(Un)Urban Day 2- Human Centred Design

To start the second day of the (Un)Urban challenge we had discussions centred around the themes of urban wellbeing and public health. This discussion was led by Oliver Dawkins (a PhD researcher from CASA) and Neil McElduff (part of the London Office of Clinical Commissioning Groups). Oliver Dawkins opened the discussion concerning issues about the current usage of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Neil brought very interesting insights to urban wellbeing through the ideas of integrative public health and seeing developments as communal rather than separated. These ideas allowed the group to look at the greater impact of community schemes, which we could link to the four ‘growth boroughs’, pointed out by the London Legacy Development Corporation. One of the main ideas that stemmed from Olivers talk was that locals needed to be engaged with the parks developments in order to view the park as ‘theirs’. To understand how the park was being used spatially, wifi was used to detect areas of high and low demand. However, this does not show who the people using the park are. Even though it remains popular, these occupiers of the park do not show a representation of how the surrounding boroughs use the park, but instead how it engages with tourists. This allowed us to move on to our first challenge of the day which was: How can a creative agency best utilise community networks in order to perform at its best?

After this discussion, we broke off into our smaller groups to try and tackle this question.  Creative Wick was at the centre of our challenge which is a creative regeneration agency, established in 2013. Our group came up with the idea of making art more accessible to the local communities, in order to allow them to engage with the park. We felt that this could be done through street art, allowing it to be much more inclusive but also through free exhibitions, reducing the attached ‘high culture’ associated with the arts. At these exhibitions there could be extras, which would attract many different demographics. For example, face painting, food and drink, and live art. Urban art could have greater funding to allow those who wish to engage with it to do so, rather than being pushed away by the unpredictability of the work. Expanding community networks through art could could allow Hackney Wick to perform very efficiently because art can be engaged with at all ages, genders and statuses, when made accessible.

After our lunch break, we then moved on to the concept of ‘human centred design’. First of all we were given the challenge of building the highest possible tower to hold a marshmallow for at least ten seconds. Initially seeming rather easy, 20 pieces of spaghetti, some sting and masking tape later, the task proved rather difficult. This task allowed us to understand the first stage of the design process, where divergent thinking is crucial. This exercise was probably the best part of the day, as it involved lots of teamwork and new ideas. The task showed us that no idea is stupid, but rather every idea is crucial in order to succeed. Unfortunately, 15 minutes was not long enough for my team to build a successful tower, as it collapsed as soon as it held a marshmallow. Never the less, we had fun.

Following on from this, we grew on the concept of human centred design through looking at the specifics and needs of individuals daily commutes. The emphasis of this task was to move towards desirability in the design process. In pairs we discussed our own personal commutes and what we like/dislike about them and why we do what we do. Everyone had very distinctive routes, which were personalised by our own desires. For example, many liked getting the tube in the morning rather than cycling because they don’t like early mornings! In our Groups we then came up with an imaginary person, with a very distinctive persona, ours was called Carla.

A little bit about Carla:

  • Lived in Finsbury Park
  • Had 9ams every morning
  • Was Claustrophobic
  • Lived next to the park
  • Late Sleeper

Here we could identify Carla’s commuting needs and then came up with solutions in order to meet her needs greater. We filled the wall with post-it-note ideas, ranging from: abolishing 9ams to double decker tubes to hovercrafts. Other groups had very bizarre and rather entertaining ideas, giving us a better understanding into divergent and then convergent thinking. By putting our solutions into long and medium term groupings but also spatial groupings, it demonstrated that the design process has many different cycles as it becomes more and more defined. Who knows, the double decker tube may make an appearance one day.

Overall, after sharing our thoughts and feelings of the day it was clear that the group had a lot of fun and really enjoyed being able to be more creative in a team setting.

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