Contributing to a healthy balance between our physical and digital lives, by enriching our cities and public spaces with novel and innovative interactions and experiences. Spaces aims to create physical social media, a medium for people to connect face-to-face.

Robbe Nagel
Technische Universiteit Eindhoven
Industrial Design

Over het initiatief / About the initiative


In welke fase zit jouw initiatief? / In what stage is your initiative?


Heb je jouw initiatief al gevalideerd? / Did you validate your initiative?

Yes, we have done our first guerrilla test back in May. We took place at 18 Septemberplein in Eindhoven with a stand where any bypassing person could add one song to the queue. This resulted in an afternoon filled with varied music and people hanging out through this interaction.

Meer informatie over jouw initiatief / More info about your initiative

In the past two decades, we have started to live increasingly digitized lives thanks to the invention of the Internet and social media. This development has brought us great fortunes, such as more access to information, resources, opportunities, and people than ever before. However, considering societal issues of the past few years, we must admit that this digitization has also contributed to new challenges and threats. Misinformation, manipulation, polarization, and even loneliness and depression are some that can be named here. And with the introduction of the Metaverse, it becomes clear that the monolithic tech giants of today envision futures that are only more digitized.

At Spaces, we are charmed by the beauty and potential that lies in our physical world. A world that has, in comparison to the digital, seen too little innovation in how it can strengthen its social fabrics. Especially in our public spaces that, although significantly improved, offer little to engage with. This is a terrible loss because there is simply something about being in the actual presence of others that cannot be replaced by an Internet connection.

Therefore, we believe in contributing to a healthy balance between our physical and digital lives.

There are countless ways in which this belief can be addressed. But ours is very simple. We want to take the things that millions of people already love doing online today (such as connecting with familiar and unfamiliar people and sharing photos, music, and ideas) and offer these interactions in a physical environment (city centers, public spaces, parks, campuses, festival & events, etc.). In short, physical social media. We do this by using the growing trend of pop-up locations. These small (in our designs 4×4 or 4×3 meters) constructions offer us a dynamic business operation where our ‘experience shops’ can be easily and quickly installed, taken apart, stored, and transported to more desirable locations.

To give an example of a possible physical social media experience: imagine a pop-up location where, on the walls, there are a few dozen screens of various sizes. Everyone who enters is allowed to share 2 or 3 pictures. The result is an ever-changing gallery of photos, collectively created by all the people who are inside. Thus becoming an appealing alternative to the likes of Instagram. Instead of engaging with photos and other people through a smartphone screen and simple like-buttons, Spaces offers a whole new way of witnessing your own photos and of talking about those photos and those of others. This is merely one example of what Spaces experiences could entail.

The underlying end goal is to give people the opportunity to connect meaningfully with people. If online social media is about how you appear on the outside, then physical social media is about who you are on the inside. And maybe, just maybe, it can show people that for as much as we appear to be different, we are just as much the same.

One question that is often asked is how this initiative ought to make revenue to sustain itself. We foresee two possible business models. One is business to business, where organizations such as large companies, festivals, universities, and municipalities pay for a monthly subscription for a Spaces lease, where we will provide them with a Spaces experience shop of their choice. The other is more experimental, though if successful better fit for scalable growth – business to customer. Here we focus on gaining revenue through the direct users of our experiences in the form of ‘pay-what-you-want’. Meaning that nobody is forced to pay, but everybody is free to pay whatever amount they see fit. There is one catch with this business model: we set a minimum monthly revenue for each experience shop. If this amount is not reached for two consecutive months, the pop-up is relocated. We believe this can incentivize people who enjoy Spaces and see it as an added value to their neighborhood or city, to make a monetary contribution.

Regarding our lack of a website: we are currently choosing to keep Spaces under the radar as much as possible until a more ideal moment. That is why we do not have a website yet.

Wat zijn jouw volgende stappen om het verder te ontwikkelen? / What are your next steps to develop the initiative?

Currently, we are looking forward to the Dutch Design Week 2022 to place our first proof-of-concept pop-up stand, which will expose our project to a large audience, hopefully gaining valuable feedback and new connections with possible partners. In order to deliver a product of quality during this event, we are currently busy building relevant partnerships in the Eindhoven region (including municipality, design and tech companies, and investors), planning out our development process, and considering new team members to help in the realization phase. Meanwhile, throughout this summer, we will execute small tests like the one described above to validate our assumptions.

If we look past the Dutch Design Week, then we will have hopefully gained enough insight into the nature of our business and enough traction to make an appealing offer to an investor or other funding options. With a budget to further develop Spaces, our aim is to create a more formal team and partner structure and to develop new pop-up experiences that are ready to be deployed in the spring and summer of 2023. If this period has shown promise, we hope to take on an even larger investment to refine our design and manufacturing for a scale-up of our operations.

Wat heb je nodig om (nog meer) impact te maken met dit initiatief? / What do you need to make (more) impact with this initiative?

Besides the obvious need for more budget to allow ourselves more experimentation and options, our biggest needs are; talented people (preferably students or recent graduates) in the fields of design, engineering, manufacturing, business, finance, and marketing to increase our pace of development and our perspectives on Spaces in general; and an official work site to create closer ties within the team and to provide the room to prototype and construct.

Additionally, because our initiative is so much related to city well-being, having municipalities (especially Gemeente Eindhoven) as official partners can help a great deal in making more impact. Gaining monetary help, access to the vast networks of municipalities, and eased routes to placing our pop-ups in public spaces can fasten our pace towards impact.