Visualization as a tool for analysis, exploration and communication has become a driving force in the task of unravelling the complex urban fabrics that form our cities. More than half of the world’s citizens are living in urban areas, with steady growth forecast in the years ahead (WHO). The complexity of the processes at work calls for methods and tools to improve understanding of the urban realm and underlying relationships and connections, for all stakeholders from urban planners, decision makers and companies to citizens. Visualization experts around the world are developing and refining new techniques to make these urban processes more transparent and understandable.

So far many projects are hidden in academic publications or within university and company archives. This platform tries to bring together cutting edge visualization projects from around the world, to strengthen the ties between the visualization community and the urban development stakeholders.


The CiyVis initiative was launched as a platform for the UN conference Habitat III in Quito, Ecuador. For the conference we organised the first competition and presented the winners and platform to experts at the conference, promoting the possibilities of visualisation to unravel the hidden urban fabrics and provide insights for urban decision making processes. Out of this initial competition grew a series of scientific workshops, more competitions and exhibitions of state of the art urban visualisation work from around the globe.

The human-centric perspective

While CityVis is also about the technologies we use to create novel visualisation concepts, our biggest interest lies in the human-centric perspective of urban data visualisation and how we can account for those perspectives and, thereby, create better visualisations.

As part of the CityVis workshops, we have been exploring together, as a community, various aspects of those perspectives. As a result we created a framework to help us further explore this field of visualisation work (published at PacificVis 2021).

Evolving Topics and Themes
While the human-centric perspective remained the focus of all our workshops, the subthemes changed throughout the years:
  • W1: People, Data, Technology and Applications
  • W2: The Role of the Citizen(s)
  • W3: Visualizing Energy Resilient Cities
  • W4: Underneath the Smart City
Considerations for CityVis Designers
The workshop series has allowed us as a community to collectively reflect on goals and challenges within the emerging domain of urban data visualization. Throughout those workshops 10 overarching themes materialized:
  • C1: Data Quality & Quantity
  • C2: Physical Context and Infrastructure
  • C3: Complexity and Interconnections
  • C4: Availability and Accessibility
  • C5: Standards for Tools and Tech
  • C6: Appropiate Visualization and Data Choice
  • C7: Outreach and Engagement
  • C8: Inclusivit and Diversity
  • C9: Data and Visual Literacy
  • C10: Citizen Trust
Towards a CityVis Design Space
CityVis designers must be familiar with the needs of a wide range of urban data users. We argue that better understanding of these users, as the audience of the visualization, is central to the design space. To help designers consider their diverse perspectives, we propose a design space for urban visualization applications with five interweaving dimensions:
  • D1: Information Literacy
  • D2: Task Complexity
  • D3: Generalization
  • D4: Transparency
  • D5: Context of Use

The Considerations and Dimensions are strongly interconnected and show the importance of the human-centric perspective for better urban visualisation design:

CityVis Framework Dimensions & Considerations

For further information on the themes and dimensions, please read the paper.

Join CityVis

We are an open community that tries to go beyond traditional visualisation domains and welcome everyone who works on or with urban visualisations to join us. You can publish your projects as use cases in our collection, submit scientific papers to our workshops or even organise your own workshop or host an exhibition from the CityVis collection. If you want to get involved, please don't hestiate getting in touch.