We design for better urban living

We believe in a balanced and equitable approach to design and development, where communities have an active voice in shaping projects and benefit from their outcomes.

As a multidisciplinary team of practitioners in design, planning, and qualitative and quantitative research, we are uniquely positioned to research deeply with communities and translating community learnings into applicable insights for design. We develop and refine these early designs with our partners in planning, architecture, engineering, and construction, and bring them back to the community to prototype and refine further. This ultimately allows us to build places and conditions in the built environment that the communities see themselves in because we center people's lived experiences at each step of the way.

By taking the time to include all stakeholders in shaping the project approach—residents, cities, designers, and businesses—we can build urban ecosystems that are sustainable, resilient, and prosperous for all.


Qualitative and Quantitative
Community Research
Ethnographic Research
Prototyping + Validation
Community Co-creation
Future Scenarios

Project types

Architecture & Planning
Urban Development
Public Space Studies
Environmental Design
Experience Design
Service Design
Organizational Design
Communication Design

Design outcomes

Insights and Opportunities
Design Guidelines
Design Concepts and Direction
Service Blueprints

The story of our name

Openbox takes its name from the story of Henry “Box” Brown, a man who escaped slavery in 1849 by mailing himself to freedom. Henry used one nationally-run system—the US Postal Service—to subvert another: the nationally-oppressive system of slavery. At Openbox, we remain in awe of his creative bravery and inspiring life story.

The story illustrated in Henry's Freedom Box, a book by Kadir Nelson and Ellen Levine