Designstrategy @ DCA

Various colorful circular lines mesh into each other on a white background.

Under the Marketing, Development, Design, and Digital Research Division, Designstrategy@DCA is a program that creates organizational and strategic solutions bringing together culture, data, and technology for the purpose of increasing arts access and sustainability in Los Angeles. Using data analytics and design thinking, this program develops human-centered municipal arts strategy and service design prototypes. It also promotes the public sharing of arts data and information as a means to improve the region’s arts ecosystem.

Designstrategy@DCA has four core objectives, each with projects listed below:

      Impact Analytics       Civic Engagement
      Preservation | Digitization       Service Design

Read below to learn more about each project. Questions about Designstrategy@DCA? Contact Digital Strategist Umi Hsu at 

1. Neighborhood Arts Profile

Data map of the City of Los Angeles.

DCA is currently developing the Neighborhood Arts Profile (NAP), a research tool to help DCA locate where  there are areas of concentration and scarcity of infrastructural support for cultural assets and activities. The goal of this project is to identify opportunities where DCA can make a more of a difference in improving cultural life of neighborhoods throughout LA. This pursuit of neighborhood-level insights will eventually inform DCA’s place-based strategy toward building city-wide cultural vibrancy.

The Youth Arts Profile is the youth component of the Neighborhood Arts Profile. The data-driven platform aims to advance policy regarding youth arts education and equity in Los Angeles. Specifically, the Youth Arts Profile will 1) increase accessibility and actionability of data on youth learning and community wellbeing; and 2) catalyze cross-sectoral efforts to advance arts equity for youth in neighborhoods across Los Angeles. The prototype phase of the NAP is supported by Stuart Foundation.

In the media:

2. Arts Datathon

Datathon participants (left to right), Patrick Varon, Nisa Karnsomport, Mark Seldis (back turned), Cynthia Luján, and Tahnee Cadrez, sitting mid discussion.
Datathon participants (left to right): Patrick Varon, Nisa Karnsomport, Mark Seldis (back turned), Cynthia Luján, and Tahnee Cadrez


DCA convened the Arts Datathon, the first of its kind in the nation, inviting the public to explore the use of data in improving access to the arts in the Los Angeles region in 2017, in partnership with Los Angeles County Arts Commissionin. In one day, the event drew over 150 participants and crowd-sourced data-informed cultural strategies and programs. 11 projects of apps and services built on existing data were prototyped and shared publicly. As a result, DCA acquired 33 datasets that will be instrumental in the department’s development of the Neighborhood Arts Profile.

This convening demonstrated a model for City-County data partnership with between DCA and Los Angeles County Arts Commission and initiated efforts toward regionwide data governance in Los Angeles.

Arts Datathon 2.0: Collections will focus on collections data, offering participants several different tracks to work on projects related to civic art, street art, veterans memorabilia, music, and much more. It is scheduled for April 27, 2018.

In the media:


3. Cultural Data and Archives

Rendering of the cycle of participatory cultural asset data creation in the Promise Zone Arts initiative. Going from 1 to 9, it starts at Promise Zone Designation, followed by cultural micro communities, a questionnaire, fieldwork, data creation, committee feedback, multimedia storytelling, website production, and public sharing. The cycle of participatory cultural asset data creation in the Promise Zone Arts initiative


DCA stewards art collections and cultural archives for the purpose of promoting and managing the City’s Public Art, Grants, Community Arts, historic preservation, and curation programs. DCA is currently developing digital collections to preserve historical and cultural data that are critical to the City’s civic and intellectual history. The agency is committed to making these records publicly available and searchable.

Hollyhock House Digital Archive: DCA is developing a digital archive related to the management and preservation of the Hollyhock House. This project is digitizing and preserving a subset of the 100+ historic documents including blueprints, sketches, and photographs related to the House.

Hollyhock House Virtual Accessibility Experience (VAE): A joint effort between DCA and the Department on Disability, with funding from the City’s Innovation and Performance Commission, this project is using virtual reality 360 photography system to document and preserve the historic building with high quality and resolution 3D images of Hollyhock House. The VR tour program, when completed, will increase the accessible area of the house by 210% with a platform agnostic user experience that complies to ADA and 508 accessibility standards.

DCA Publications: DCA is creating a digital library containing digital and downloadable versions of DCA’s publications including notable arts books, cultural guides, and exhibition catalogs featuring Los Angeles contemporary art, public art, community arts, murals, historic architecture and preservation, since the agency’s inception in 1925.

Promise Zone Arts (PZA) Database: The PZA cultural asset database is a repository of all the stories, interactive maps, and downloadable data related to the Cultural Treasures nominated by residents through a participatory research process. This unique set of downloadable cultural and community-sourced data spotlight 198 artists, sites, cultural practices, and tradition bearers that residents deem significant.

In the media:

4. Data Science Federation

DCA collaborates with the City’s Data Science Federation to develop and prototype new data-informed practices and systems. The Data Science Federation is a partnership between the City of Los Angeles and Los Angeles area colleges and universities to tackle tough city problems. Working with the Data Science Federation, DCA is improving its business intelligence, program evaluation, and foundation for data-informed decision making.

DCA has worked with faculty and students from University of Southern California Marshall School of Business, Claremont Graduate University’s Information Systems Program, and California State University Dominguez Hill’s Computer Science Department.

Projects include:

  • Public Art Dashboard, a business intelligence tool that tracks the status of public art projects
  • Cultural Events Analytics, measuring LA’s cultural vibrancy based cultural event numbers, geography, and access (part of Neighborhood Arts Profile)

5. Open Data and Open Source

DCA is committed to extending our expertise and sharing the tools we use in the digital commons. Sharing our tools, data assets, and practice, we encourage our colleagues in the field to repurpose and further develop our work with the mindset to cultivate sustainability of the greater arts and cultural ecosystem.

The department works in concert with the City’s Chief Data Officer to contribute datasets to the City’s open data portal. In addition, DCA open sources software tools and digital practices through the City’s Github account. Within the last year, the department has released the front-end WordPress theme code of the department’s website and created a repository of datasets compiled for the Arts Datathon. We also keep a versioned repository of our Social Media Guidelines and Policy on the open web.

DCA on Github

6. Lab at DCA

Rendering of Lab at DCA: images of documents lead to folder, computers and office workers.


Lab at DCA is a staff incubator designed to meet the demands of 21st century municipal arts administration. The Lab aims to cultivate agency-wide digital literacy and inspire sustainable service design. Through a project-based curriculum guided by actual department needs, members of the Lab prototype new modes of public service and civic engagement and foster collaborative opportunities across divisions.

Through the Lab, DCA staff have developed the following: a prototype for an online grants administration system, an interactive map for the first CURRENT:LA Public Art Triennial, and an initial design of a new artist-in-residence program embedding artists within City programs. The content and design of the Lab are licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0 and shared online to encourage thought exchange and contribute to DCA’s public mission.

Top image by Re-Dock, CC Public Domain Mark 1.0 license.

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