Cebraton sees cities walk tall

Project Coordinator, Annie Marrs heads to fellow City of Design Puebla, Mexico where a bid to improve road safety for pedestrians illustrates how design can change lives.

I recently had the good fortune to visit our fellow design city Puebla, in central Mexico to attend the sub-network meeting of design cities. As part of our visit, The UNESCO City of Design team at the Innovation and Design Commission of Puebla, Mexico invited every other design city to take part in their Cebraton.

We often talk about how good design can change people’s lives but this project in Puebla is an excellent example of design doing just that. The Cebraton is a project to paint pedestrian crossings, or crosswalks. In Puebla, and indeed across Mexico, drivers have a habit of ignoring some basic rules of the road and that includes respecting pedestrian crossings. As a pedestrian in Mexico I personally experienced the challenges around understanding where was safe to cross, when was safe to cross and which bit exactly was the road and which was footpath!

This project consists of painting the crosswalks with a brightly coloured or patterned graphic. Firstly highlighting the delineation between footpath and road, then secondly contributing towards making the surrounding area a better place to be. It is the perfect example of using art alongside urban design to contribute to improving road safety and saving lives.

International collaborations and learnings are at the heart of the UNESCO City of Design network and this project presented the opportunity for every city to submit a design. A team of over 100 students from design schools and universities along with members of the surrounding community hand painted every design in the Amparo Foundation Park in a residential area of the downtown of the city. In true design city style, every city contributed a crossing for the project and the team of volunteers spent a weekend transferring them from paper to pavement!

Some of the volunteers and students who painted the crossing pictured with the UNESCO City of Design representatives. 

Here in Dundee we invited designer Louise Kirby to create our cities crossing. She uses illustrations and colours from her new collection – Dundee Delights. Louise’s Dundee Delights illustrations use the patterns, colours, shapes and surfaces found in and on iconic Dundee places and objects. Her decorative style is inspired by pattern and retains a hand drawn quality which adds uniqueness to each image. Her pedestrian crossing design uses the pattern from the top of a Dundee Cake to create half sun type shapes and the team in Puebla did an outstanding job of matching the design and it’s colours to ensure that the final piece was as close to the original drawing as possible.

Detail from Louise Kirby’s design, representing Dundee. 

The team from Puebla took visiting cities out to the crossings at the end of a day of meetings. When we arrived at the streets there was already a large gathering of volunteers, members of the community and even some traffic police waiting for us! Together we took a tour of each crossing (in alphabetical order of course!) with representatives talking the ‘first walk’ on their own crossing.


Luis González Arenal, Innovation & Design Commissioner, Puebla UNESCO City of Design takes the first walk on Puebla’s crossing.

Putting the finishing touches to the crossing as members of the network look on

Of course the crossings had already be used and we could see the dusty footsteps and tyre marks that proved this was not only a stunning art project but also an effective intervention. The project was a very tangible way to communicate more about the cities UNESCO City of Design designation to communities whom it can help the most.

In Dundee, if we want to create a city centre which is appealing and encourages people to spend their time exploring our city on foot then we need to balance the use of our city centre between cars and pedestrians to slow down traffic. So, let’s use our network and learn from Puebla.

Annie Marrs, Project Coordinator UNESCO City of Design Dundee


First published in Dundee Courier, Design For Life Column, Weekend supplement, 2nd December 2017. Thanks for fellow cities for use of photos.