APPLYING DESIGN THINKING TO CITY DESIGN

Using human centered design method to reinvent a city landmark.

Around the same time last year I decided to spend my summer in the design hub the world, Copenhagen. I attended multiple workshops but the one that stuck with me was on Design thinking at CIID. Design thinking is a hands on, user centric approach to problem solving and discovering new opportunities. The process can be broadly distinguished into 3 steps: 1. Identify 2. Explore 3. Execute. Here is our journey to applying this method to reinvent a city landmark.

Identify

The Problem Statement

The problem presented to us was to identify a landmark in the city and design an experience that would reinvent it and find a workable design process for a wider use case while doing so.

We started with identifying a potential landmark that could attract a new audience. After scanning the entire map of Copenhagen we set your eyes on the one of the most neglected part in the city, The lakes.

The Lakes are a row of three rectangular lakes curving around the western margin of the city centre.

Empathize

Next step was to explore the lakes. The lakes are right next to one of the most busy areas in the city, Nørrebro. The area is well balanced with tourists & Locals. Our goal behind the visit was to empathize with the people around and to understand their take on the lakes. We started observing what kind of audience does it already attracts and how do they interact with the lakes and how would they like to interact with the lakes.

The first thing we noticed was that the lakes were not well kept, it lacked basic safety measures. Around the lakes we found joggers, parents with their kids playing on the tracks, people using it as a meeting spot & a few people having their lunch on the benches.

Outside the lakes, on streets, we found young crowd just hanging out with their friends. The overall experience of the lakes was very relaxed & casual.

We started exploring more about the lakes. Directly talked to people around, also started observing people while they hang out there & how people in different age groups use them.

Explore

Define

We gathered all the observation from our visit and started looking for common pain points & what made people come to the lake.

We identified 4 personas that were currently found around the lakes: Kids, young mothers, college student & young working professionals.

One of my team members came up with a very creative idea for defining their personas. She started building their Instagram profiles, defining their account names, thinking of pictures they would upload, what they would write in their bio.

Keeping these four in our heads we started defining our Problem, Opportunities, Insights, Needs & Theme(POINT). By defining themes and insights, we identified problem areas that pose challenges to the people we were designing for.

Based on our POINTS we started defining our How Might We’s. How might we questions turn the challenges into opportunities for design. We used the How Might We format because it suggests that a solution is possible and because they offer you the chance to answer them in a variety of ways.

How Might We

1. give more personality to the Lakes to prompt conversations without disrupting the quiet and calm nature of the place?

2. encourage young people to use the area of the Lakes at night by differentiating it from the bunkers and bridges without noise disturbing neighbors?

3. make the experience of the Lakes more fun for kids by using the existing area (water and paths) without spoiling the experience for existing users?

We made sure that our How Might We’s weren’t too broad. It’s a tricky process but a good How Might We should give you both a narrow enough frame to let you know where to start your Brainstorm, but also enough broad to give you room to explore wild ideas.

Ideate

With these in mind we started the brainstorm session. All ideas are good ideas was the rule for this session. The idea was not to hold your self back and no idea is too far fetched. We produced quantity over quality. We came up with a lot of ideas and by the end of the session we started categorizing these ideas.

Yes, We have amazing drawing Skills

Execute

The First Prototype

End of the brainstorming session we all felt the need of presence for something that would induce conversation between the people at the lake and at the same time people could have a bit of privacy. We also identified that the lakes themselves we not used except for boat ride.

So what if the lakes could be connected from between and people could have pods to sit and relax in the lakes and take a walk. We settled on a walkway. Which led us to this:

Our first Lego prototype of a Walkway connecting the lakes

Test

We went around the city to get feedback and see response of the people around. It ranged from “Danish people want to relax, I see the pods in wood or something that gives the feeling of sailing” to ”Guys, you’re gonna destroy the lakes, I wouldn’t like it”.

The Final Implementation

What we gathered from the feedback session was SIMPLICITY IS THE KEY which was also our a-ha moment.

The importance of use of natural and locally procured material to make people feel at home. We also figured that we need to connect people instead of separating them by introducing private places like pods. . So from pods we moved to steps. We wanted people look outward not inward into the lakes. We removed features and made it simple and multifunctional.

Mood Board for the Walkway

We simplified the shape of the walkway and made it more flowing. It still connected the two sides of the lakes. We made a step like architecture were people could sit and connect. We kept it close to the water instead of elevating it.

The Final Walkway Design

Learnings

  1. Design thinking is process which starts with real people with real problem not the manufactured one in our brains.
  2. While you are working with a team where each and every member has gone through the entire process you share a common language and develops trust amongst the team members.
  3. It encourages innovation by finding multiple ways of solving a problem.

Design thinking is a practical & repeatable approach to finding a new solution. You do not need to be designer to adapt this methodology neither does it applies to traditional ‘Designery’ problems. It can be adapted easily to benefit a variety of issues and can result in breakthrough solutions.

A special mention worked with. Basil, Grazie, Claudia, you guys are awesome!