City Limits: Top 10

A look back at our favourite picks from Crowd DNA’s City Limits series – now celebrating its 10th issue – and the cultural insights that are still playing out in urban life…

It’s a truism that cities move at a uniquely fast pace. For our ongoing City Limits reports about what’s happening in urban scenes around the world, our writers, videographers and researchers report on those fast-moving moments in (almost) real time.

The Crowd DNA team has produced these reports since 2018, bringing data to life with cultural stories, infographics, trends features, video and case studies. We’ve done issues focused on themes like mobility, the night economy, and small cities, and our tenth report has just been released on the LA sports scene ahead of two major sporting events in the city.

City Limits LA Sports download it here.

The video launch of the City Limits series in 2018

It’s a great time to look back on the City Limits series, to jump off from the stories and think about where the trends, passion points and emerging cultures are moving next. After all, some have become even bigger than we might have expected. Here’s our top ten articles from over the years…


1.Our first issue in November 2018 put the spotlight on how brands can combat urban loneliness. Research was showing that people experienced it more living in cities – and still do. We looked at how we are Living Alone, Together and where the urban empty spaces are being used as a backdrop to tell stories about the contemporary human experience in entertainment and branding.


2.We took a ride into the future of urban mobility for our second issue (Dec, 2018). Nearly five years later, and cities have really embraced multimodality. We have so many ways of getting from A to B today – with e-scooters, e-bikes, e-mopeds, and car-sharing. The issue also included an exploration of migration and urban movement, and how culture and brands are telling this story, from mapping diversity to social healing.


3.Our City Limits reports are also an opportunity to look backwards, as we did in an article in our third issue on Youth (March, 2019). Subcultures & The City chronicled where and how youth culture has claimed space over five decades, in swimming pools or whole districts. We also talk to young people in London and New York about their everyday – and how it might look in their tomorrows…


4.There are subjects that we feel compelled to return to, too. Our fourth City Limits about Solutions for a better future explored the divisive issues that impact on city culture – and still do. We analysed five cities around the world and what they are doing to reduce the damage done by the negative effects of gentrification: sustainable, affordable and community-led initiatives.


5.And of course we talk to people. Lots of people. In 2019, we interviewed Millennial Volunteers to find out what the new generation of volunteers care about, and what motivates them to give up their time: like Courtnee – who gives her time to the Hackney Night Shelter and speaks to a resurgence in volunteering in the UK – and who lives by the motto, ‘be the change you want to see’.



6.Our cities have seen a lot of change since we began the series – no more so than the last three following the pandemic. Yet research for our sixth issue on Retail Therapy in 2021 led us to heartening stories. One of this was how local has become so important, so we spoke to retailers in cities across APAC to hear what lessons ‘big’ brands can learn from the ‘little’ guys.


7.The City Limits series is made with input from all our specialisms. In the fifth issue about the City At Night, our semiotics team looked at how a city cloaked in darkness provides a whole new world of signs and symbols for brands to play with, and the team decoded the semiotics of the night – mythical adventures, heightened senses and the cloak of darkness – used in campaigns.


8.We know that music is the cultural life blood of cities – but there is nuance to that. Back in 2021, the seventh issue explored how second tier cities create music scenes in Durban, Hobart and China’s ancient city of Xi’an – highlighting the challenger spirit of smaller cities, and how it’s where a new sound can size contributes to the way it can embed itself quickly.


9.In the eighth issue on Destination Cities (May 2021), we felt ready to take some stock on city experiences during the pandemic. One of our stories was about a brief window in the summer of 2021, when city dwellers found themselves ambling through the empty rooms of world-class galleries that normally pack in thousands of tourists a day. We asked: what are the lasting effects of this eerie interlude?




Cities are continually recreated by the people who live in them, and our ninth issue on Super Food told this through looking at how urban diasporas use the culture of food to create their home from home. And what drinks reveal about the spirit of cities around the world – from Cologne to La Crosse.


Thanks for reading, we’ve certainly enjoyed making these reports. And are excited to see where we’ll end up next…

Our outputs and stories are made to inspire and invite. It’s just one of the ways we create culturally charged commercial advantage. Contact to learn more.