Urban Design

01 mobiles graz foto max wegscheidler 2021

Mobile Graz

Photo: Max Wegscheidler

Research associate

Annika Storch

​​Student assistant

Lea Bernhard



DML Design Institute for Mobility and Logistics

Research projects

  • DZSF Station of the Future (2022-2025)

  • LOEWE research cluster Infrastructure –Design– Society (2018-2022)
  • HMWEVW Sustainable mobility in subsidized housing construction (2019–2021)
  • HOLM CogDes (2019–2020)
  • BMBF InterMoDe I (2019–2021)
  • HOLM EmotDes (2021-2022)
  • HOLM AI Lab Trust (2021–2022)
  • BMBF InterMoDe II (2021–2024)

Doctoral candidates

Ruth Duma-Coman

Improvisation, Urban Design and Migration

Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Kai Vöckler, Prof. Heiner Blum

Daniel Gurka

Intuitive Interaction in Virtual Reality

Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Kai Vöckler, Prof. Peter Eckart

Annalena Kluge

Pattern-Based Frameworks for Communicating Planning, Design and Actioning-related Recommendations

Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Kai Vöckler, Prof. Peter Eckart

Julian Schwarze

Product Semantics and Mobility

Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Kai Vöckler, Prof. Peter Eckart

Information on the PhD course

Urban Design

Urban design focuses on designing processes in space. It looks at the interaction between acting people and objects, information and the indoor/outdoor spaces that surround them, along with extensions to the latter in the form of digitized, virtual environments. Human-centered spatial design is systemic and draws on a number of different disciplines, while the teaching uses various methods to analyze and research design and architecture. Findings from perception and environmental psychology as well as cognitive science are taken into account, as is research from the social and behavioral sciences, and are incorporated for clarification of the design task. The aim is to design spaces that facilitate access for users, positively influence their experiences, and support the formation of spatial identity. The theory of product language developed at HfG Offenbach is incorporated here and expanded to include the ecological approach.


Spatial Design I (Perception and Space)

In the perception of spatial environments, formal-aesthetic aspects of structuring play an important role: How are objects and information positioned? How is the surrounding space structured? How are they experienced in movement, in an active, exploratory perception? How does design help to foster the legibility of the spaces (orientation) and to cultivate a positive feeling (self-location)? The focus is on the perception of spatial structure, and an overview is given of the design-related influencing factors, whereby the relationship between human and space takes center stage.

Spatial Design II (Action and Space)

In the use of objects and spaces, learned and unconsciously exercised bodily techniques play a key role. How, in design terms, can the immediate “handling” of space-forming objects be made easier? How can intuitive access and thus a direct and trouble-free use of spaces be achieved? The design of offerings in the form of action-related informations (indicating signs/affordances) is coupled with information in the form of communication: pictorial and written signs that serve for orientation and understanding and which expand the information space on a digital basis. Action-related and communication-based information helps to structure and divide up spaces, while design decisions make access and usage, legibility and self-orientation easier and better. The focus here is on the interaction with objects and information in the movement within the space.

Spatial Design III (Process and Space)

The movement of people within spaces takes shape in dynamic sequences of interactions, the complexity of which poses a particular challenge for design. Be it on foot, by bicycle, alone or with others in a train, bus or car: on pavements and roads, in buildings or in squares, or even in transitional places such as railway stations – how can design decisions positively influence behavior and perceptions in these very different spaces in a process of movement? On top of this, aside from the functional influencing factors (access, usability, recognizability and legibility, orientation), the socio-economic factors (quality of time and experience in the space, subjective safety, privacy and sociality, self-determination) must also be taken into account in the design in order to facilitate unhindered access and to formulate a spatial offering that forges identity. With the increasing overlapping of the physical, analog space with algorithmic environments, the digitally based expansion of the information and communication space must also be taken into account. This expands the task of design to include environmental design and thus a conceptually and systematically oriented design approach.

Research Focus on Mobility

Driving is becoming less and less fun: Commutes are ever busier, traffic jams ever longer, and finding a parking space ever more tortuous… But this is about to change, because we are on the verge of a qualitative shift in the way we move around. With digital availability (mobile internet via smartphone), new and intelligent forms of mobility are becoming possible: In the future, we will be able to easily configure different modes of transport according to our needs (networked and multimodal mobility). The smooth and secure transition from one form of mobility to another and thus the use of different modes of transport on one route could be direct and flexible in future (intermodal mobility). This simplifies the use of public as well as communal forms of transport (sharing). My journey requirements and preferences are things I will decide directly and however I want. Facilitating this new freedom of mobility requires not only a problem-free interaction of the different mobility offerings and modes of transport, but also a comprehensive design of the mobility spaces in which the users move, including in mobile use of the internet. This concerns not only the functional-practical correlations, but essentially also the emotional factors: Do I feel comfortable? Do I feel safe? It is the needs of the different users that must be taken into account in the design of the new, environmentally friendly mobility offerings. This is where design research at HfG Offenbach comes in.

This must be considered against the background of economy and society within the Rhine-Main region, which are essentially determined by processes and systems of mobility. Climate change and scarcity of resources, but also the steadily increasing volume of traffic increase the urgency with which researchers all over the world are trying to find new solutions for mobility in urban areas. Accordingly, one of the future tasks of design will be the development of innovative methods and specific tools and strategies to positively promote sustainable, future-proof projects in the field of mobility, to make them more efficient and more visible, and thus to boost acceptance among the population. Scientific areas of action such as traffic planning, mobility research in relation to social science, cognitive psychology, architecture and communication technology are combined with design research on the topic of mobility within the research focus.

The Design Institute for Mobility and Logistics (DML) located at the department is dedicated to these topics and their scientific exploration. Its initiators are Prof. Peter Eckart, Prof. Georg-Christof Bertsch and Prof. Dr. Kai Vöckler. Numerous research projects have been carried out within this thematic area since 2014.


Mobilität sichtbar machen (“Making Mobility Visible”)

The central problem in the Rhine-Main region, as in Graz and its surrounding area, is the use of private cars (motorized individual transport). In the Rhine-Main conurbation, motor vehicle traffic accounts for the highest proportion of harmful gas emissions, far ahead of aviation, industry and commerce or even buildings. The number of individually used vehicles is growing continuously and overloading the roads. What’s more, transport has contributed nothing to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the last 20 years. Added to this is the burden on people and the environment from noise, particulate matter, stress and land sealing.

The seminar explored the question: How can the complex correlations of spatial mobility with its effects on people and the environment be visualized so that they become comprehensible (infographics)? Basic information on mobility in Germany and the region as well as the connection between traffic and environmental pollution was explored and visualized.

Workshop in Graz: In an online workshop, the principles developed were adapted to the circumstances in Austria in cooperation with Fabian Walmüller (Stoiser Walmüller Architekten), with a focus on the greater Graz area. The circumstances of mobility in the central area of Graz and the aspects of Graz’s urban development associated with this were visualized. At the end of the workshop, the results were made available to the general public in the form of an exhibition at Club Hybrid. This exhibition also formed the backdrop for a discussion event on the final day of the workshop where experts and politicians gathered to discuss mobility strategies and scenarios for the central area of Graz.


Amélie Ikas, Leonard Neunzerling


Prof. Dr. Kai Vöckler


Fabian Walmüller, ​Stoiser Walmüller Architekten Vienna/Graz


Summer semester 2021

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Graphic: Leonard Neunzerling

Beweg Dein Quartier (“Move Your District”)

“Beweg Dein Quartier” aims to create more space for people, movement and encounters, boost quality of life, highlight mobility projects and try them out together with local people, bring together those involved, and create impulses for the climate-friendly mobility of the future. The seminar was part of the project “Beweg Dein Quartier” funded by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) (https://bewegdeinquartier.de).

While local people enter into a dialog with urbanista and CURE, developing ideas and trying out visions for the future, students at the Offenbach University of Art and Design took part in a seminar exploring the project area with the aim of finding new solutions. They worked on concepts that shape urban space as a place for coming together, for being mobile and active, for spending time and experiencing new things. We made walking and cycling a priority here, along with connections to public transport. At the same time, ergonomic and barrier-free routes, intuitive orientation and emotional security and wellbeing played a key role.

The overall project was coordinated by the urban development office urbanista, which boasts many years of experience in implementing participatory urban development projects, and the Center for Environmental Management, Resources and Energy (CURE) at the Ruhr University Bochum with experts in participation in climate and infrastructure issues. The City of Offenbach is involved as a partner in practice, while Offenbach University of Art and Design as research partner developed its own standalone contribution to the project with the seminar.


Jun Jin, Qianyi Cheng, Zhu Zhu


Prof. Dr. Kai Vöckler
Dipl. Des. Janina Albrecht


urbanista, Hamburg
CURE, Essen
City of Offenbach am Main


Summer semester 2021

20210420 seminar 2