(Un)Urban Day 2 – Creative Wick, Human-Centred Design, & Feeling the Bern

The morning of the second day of (Un)Urban was centred around the theme of Urban Wellbeing and Public Health. This panel discussion featured two presentations, one by Oliver Dawkins (a PhD researcher from CASA) on the changing nature and use of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park since the end of its hosting, and one by Neil McElduff (from the London Office of Clinical Commissioning Groups) concerning public health, the development and greater purpose of the Ludwig Guttman Centre, and the greater impact of community schemes in areas such as the four ‘growth boroughs’ highlighted by the London Legacy Development Corporation. This led us neatly into our morning challenge: How can a creative agency best utilise community networks in order to perform at its best? The agency in question was Creative Wick, a “creative regeneration agency” active since 2013. Group 2’s answer to the challenge started with some necessary cynicism about Creative Wick’s online presence, but this led to more informed observations about how a creative agency ought to use technology, such as Twitter and online bookings, to improve its presence and impact in the local area. Additionally, more positive topics were discussed, including the possibility of Creative Wick working more closely with local artists and helping to make their warehouses into more open spaces for public exhibitions. Generally, it was a helpful session that will no doubt provide a springboard for the following week. Whether Creative Wick can break 200 Twitter followers, however, remains to be seen.

After what Hannah Sender famously declared to be “the longest lunch break you’re ever going to have”, we returned to our breakout room for an introduction to Human-Centred Design. This workshop covered the aforementioned topic in great detail, and it started with what seems like an otherwise obvious assumption: when designing anything, the idea cannot just be viable for the business and feasible with its resources; it has to be desirable for people too. This concept was introduced, unsurprisingly, with spaghetti and marshmallows. With varying amounts of success, spaghetti towers were constructed with only the help of some masking tape and string all across the room. Most of them fell over, but the lesson remained. The towers were designed with the marshmallow in mind, because the marshmallow had a need to be held by the tower. The marshmallow was the ‘person’ for which our towers were designed, regardless of whether we let it down with our tower, or, even worse, ate the marshmallow.

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The tallest tower.

The following exercise was a greater introduction to the idea of needs, and how, even if we do not recognise it, we all have them – even about something as mundane as our daily commute. We were tasked with interviewing each other about some kind of commute we’ve taken and why we made the choices we had. These choices, for example, taking a coach above a train, were made based on aspects of ourselves that yielded needs on our journey.

Finally, we were asked to consider this system of aspects and needs for one particular, unique commuter, ranging from a fortysomething professional from Cardiff named John who really hopes they extend the Central line to Wales, to Bernie Sanders. These unique personas were designed to create people with unique needs, needs that we then attempted to provide solutions for. The brief we were given for our solutioneering was to think outside the box, defer judgement, and embrace ambiguity, leading to ramshackle ideas (‘buy a train’) but also more concrete, developed ideas, created through a process of diverging then converging – such as the implementation of more clear signage for a disabled commuter. Every person, then, has needs that must be met when coming up with an idea – and that is the theory behind Human-Centred Design.

In summary, the day offered a fitting introduction to Human-Centred Design and the theme of Urban Wellbeing on the whole.

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