Through critical observation


Through critical observation

Our Mission


  • Transform how our cities evolve using visual storytelling
  • Encourage participation by a diversity of voices
  • Promote equitable policies, plans, and decisions

Visual imagery is a powerful, necessary tool to observe and interpret cities. It sets aside academic jargon that saturates our discussions of cities, and provides a universal language for all.

Chuck Wolfe

Founder and Principal Advisor


“What, and how, we see defines the structure and context of urban identity.”

From the new London office of Seeing Better Cities Group, Chuck Wolfe reflects in Crosscut about the unique features of Seattle, his hometown.
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SBC Principles Anchor Australian Urban Thinkers Campus Sessions

A June 28, 2018 Planetizen article describes how, as a Fulbright Specialist, Chuck Wolfe worked with James Cook University faculty to anchor community consultation, related action plans, and outcomes by engagement of stakeholders and local governments in Cairns and...
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Seeing the Better City Shortlisted for UK National Design Award

Seeing the Better City, which is the foundation of many of the SBC Group's principles of practice, was a shortlisted Finalist for a 2018 National Urban Design Award in the United Kingdom.  The winner was announced on March 8, 2018. See more at the UK Urban Design...
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“I see cities united in a search for context…”

Chuck Wolfe reflects on reconciling global forces and local context in cities across three continents in a December 17 Planetizen exclusive. A Portuguese version also appears in Revista Smart Cities,...
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Portuguese Media Features SBC Group

See a Porto Canal television clip and a Município da Guarda television production associated with SBC Group presentations and related "urban diary" walks during a week-long Portugal...
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Our Services


Chuck participates in regular speaking engagements, panels, and keynotes at events around the world. He speaks about transportation, density, affordability, public space, urban observation methods, and more. His speaking engagements are often paired with guided explorations around the host city or surrounding neighborhoods.


The first step in improving your city is knowing what is already there. Chuck facilitates group explorations of urban spaces affected by plans, policies, or other factors like rapid growth. These explorations show how to:

  • Analyze past, present, and future realities for a place
  • Visually document what you observe
  • Assess impacts of change
  • Use images to influence decision-making

Participants use Chuck’s Urban Diary tool during these explorations to observe and document what they find.


The Seeing Better Cities Group (SBC) team has extensive experience in land use law, urban policy and planning, and building livable cities. We help decision makers create informed plans, policies, and community involvement strategies for diverse populations, as well as provide advice on apps, platforms, and visual assessment techniques. We also collaborate with civic entrepreneurs and other placemaking innovators on urban policy and related initiatives.

Our approach is distinguished by our emphasis on visual narratives that promote inclusiveness, awareness, and diversity for everyone, not just the most powerful and privileged.


The Urban Diary Tool

The Urban Diary tool was developed by Chuck Wolfe to observe and document the cities in which we live, through photographs, sketches, or notes that catalog the influences of neighborhood dynamics, public transportation, and other elements that impact city life.  The Urban Diary uses the LENS method (Look, Explore, Narrate, and Summarize) introduced by Chuck in his two books, Seeing the Better City and Urbanism Without Effort.

Read “A Visual Tool for Guiding Urban Change”