The emergence of a networked society generates transformations in the dynamic interactions of people impacting cultural and service systems. A location can provide different individual and collective meanings, perceptions, and experiences to different people. However, it is unclear how urban actors can collect, measure, and operationalise such place-based knowledge. Thus, this work addresses the Social-Design Modes theme from the IASDR community, rethinking how urban actors can interpret place-based knowledge from a given community. This research evaluates the potential of an exploratory method involving photo-based storytelling to unpack key factors associated with a place. Geographic Information Systems support the approach in order to transfer complex subjective experiences into simple and unique geographical representations. We provide empirical evidence of how this method operationalises individual and collective place-based knowledge through two study cases. This method merges design with the ‘social’ to respond to pressing social questions by urban actors. The methodological implication sencountered through this process may act as guidelines to inform practitioners in related fields and other areas of knowledge.