The Course for Human-Centered Design is a seven-week course that introduces anyone wishing to participate in a team project to the concept of Human-Centered Design and how this approach can be used to create innovative, effective, and sustainable solutions for social change. I decided to form my own team and took on the seven week challenge as an extra-curricular work activity.

Our team
The course is structured over seven weeks (in three phases, namely: Inspiration, Ideation and Implementation). I formed the team using the online IDEO platform, and in our first week our team (Rui, Zixi and I) met up and followed the process to frame our own design challenge. Lisa joined us two weeks later.

What we did

We decided to focus on an issue which was close to home – and something we all felt affected us – public transportation. The topic we finally settled on was “How can we promote creativity (in London), to people on their way in to work (on public transport) ?”

Our team would meet once weekly, on weekends or after work/study hours. The first part of the process was to get our Assumptions & Prior knowledge recorded. We did this individually, and came to the next meeting with notes to discuss. As we defined and discussed the areas we knew about, it highlighted the areas that we felt we needed to do more research on. During the project we carried out interviews with users and experts, in-context and analogous observation, group knowledge assimilation and synthesis.

Methods

Next, we chose the Research methods we would use from the toolkit, and went out in the field to do the work. The interviews were one of the highlights of the project, and included “Open, general” questions and “Go deep” questions.

For example – a typical “Open” question would be: “How do you usually travel in to work” – but a “Go deep” question would be “If you could travel in to work in any way imaginable, how would you do it?”

… this gave us insights into not only the practical aspects of our users commute, but also allowed them to explore the question creatively, while giving us their feedback.

Research

We interviewed a variety of stakeholders – “Experts” and people who worked at Tube and Train stations. This was accompanied by observation sessions (In-Context and Analogous) at various locations (tube and train stations, bus stops, a GP Surgery, Restaurants, Bars, Gyms and Coffee-shops).

We then got together again as a group and described each interview to the other members of the team – noting the ‘main’ points on post-it notes. We also received insights from some of the Experts we had interviewed – such as a Kindergarten teacher. These insights were incredibly useful throughout the project. We found that by applying this concept and having someone actively drawing, it encouraged more participation from the public. We would plan to hire real artists to work on the project if it was taken past the prototype stage.

Inspiration phase –  Findings

During this process we noticed common themes emerging...
• Nature and the outdoors were highly desired elements, which were very much desired from people (in general)

• Relationships between experimentation and inhibition

• Effects of time and overcrowding on commuters

• Commuters had different ways of relaxing, keeping themselves occupied and de-stressing (pre and post commute)

• These often involved creativity or creative solutions

Ideation phase


From these insights, we formed our “How might we…” questions. 
We used these five questions as fuel for a creative brainstorm.

Some of the ideas had already been forming in our minds during the interview process, and the problem-statements were really useful in focusing the brainstorming and tying it to the research. We followed a democratic voting process to whittle down the best ideas, and chose a top three. This was definitely the most enjoyable part of the process, but it was really tough to let some of the ideas go.

We settled on the winner: The Big Art Wall.

The ‘Big Art Wall’ is a large scale, interactive wall space in tube/train stations (or possibly other public spaces) which encourages commuters to draw/write on the wall enabling them to be part of a collective and creative experience with other commuters and commissioned celebrity/ local artists.

Storyboarding, prototyping, testing and observation

Storyboarding

We identified eight sections within our storyboard, which describe the variety of possible interactions our users would have with our prototype, and the phases the prototype would go through, namely: Awareness, Initial use, Interaction, Social media sharing, Re-use/recycle, Display work, “End of Day” projection and Replacing art-boards.

We chose to protoype the “Initial use” phase of our storybord as we wanted to find out if the idea would actually be welcomed by commuters, or if they would be too shy/busy/uninterested to participate in the project.

Prototyping

We chose to prototype on a large white sheet of paper and provided colourful pens (attached with string to the wall) for people to draw with.


The prototype was designed to be in four quadrants of a circle – each quadrant having less and less drawing “guidance” for users: 1st quadrant lots of more detailed drawing started; 2nd quadrant some drawing and lots of “join the dots”; 3rd quadrant more abstract “join the dots”; 4th quadrant completely blank for free drawing.


Concentric circles were drawn in to provide additional guidance. We were inspired by artists such as Henri Rosseau and Wassily Kandinsky – as they often painted nature and natural subjects in colourful, often abstracted ways.

Testing prototype

We tested the prototype at Old Street Station in Shoreditch, London. This was because of the proximity of the station to our workshopping location, as well as the fact that the station is in Central London – which meant there would be plenty of foot traffic.

We spent one hour testing – from 17:40 until 18:50, and noted down any activities in an observation spreadsheet. We would wait until commuters were finished drawing, often walking away, and then ask them some open questions about what they liked about the experiment and why they chose to participate (they were unaware of the observation taking place as we were a distance away while this was happening).

Final findings

Commuter comments

What we learnt from interviewing the participants and observing was that overall, they thought the prototype was fun, different and unusual.

  • The ‘Join the Dots’ area was very popular, and was filled out first.
    People thought it was unexpected (at a station).
  • Younger participants were interested in engaging & took ‘selfies’ with their work and photos of other people’s contributions – confirming our idea of having a social media campaign (with hashtags and the images being broadcast on screens at stations for people to admire/spot etc.)
  • People stopped almost immediately when there was someone else drawing already.

This strengthened the idea of having a ‘resident’ artist drawing (and getting people more involved/ giving unsaid ‘permission’ to draw). One of the improvements that we could focus on would be to try and engage older members of the public – as we found our main participants were between their early 20’s to 30’s.

Project Findings

• Although many commuters had a natural desire to try new things, be creative and share experiences with others on public transport, they tended to prefer catching up with themselves and being reflective first thing.

• The ‘Big Art Wall’ is a large scale, interactive wall space which allows commuters to choose to be creative and interact in small doses – how and when they wish – on their journey, whilst maintaining the time they need to be personally reflective.

• Art work inspired by nature can also be implemented on the ‘Big Art Wall’ space as research showed that commuters find their best journeys are those which enabled some kind of interaction with nature.

• The idea has potential to be developed further

Research Presentation
We received the following feedback from NovoEd

We are not only very impressed by the quality of the final project, but we also think that your team had epitomized how collaborative learning can be extremely effective when done right. We think your team did fantastically well to achieve this level of awesome.

Gloria ChuaNovoEd/IDEO, Product Designer and Course Administrator