Short courses


Urban Graphics 1: The City Footprint

  • 2 hours
  • No start date. Work at your own pace


In this free online course you'll learn how to create a figure-ground diagram - one of the simplest and most common diagrams used by built environment professionals, showing which land is covered by buildings and which is not.

You'll be introduced to Adobe Photoshop, or the open source alternative, GIMP, as they relate to urban graphics.

You can use a figure-ground diagram to analyse a place, or to explain the history of development in a compelling way. These diagrams are a highly effective way of showing simple patterns that lie behind urban complexity.

Course content and structure

During the course you'll learn to: 

  • create a figure-ground diagram
  • prepare professional drawings and documents 
  • communicate your ideas more effectively
  • design and plan more creatively

You'll be guided through specific exercises and provided with:

  • video-based introductions and tutorials
  • step-by-step written instructions on how to carry out each exercise
  • baseline material required for the exercise
  • a worked example

Who this course is for

This course is for students seeking a career in the built environment. It covers some of the essential skills you'll need before you start a course that involves design and planning.


No previous design, graphics or urban analytical experience are needed. 

Learning outcomes

This course will help you:

  • understand how to create a figure ground diagram using Adobe Photoshop (or GIMP)
  • create one of the simplest but most useful urban analytical diagrams
  • understand how programmes such as Adobe Photoshop (or GIMP) relate to urban graphics

Course team

Professor Matthew Carmona

Professor Matthew Carmona

Matthew is Professor of Planning & Urban Design at UCL’s Bartlett School of Planning. His research has focused on processes of design governance and on the design and management of public space. Matthew was educated at the University of Nottingham and is a chartered architect and planner. He has published widely in the areas of urban design, design policy and governance, housing design and development, measuring quality and performance in planning, the management of public space, and on design and planning processes in London.

David Chapman

David Chapman

David is a director of the planning and urban design consultancy Urban Design Skills. He is an urban design trainer and masterplanner, with specialisms in public realm and street design guidance, and negotiating planning and development projects. He is a teaching fellow at UCL and has been an external examiner at the University of Greenwich. His publications include (as co-author) 'From Design Policy to Design Quality'.

Course information last modified: 17 Mar 2022, 08:03