ups and events found the design tool embodies an innovative and contemporary non-linear design thinking 21st Century cities around the world seek.

Release of the First Edition

In Fall 2018 YEM publishing house will release the first edition Deck-of-Cards in English and Turkish. Imaginable Guidelines’ is in the process of creating new categories, topics and adaptions for other cities, design issues and knowledge groups. One-day Markets and Public Art Practice with Sydney, Youth and Citizen Participation with Lisbon, History and Ecological Corridors with Izmir are initiated for 2019 publication. Critical is to find professional and academic partners to initiate Imaginable Guidelines into design learning from high school through to citizen designers. As contemporary architecture and city design practice demands active participation from the end users and community groups new processes, design tools and methods are demanded to productively include this new audience into the co-creation process. As of today, most agree current experiences and design tools are disingenuous and does little to empower the new-comer participant in the process.





Alexis Şanal / ŞanalArc

Alexis' vision of a streamlined relationship between people and the design of their environment reflected in her academic and professional pursuits. She has received awards for her architectural/urban design contributions to the community which reflect her passion is learning, cultural and civic environments that serve living culture embracing technologies and ecologies intelligently with the physical and natural environment. She currently leading research in Istanbul street markets structure, the Pazar, launching the Wedgetopia initiative for transforming residual land into vibrant urban places, and a member of Bomontiada’s creative board for a district wide public realm realization. MIT, MCP 2002, SCI-Arc, BArch, 1995.  (1974, Los Angeles)

Researcher / Edıtor

Semra Horuz

Project Coordınators

Ulufer Çelik, Dilşad Aladağ


Julie Brun, Keimpke Zigterman

Graphic Designer

Didem Ateş Mendi                                                     

Identity Designer

Memed Erdener         


Linda Shahinian, Serhan Ada


Gülcan Evrenos

Turkısh translatıon

Emre Ayvaz


Piknik Works

Communication Design


Web Database Design



Simon Johnson

Supported by

Studio X Istanbul


YEM Yayınları