Design Research Studio: Transition Design

Documentation of process, discoveries, synthesis, and reflections on Service Design, Social Innovation and Transition Design

Hi, welcome to my weekly documentation for this studio course instructed by Stacie Rohrbach, Stuart Candy, and Terry Irwin at CMU’s School of Design. We will be learning how to develop and apply methods and approaches to transition societies to more sustainable futures.
Types of Design:
Design for Service — Working within existing paradigms
Design for Social Innovation — Challenging Existing Paradigms
Transition Design—Proposing Radically New Paradigms; a new area of design research, study and practice that proposes design-led societal transition toward more sustainable futures.
Semester Research, 8Themes, and Design:
(Affordable Housing — our theme), Gentrification, Transportation, Food, Access to Clean Water, Air Quality, Crime, Education
Weekly Documentation Structure:
Week #: Title
CLASS: Date — Overview, Notes, Pictures, Thoughts, Critique
READING — Notes, Key Quotes, Response, Questions
HW — Task, Approach, Reflection
misc. — Process Pictures, Related or Random Content/Thoughts/Inspiration

ordered with top posts being the most recent entry

Week 15: Final Week + Science Fair Presentation

CLASS: December 6— Science Fair Presentation

Overview: We set up our science fair presentation and facilitated our activity with peers and professors and collected insights. We also got to partake in other people’s science fair presentation.

Team Section 8+ // Noah, Adella, Haewan, Carolyn
We had 8 participants try our activity. Our insights can be found here.

Section 8+

It was awesome getting to interact with so many people and seeing their perspective on the issue of affordable housing. We created a tool where we could learn what people’s bias, needs, and values are that drive how they select tenants if they were a landlord.

We aimed to tell a story by injecting real artifacts that landlords would receive today. We based our profiles on stories that we read, included rental application designs from today, filled the information in by hand, and gave people a real key to a house to make role-playing more effective.

We discovered many things:

  • People actually read the applications and some of the fine print! We weren’t expecting people to actually read. Maybe people felt pressured or compelled with some of the artifacts being presented the way they are in the real world.
  • Each type of tenant and housing was chosen at least once, indicating the diversity of the participants.
  • Values included: family, stability, income, age, teaching sustainability
  • Most people had a loose understanding of what the voucher program meant in the 2nd round, which didn’t influence their choice of a tenant.
  • Those who switched in the 3rd round when the voucher redesign was presented felt bad that they didn’t realize Bob needed the most help and Jackson seemed to have more options.
  • Those who didn’t switch in the 3rd round when the voucher redesign was presented opted for Jackson because he was younger and less risky since he had not be evicted before.
  • One user stated that he would want to interview these people to see how legitimate their profiles were in order to really solidify his decision. The voucher redesign is still not convincing enough as it was only a “better designed, and bullet format” of the previous voucher design.
  • We had one participant who was emotionally moved by our project. At first she chose Logan and completely dismissed Bob, but after learning about what Section 8 was for, she changed her mind in favor of Bob.
  • more analysis to come…

Post-Reflection of the Science Fair

Conversations that kept coming up from professors outside this course circled around:

  • “this is 7 weeks of work?”
  • “is there more?”
  • “I want to see more of the research, diagrams, and process…”

It seemed that people had expectations for more work when comparing to previous studio finals. However, when people started interacting with projects and having conversations, there was a lot to say. Although the forms of our deliverable may not encapsulate a semesters worth of research, there was definitely a semester worth of thought put into each project and that was highlighted in conversations and people’s realization of the levels of complexity injected into the projects. Usually, people didn’t have background knowledge of the wicked problems so we tried explaining the purpose of our study in the simplest manner without diving too deep too quickly. For people who did have a background knowledge of the wicked problems, the conversations could go on and on about the nuances of a wicked problem. For instance, I found myself toggling between explaining what a voucher program is at the most basic level to how the program is at risk because of tax cuts, high demand over supply, and landlord stigma.

I think today was a success in that everyone learned a lot. I remember the first day of Transition Design and how ambiguous and chaotic it felt. On the last day, I definitely find more clarity in how to approach wicked problems and comfort in ambiguity. I had a feeling of incompletion, like I wasn’t done because the last class was the first class we finally got some user research and I can already see the revisions that can be made. The formant of the final presentation today was also different than past studio presentations. We have not quite learned the art of pitching a whole semesters worth of research, whether it is in a formal keynote presentation or a simple overview to a participant. This wasn’t quite to the level of how masters students present their thesis but it surely felt like the same amount of work.

I wonder how today would have gone differently if we had some of our diagrams up like our wicked diagram and stakeholder maps. I found that people didn’t really take notice of the system flow map we diagrammed out on our 11x17 poster because it was too abstract. Our final deliverable is definitely not a “stand alone” artifact because of how much explanation and facilitation that needs to happen in a research session. So if we had more time, I’d want to work on:

  • synthesizing the insights we received and making revisions to our tool
  • making a stand alone research tool, one with instructions and questions to fill-out to collect data
  • working on how to frame and pitch our research to people with different background knowledge
  • designing and putting up different diagrams and being able to explain them
  • work towards a design intervention

I didn’t get to check out everyone’s projects but it was inspiring to see what people did. I thought the water team stood out because of their focus on a design intervention and how they had multiple artifacts (product, packaging, website, dashboard, start up t-shirt, scenario drawing, and the whole system framing). I thought the bus team also stood out because they created a scale model of a bus interior and I could experience their design intervention of suggestions of businesses and communities to counter gentrification. I really wanted to see The Hill’s Grandma B’s restaurant come to life to bring about more positive conversation surrounding crime. Finally, I had fun playing the Food Waste team’s game and learned I was an Average Joe for picking steak since eating meat is not sustainable.

Lastly for the format of today’s presentation, I wonder how today could have gone differently if instead of a science fair presentation, it was more of a critique of people’s work. I think I would have gotten more out of whether our project was in the right direction or not if I heard my peers’ and professors’ critiques. I would also be able to see which group is more effective in their approach or thinking despite the differences in wicked problems.

HW: December 4 / December 5— Tasks

Process Photos:

Tenant Profiles
Household Options for Landlord



  • Laser Cutting activity board and profile cards
  • 3D printing homes
  • Script + Poster Content


  • Tenant profiles
  • Home profiles
  • Script + Poster Content


  • Tenant 1 application — Section 8 Voucher (current 2017 and future design)
  • Tenant 2 application
  • Tenant 3 application
  • Poster Design


  • Tenant profiles
  • Home profiles
  • Profile Visual Design

CLASS: December 4 — Prototype Crit and Revisions

Overview: We prototyped the activity and determined revisions. We will create a plywood base and brand the profile cards. We will also 3-D print the homes to help differentiate the types of homes a landlord owns. Lastly we will create a research script and poster that ties the whole purpose and system of our transition design project. Looking forward to Wednesday’s science fair.

Week 14: Continue Working

HW: Script

Overview 1: Carolyn and I met up to refine our script for how we would take a participant through our activity. Based on Stacie’s feedback, we have determined our activity needs 4 rounds of complexity.

Pre Rounds: Participant is briefed that his or her role is a landlord determining who to rent out the last unit to

Round 1: Participant reads 3 profiles of tenants

  • testing for personal bias

Round 2: Participant is given 3 applications with 2017 section 8 voucher

  • testing for stigma

Round 3: Participant is given 3 applications with 2030 section 8 package

  • testing for redesign

Round 4: Participant chooses 1 out of 3 types of homes and chooses a tenant

  • testing for context and community fit



  1. Bob: low income, partially blind in one eye, family, 34 yo, crime record DUI, in 2015 evicted for missing rent, works at CVS, “section 8”
  • What’s going for him — Good tenant
  • What’s against him — may not pay rent on time with record of eviction

2. Jackson: unemployed, quiet & stable, married no kids, lived in last resident for 7 years

  • What’s going for him — Good tenant
  • What’s against him — may not pay rent on time because no income

3. Logan & Laura: pay rent consistently (covered by parents), college students, loud, parties, no previous crime record or rental history

  • What’s going for them — $$$
  • What’s going against them — potential complaints

CLASS: November 29 —Framing and System Flow Map

Overview 1: We will frame our project as an activity and not a game to conduct generative research that can later inform more ways of researching affordable housing as a wicked problem and appropriate interventions. At the science fair we will test with our peers whether our activity asks the right questions for landlords. This will be our first pass in designing a possible research tool as a method of discovering how people make decisions, based on contextual, situational information and personal biases.

Overview 2: We created a system flow map to visualize the story that our activity is situated in. This diagram consists of the three main stakeholders of interest (Government i.e. Pittsburgh City Council, HUD), (Section 8 tenants), (Landlords), various touchpoint, and important artifacts from this new system. The research participant will act as a landlord receiving applications from 3 types of tenants. Based on profile and application information, the decisions that the research participant makes will allow us to see where the hotspot factors are within the system.

CLASS: November 27 — Adding more complexity

Overview: We sketched out what our research tool could look like. At this point our team has been so familiar with the new system but anyone approaching our project may not have any of the background knowledge we have. We thought about making this educational by providing context of what it means to be a landlord and what is a section 8 tenant. Talking to Stacie, we realized we needed to add more complexity such as what is the exact factor that may contribute to a landlord accepting or denying a tenant? Below are our sketches of what the components are to our game activity and how we’d walk someone through it.

Rough Sketch

Week 13: Pivot

CLASS: November 20—Pivoting

Pivot + Update: We were advised to go further by emphasizing the research tool component that probes if landlords hold a stigma against section 8 tenants rather than testing a new design that would improve a user’s experience applying for section 8. In this way, we can create something that can be a catalyst for long-term and cyclical design interventions.

Week 12: Speed Dating

CLASS: November 15 — Re-aligning

Overview: After our disparate speed-dating sessions, our group re-aligned in articulating what our service could look like from a design intervention perspective as well as a research tool perspective.

Design Intervention:

  • A system that can preemptively send information packages to tenants about affordable housing options before they are evicted. This lets them start looking for options before it’s too late. Once a tenant applies to their building, the landlord receives their package. This system also sends information packages to landlords to inform about section 8 voucher members
  • This can lead to improvements in the section 8 application experience for tenants, the channel of communication between tenants and landlords, landlord stigma about section 8 tenants, and allowing the government to understand areas of lack of affordability

Tenant Package

  • Notification—at risk for eviction
  • 3 options for new housing
  • 3 applications for new housing

Landlord Package

  • Notification — property has been suggested to a Section 8 person
  • Why landlord should accept section 8 tenant

Research Question:

  • Can we educate and incentivize landlords to help out low-income residents in need of housing?
  • Since landlords hold the key to renting a house, can more information help influence their perception of the worthiness of helping low-income residents seeking housing in their building?
Visualizing the flow of packages for tenants and landlords

CLASS: November 12 — Speed Dating

Overview: Today we listened to other groups present and pitch their transition design concepts, then provided crit. We then switched roles and presented our slides.

Our Group — Section 8+

Main Takeaways from my speed dating

  • Research and approach makes sense
  • Intervention is still broad
  • Branding of prototype looks inappropriate for low-income people,
  • “getting evicted is someones worst nightmare, getting a package or anything that’s of bright colors and a rocket ship is a slap in the face”

Main Takeaways from Carolyn and Noah’s speed dating

  • What is the research tool aspect of our design?
  • Who are the main stakeholders we are targeting in our research?
  • What type of data will our research tool collect and how can we use this for future research?

From this speed dating session, there seemed to be a divide between the conversations I had in my room and the conversations my teammates had in the other room.

My speed dating room was more focused on a future design intervention based on present day secondary research while my teammates speed dating room was more focused on present day and pragmatic research tools to inform future design interventions.

For instance, I talked about bus interior redesigns, a water system redesign that bridges the government and citizens, and a cafe redesign to spur more conversation about lowering crime. Carolyn and Noah had conversations about board games, card games, and a water filter. It was a bit frustrating when we got back together as a team because we had to re-align in how much of our proposal is about futuristic design interventions vs. designing research tools to inform interventions.

While I had people saying our research seemed clear and our intervention path of a section 8 eviction package seem logical, Carolyn and Noah expressed that people were confused that our scope seemed too big.

The root of the problem may either be that we aren’t presenting the research in the same manner or that the groups of students so happened to be clustered between research tools vs. design interventions.

SR — Safe2O is a 2 part system. The first is the data collecting IoT product attached to people’s faucets that collects data about contaminates and filters the water. The second is a government tool that visualizes the collected data to provide useful information.
  • 3 main problems: Lack of public awareness, infrequent public exposure, government lacks motivations
  • New water system is 2 part: 1. exploratory tools / 2. IoT filter
  • Service Design Lens because it’s more tangible
  • Framing: AN EPIDEMIC! 1. Sufferer / 2. Reporter / 3. Helper
  • Stumbling Blocks: How to become more ubiquitous / Help people the fastest
  • Education through crowdsourcing
  • System: Educational Tool (web) / AR tool to learn about infrastructure (app) / Government Tool (big dashboard / display)
  • Criteria: inclusionary to low-income and those in need
  • 2025 Context

My Crit:

  • what are the visualizations? — displaying contaminants
  • what are the differences between resident stakeholders reporting (Exploratory vs. Educational)
Tina + Maggie
  • Data collection is first from IoT filters
  • Marketing campaign leads to website
  • Product senses contaminants and identifies
  • 1. informs homeowners before drinking 2. collecting data for the government (pinpoint which houses are being contaminated)
  • stumbling blocks: business model to get this to people who can’t afford them, government contracts to safe2O, they aren’t asking them to fix, they are getting data
Treat + Lena
  • Hypothesis: can a public bus provide both a physical and cultural connection throughout he city? can it be a vessel in changing mindsets and social norms?
  • Wicked problem overlap: food deserts, gentrification, transportation
  • Solution: redesign the internals of a school bus
  • lack of understanding, ‘sharing’
  • intent: raise awareness, facilitating conversations
  • intent: 1. you are not alone on the bus 2. build a sense of community by learning about Pittsburgh’s communities and how the bus can unite them
  • implicitly vs. explicitly
Lois + Angee
  • City is disconnected with the community
  • Hypothesis: Build trust with city
  • How can you approach and talk with a stranger?
  • Solution: Grandma B’s, a restaurant to facilitate conversation
  • What kind of information we want to find?
  • Diner placemat design — youth
  • Timeframe: We don’t know their needs. We can’t reduce crime. Immediate hypothesis. Collecting data.

Read this:

Week 11: Map — Crystallize the Narrative

HW: Prepare for Monday Speed Dating

Goal: Collect and visualize thoughts on how to present our wicked problem and intervention strategy to our peers on Monday. How do I give my peers a brief and concise overview of our work and thinking?

2x2 Designing for Social Innovation Matrix and as-is situation (2017) vs. transition scenario (2050)

We’ve been struggling with designing for short-term, long-term, and the overlap between the two so I wanted to clearly show that despite the tug of war struggle, we have a clear narrative and direction forward. I immediately felt the need to compare our options by revisiting the the 2x2 matrix and illustrate how we want to address the issue (though reaching for more tangible solutions). The following is what we’ll be using to display our strategy and explain the history to present day problems of Pittsburgh’s affordable housing crisis.

Identifying the long-term aim and criteria for our intervention

Service Blueprint

We created a service blueprint following the as-is vs transition design scenario because we felt like we could get more concrete in our intervention. We began with our tenant Bob, who was just evicted and stepped through our future scenario where evicted victims receive an aid package detailing the next steps.

The big questions I have for Monday are:

  • Do we need to articulate how our service will be funded? Is it privately owned? Is there some sort of government incentive? Can this be a robust government program?
  • How do go about articulating this financial aspect in the most minimal and viable way possible given our short timeframe?
Beginning our service blueprint to identify the artifacts we will make

Affordable Housing Wicked Map

We finished our wicked map to showcase our research into Affordable housing x STEEP forces, how our peers’ wicked problems relate, and the transition design opportunities we’ve been thinking about. If we had more time, I could see this wicked map growing by further research, talking to my peers, relevant stakeholders, labeling the flows, and applying our intervention.

From doing this wicked map, I truly began to see how wicked problems are so wicked and intertwined. There isn’t really a root problem so much as perpetuating and cyclical cause and effects like how even though Section 8 voucher programs help evicted victims find housing, it can still be viewed as a band-aid solution to a bigger problem of gentrification and the widening income gap that puts pressure on the program to serve more people. There is always more demand for affordable homes than supply, but there is higher priority for building luxury condos for affluent members of society and private corporation, namely technology companies, to move in.

It was interesting to see how our wicked problem relates to other wicked problems. We definitely have a close relationship to the gentrification team in terms of how rising rent and affluent citizens contribute to evictions. It was harder to relate to air-quality and water-quality since these two are invisible properties and thus harder to measure with homes other than how constructing homes affects the environment.

In general I found this mapping exercise to be helpful and overwhelming. It was helpful in visualizing the options we have in transition design opportunities before jumping too quickly into an intervention, but this is also an activity that can be endless in refinement because of how the nodes can grow into more detail with continued research. It is overwhelming when I begin to think about the different filters that can be used to view this and the many interventions and routes we can go in placing needles in the wicked problems system.

I’d like to revisit this map after we finish our project and see what other groups have done to see how this map can change, for positive or for negative.

Affordable Housing Wicked Map

CLASS: November 8—Finalizing our Research Question

Overview: Brief class discussion on current stumbling blocks every team is experiencing+ finalize (seriously finalize) our research question and get making.

What is challenging?

  • scale
  • finding middle ground between backcasting and forecasting (book metaphor of ch. 1 / middle chs. / last ch.)
  • identifying and choosing possible, probable, preferable intervention
  • addressing everyone’s interests
  • seeing making as research
  • what is the entry point?
  • what’s the most logical first step

I think we care a lot, but this also means we struggle with wanting to understand everything and design everything end to end (2017 to 2050) in order to feel responsible and less ignorant. The problem is that time is running out.

Stacie’s help relieve us of our framing blockage. She helped us think about:

  • What the most logical and viable entry point could be given our understanding of the wicked problem
  • Using making as a way of answering questions and continued research
  • Not necessarily needing to hold onto Section 8 since it is only an existing paradigm solution and problem

Here’s another stab at our research question:

If we can address the stigma surrounding section 8 where low-income tenants are discriminated against for their race and socioeconomic status, can we tangibly increase the baseline for standards of quality living?


  • Stigma
  • Section 8 (NODE)
  • Low-income in PGH
  • Discrimination (a.k.a. Gentrification, laws, landlords)
  • Baseline for standards of quality living

Preferred Future: 2050 VISION

Our vision is for Pittsburgh to represent the highest possible standard of living for low-income residents, to use design as a medium to end discriminatory stigma against residents seeking affordable housing.

Our Sub Research Question:

  1. What are appropriate forms of quality living for section 8 low-income tenants?
  • Is it non-discriminative community or else?
  • Cheap, Quality, Mass manufacturing of homes?
  • Maintenance of existing homes?

2. How can creating an immersive experience positioned in 2050 help specific and targeted stakeholder groups change their views surrounding Section 8?

3. Why is design an effective medium to end stigma?

4. What happens after? What are the consequences?

What we plan to make to address this question:

  • Website that houses the [Section 8] service (immersive experience, role play)
  • Poster that communicates the narrative

How do we know if we have addressed this question? How do we know if we are successful?:

Ideally, we can show our project to stakeholders in positions of influence. This group includes landlords, the city mayor, the city planning director, and professors conducting academia research in smarter cities, urban planning, and social stigma.

Depending on the responses and reactions, which can take in the forms of questions, comments, and critiques, we can gauge how successfully design can be used to impact their perspectives on low-income residents.

Who’s our main audience that we plan to influence and empower?:

  • Tenants
  • Future Tenants
  • Landlords
  • Policy Makers
  • Homeless People
  • Developers
  • Non-Tenant Pittsburgh Residents
  • Low-Income Residents

CLASS: November 6—Further brainstorming and bridging the gap between designing for short and long term futures

Overview: Continue flushing out narratives.

We identified the following as components of our deliverable:

1. Section 8 interface improvement

2. A partnership between Pittsburgh and an organization to address funding and shortage of houses

3. Jump to a future vision where stigma (the biggest problem, outside our scope) has been addressed — AI addresses discrimination & biases (no longer dependent on landlord’s acceptance; govt. eligibility checks not manual so is faster and waitlist streamlined)

We identified the following forms as a way for our deliverables to be persuasive and successful:

  1. Diagram maps and be able to reference them when questioned
  2. Immersive experience that allows for role-playing (what’s does it feel like to get evicted and go through our service?)
  3. Be able to explain our narrative and hold a conversation with important stakeholders (low-income, Stacie/Stuart/Terry, Mayor Peduto etc.)

Getting Stuart’s help:

“What movie props could you bring back that is evidence for a particular scene or future?

Stuart helped us think about artifacts as evidence for an era and problem. For instance, Section 8 is an evidence from the Great Depression and the persisting problems of affordable housing today. We want to create something stands as a signifier of the ideal future we’re envisioning. In the same way that if someone brought an iPhone with the calculator app back to the 1950’s, it would raise questions and even urgency about the state of technology, hints at ways of life, work and social constructs, as well as the paradigms of people’s relationships to devices that we have today. We want to bring back these pieces from our timeline story (minimal lifestyle, community values, sustainable living).

Visualizing the many roadmaps we could take
Getting feedback from Stuart
Think about what our ideal future could look like with our user Bob

“By the end of class, we were more solid with our narrative. In a brief overview, our user Bob is a low-income man with a family who wants a nicer home but needs some help to afford it. He enters his information into the replacement service for Section 8, an intelligent system instantly confirms his eligibility and he’s matched with some possible homes based on neighborhood preferences, proximity to community resources, etc. The place, like all housing units, are sustainable and high-quality yet compact (cheaper and leaves room for more). For his part, Bob gets to choose the home that his family likes best. :)” — Carolyn

Week 10: Plan the Scope and Scale of Intervention

HW: Further Research

Goal: Be better informed and understand the problem(s) with Section 8 for Pittsburgh.

In response to the feeling of being overwhelmed after last class, I wanted to do some serious research to pinpoint the issues with Section 8 to see how we can include or disregard it in a wider scope. With previous research, I was looking more into what is being done to address affordable housing to find inspiration. This time, I looked more into why is what has already been done not enough or perpetuating the problem. With this approach, I found insight into the roots of the problem:

Sad graphic of the 17,241 houses that need to become affordable:

Government Websites:

CLASS: November 1 — Meeting with the Gentrification Team, Rent vs. Ownership

Overview: Today we broadened our scope by conversing with the gentrification team about how our topics relate, what we can learn from each other, and how to navigate this relationship.

Gentrification team: Jasper, Juliana, Chris, Natalie

When we began to form groups, I had thought about working with my peers from the gentrification team. This is because affordable housing heavily relates to the issue of Pittsburgh’s gentrification causing the displacement of low-income, African American residents and raising housing/renting prices. The gentrification team was also interested in working with people from housing. In the end, we decided to work separately because we wanted to focus on a niche part of our research; however, we still wanted to talk to each other.

While my team did heavy research on the AHTF and Section 8, the gentrification team did heavy research in mortgages, loans and the differences between home ownership and renting. Meeting today helped both teams realize what we knew, didn’t know, and needed to better understand.

The main thing our group took away from the meeting was how we could create a cohesive story between the two teams.

Each team’s intervention could hypothetically affect a person’s housing situation just at different stages of their life.

Team Gentrification described a social innovation / service where a community could invest in a low-income person’s home by paying his or her down-payment. This system would actually rely on gentrification since affluent people could help a low-income person out and property value increases, which is how these investors could make dividends.

It helped for both teams to create a persona and storyline to understand some of the overlapping needs. We started with Bob who:

  • needs home ownership because rent is increasing (paying mortgage is cheaper than rent)
  • with his current job, he can’t pay the down payment, he can’t get a raise, can’t get a higher paying job, maybe loses his job, needs help
  • individual approaches loaning service, who screens Bob’s eligibility
  • loaning service approaches community
  • community decides to invest in the individual’s new home by paying the down payment
  • individual gets a new home because of community support
  • individual continues to pay mortgage
  • gentrification may cause the house property to increase, so the community’s investment pays off

If the community fails, or Bob can no longer pay his monthly mortgage, he may default to Section 8, which can offer houses for subsidized rent…leading to our intervention.

Synthesizing Team Gentrification (Smol Loans) and Team Affordable Housing (Section 8+) Insights

Post-meeting, we were overwhelmed by our realization that we could develop interventions targeted at users but at different stages of their life. Overall, the meeting was helpful in filling in the gaps and increasing our need to think of Section 8 in wider context. A singular, Section 8 specific intervention is not enough. Meeting with Stuart, we were encouraged to think of what we could make to get us through this confusion blockage.

I also realized how much we didn’t quite understand the consequences between home-ownership and renting so here’s an infographic for future reference:

CLASS: October 30— Group Projects Begin

Overview: We wrote out our first version plan moving forward. We shared our findings and had discussions with each other and the professors to clarify our thinking and approach.

Today we aimed to clarify our research plan by answering a few questions as a group. We plan to investigate the following question:

How can we lower the barrier for low-income residents to afford housing through improving the Section 8 voucher program and shift the stigma in discriminatory housing options?

As we continue flushing out the deliverables, something we found to be helpful was thinking about our scope through a 2x2 matrix:

Front end

  • informing low-income residents (and other people?) about Section 8, improving application user experience

Back end

  • policies, the process of sorting through applications, checking eligibility of applicants, inspecting housing units


  • “band-aid” solution, improving the service, immediate results grounded in the present


  • reimagining the income distribution so “affordable” is not a concern, address the higher level of systemic change, design artefacts from a desired future (tell a story of change)

Talking with Professor Stuart was also very helpful. We were stumbling with how to design for both the short-term and the long-term. As of now it felt like we were designing to very separate things that should overlap in order to flow. The immediate and right action to take would be to improve the user interface of Section 8’s voucher program, but our team agrees that this is a surface level intervention that doesn’t address the greater systemic issue of gentrification. However, proposing a radically new paradigm, such as universal basic income and changing the idea of affordability could render the first intervention that’s grounded in present-past day research obsolete. Stuart gave us a metaphor in designing for the tip of the iceberg to counter our urge to design everything. He guided us to think about:

  • What is our contribution?
  • What is a higher quality conversation people will have because of our project? Can this conversation start shifting perception?
  • You don’t have to make everything, just like the tip of an iceberg.
  • How can you make comparisons? Old website to new website? New website to new society? What’s your scope?

With these questions, we backcasted from our final deliverable day (11/29). As of now, we know we must have some sort of:

  • immersive experience
  • role-playing
  • timeline comparison between 2050, 2030, and now
  • infographic narrative

We will continue our deeper research to understand the problem space through diagraming next class. We will then commit to the exact touchpoints that need to be designed, and how we can best frame and visualize a future affordable housing scenario.

  • How do we get there from now?
  • What does it look like when we get there?
  • Why is this something we need?
  • How can our project be pitched and explained to any type of stakeholder?


Brainstorming and aligning our interests in Sv and Si, Communications and Products

The goal of this white-boarding in the beginning of class was to align our individual interests in service design and social innovation as well as communication design and product design. We all weren’t entirely sure how much of us were thinking through a service design lens vs. a social innovation lens and how much these two actually overlap. We each wrote down questions we had on post it notes and then quickly affinity diagrammed our intentions:


  • What is our main research problem and question?
  • What are we creating to address the problem and research question?


  • What problems do happen in each process of the current section 8 system?
  • What is current image/deliverable of section 8 for each stakeholder? How do they feel about it?
  • What is it like to deal with the sheer quantity of applicants for policy makers? What makes it inefficient?
  • Why do eligibility checks for a spot on the waitlist take so long?
  • What services exist to alleviate more immediate needs? (impending eviction/homelessness)


  • How can we lower the barrier for low-income residents to access affordable housing through stigma and cultural shifts?


  • What was Section 8 meant to solve?
  • Who made this interface and why is it designed the way it is?
  • What’s wrong with Section 8?
  • Who can’t and won’t use the voucher program?
  • What’s the larger issue that leads to discriminatory voucher programs and evictions?
  • What are all the forms our intervention can take and where does it live?

We then visualized our tool kit of diagrams and frameworks to think about what we really needed to diagram to get us going. All in all this is a response to the complexity of Section 8 and every individual’s different interpretations.

Week 9: Social Innovation

HW: What’s our direction?

Goal: Think about our research question, what we want to achieve, what we can achieve realistically, and how we may go about achieving our intervention.

  1. Identify problems that lead to interventions
    The main problem we are trying to understand and articulate an intervention in is the lack of affordable housing for Pittsburgh residents.
A brief overview:

The scope of the problem (that we will diagram):

The main stakeholders: Low-Income tenants, Homeless, African Americans, Gentrified Residents, Evicted citizens, landlords, AHTF, Housing Authority, Section 8, Big Corporations, City Planners

The main territories: Shelter (home, apartment, no home), Neighborhoods, Communities, Allegheny County, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States

The main wicked problem relationships: Gentrification > Crime > Education > Transportation

Our team is particularly interested in Section 8 of the Housing Act of 1937. Section 8 authorizes payment of rental housing assistance to provide landlords on behalf of low-income households. The largest part of the section is the Housing Choice Voucher program, which pays a large portion of the rents and utilities of households. This program provides “tenant-based” rental assistance, so a tenant can move from one unit of at least minimum housing quality to another. It also allows individuals to apply their monthly voucher towards the purchase of a home. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development manages Section 8 programs.

Current process for housing application in Allegheny County
Current initiatives and programs to help low-income residents

2. List Research questions what do you want to learn?

  • How can we lower the barrier for lower-income residents to access affordable housing, short-term 2030 and long-term 2050, and what would be the positive and negative consequences from this intervention?
  • Does more affordable housing reduce poverty?
  • How can we increase discovery and uptake of affordable housing services?
  • Can mixed-income neighborhoods change a shift in social values and mindset towards community?
  • How can we provide more diverse choices for low-income residents in the Section 8 voucher program?

3. Define the design opportunity what might you achieve? (what’s the shift in power? who are you empowering?)

  • We aim to empower those who do not have a voice in short-notice evictions and homelessness, legislators aiming to establish a substantial housing trust fund, and future generations to be able to learn how to better afford housing

4. Start telling stories. Frame what you are doing

Case Study: Demolition of Penn Plaza and Section 8 Vouchers giving low-income residents choices that are mainly in low-income areas

Penn Plaza prior to demolition (left) Penn plaza demolish on June 21, 2017 in East Liberty (right)
Residents at Penn Plaza Apartments in East Liberty received 90-day eviction notices, illustrating the insecurity of affordable housing in Pittsburgh. (2016)
The last residents were evicted from Penn Plaza. Some have found temporary housing in East Liberty but may be displaced again next year. (2017)
Vivian Campbell (left) and Geary Rivers (right) are evicted East Liberty residents
Linda Robinson evicted after living in East Liberty for 8 years has finally found a new home in an Wilkinsburg apartment
“When you need help, how people treat you, it just doesn’t feel good. It doesn’t feel good at all.”
“One time, I spent $30 on stamps, applying for places. They put you on the waiting list. You can’t get anything immediately,” she recalled.
— Linda Robinson

5. What do you need to capture to frame your story?

  • Diagrams (territory, stakeholder, wicked problems, service blueprint)
  • Frameworks (venn diagram, 3 horizons timeline)
  • Photographs, Quotes, Persona
  • Storytelling through writing, storyboards and drawing
  • Map of Pittsburgh (city planning)
  • Intervention prototypes and mockups (graphic design, product design, interface design, interaction design, video, physical products)


CLASS: October 25— Group Projects Begin

Overview: We formed our groups for the remaining half of the semester to craft our interventions. We learned about the criteria going forward.

Team Affordable Housing: Haewan, Carolyn, Noah, me

Tension Spectrums:

  • Familiar ← → Uncertainty
  • Humility ← → Expertise
  • Agile ← → Silo/Safety


  • Facilitates asking of critical research questions
  • What is it that you want to learn from doing this study?
  • Is scaled appropriately (duration, # of team members, expertise) *all members
  • Leverages content + research
  • Results in an output that you see as useful (how is this useful for you?)

Think about:

  • Where does the learning happen?
  • Are you outside of comfort zone, your stretch? Is this good or bad?
  • Have you snapped yet?
  • Are you staying in your safe zone?
  • Imperfection over perfection?
  • Long-term consequences?
  • What is the ideal?
  • What do you know / what do you not know what to do?
  • How real is this project? How learning rich? How rigorous and ingenious?
  • What kind of impact do you want to have? What kind of learning do you want to engage in?


  • Identity problems that lead to interventions
  • List Research questions what do you want to learn?
  • Define the design opportunity what might you achieve? (what’s the shift in power? who are you empowering?)
  • Start telling stories. Frame what you are doing
  • What do you need to capture to frame your story?
run with your futures thinking, be innovative and take risks

HW: Talk to Each Other

Task: Finish the Mapping Interventions diagram. Begin talking to other people from themes that you put your name down during the class activity. Think about 3–4 person group you’d want to work with in the second half of this semester.

I was excited to talk with people from other teams. I ended up talking to my peers not necessarily to form teams but with genuine interest in what people have done thus far and are interested in. I’m surprised we haven’t been mingling sooner because I found it very productive and helpful to hear the comparisons between the main takeaways.

I talked with:

  • Julia (Gentrification) — How can food sustainability reduce gentrification and improve community values?
  • Faith (Water)— Related to housing: How can you improve affordable housing information (section 8) discoverability beyond word of mouth? Most contextual inquiries are from success stories so which stakeholders who are most at risk are you neglecting? Shady that non-profit building of Neighborhood Allies is really nice…/ Related to water: How can you improve the visibility and need for water-testing since water is transparent?
  • Raphael (Food)Aquaponics and interest in PhD student Francis Carter’s work
  • Steven (Water)—How can data collection and analysis improve city planning that touches upon all 8 of our themes?
  • Tiffany (Air)—How can better city planning account for the incorporation of more trees? How can we get people, especially the Mayor and other government officials to recognize the importance of more trees to improve air quality? (source)
  • Jessie (Transportation)—Can better data collection platforms help stakeholders identify those in transportation need and be more proactive? How can we pitch that more people will benefit from a shared transportation system? Who are specific stakeholders (children, disabled people) we can target? How can Port Authority get more funding?
  • Nina (Food)—Hypothesis for a paradigm shift: How can our perception of our self change to encompass more than what we can see? How can we offer more opportunities outside of what people are normally exposed to for people to behave/experience/learn a certain thing to counter confirmation bias? (still being edited and outlined…)

Personal Midsemester Reflection

The things that have stuck with me thus far:

  • This class is a survey class, we are learning frameworks and conducting research over finding a perfect solution and making
  • There exists multiple futures, not one future. Futures cannot be predicted but forecasting and backcasting methods can approach a more preferred and desirable future between stakeholders
  • There is no template for transition design. It is a mindset and way of approaching situations and problems in a thoughtful, responsible, contextual, and holistic manner
  • Wicked problems are unsolvable but interventions can be made
  • “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used to create them”

Thinking back to the beginning of the semester to now, I believe I have made good progress. This is because my mindset has shifted in viewing design as a way of solving problems to viewing design as a way of committed and continued investigation. I had to let go of my comfort zone of being a form-giver and product designer to embrace all the new frameworks and lenses to view wicked problems. I feel more confident in my ability to embrace ambiguity and dance with those unlike me. This course has thus far provided a solid foundation in thinking skills to frame, strategize, and tackle scenarios thoughtfully and effectively. I’ve also began to think about design as being just one part of the larger venn diagram. I see the need to work cross-disciplinary but actually doing so is not always welcomed, yet.

I find it interesting that many of us felt threatened and less fulfilled when “making” wasn’t a core part of the studio. Our identity as design students becoming practitioners these past three years have been shaped from our form giving and process driven classes with sprinkles of design thinking electives. For me, the design thinking always took a backseat because it was so abstract and form-giving required a particular apprentice attention to detail and consistent practice to achieve and hone. These past 8 weeks, our identity has felt “challenged” with design thinking via post-it noting diagrams as a larger precedent when looking back, it is a culmination of the tracks and design thinking electives. While initially I was a bit sad that we won’t work with our hands as much, I’ve accepted that it is up to us individually and as peers to commit to form-giving practice only if we want to. 8 weeks of research and working past individual differences have exposed me to viewing the world in a less naive and more informed way that is becoming a new feeling of fulfillment for me.

However, not being able to conduct field research as part of our approach makes transition design feel incomplete and assumptions based. While I understand the cultural and legal tensions that come with doing field research, I believe that qualitative and quantitative data from interview stakeholders make for a more grounded and convincing case for spreading awareness of transition design research.

Filling in framework I shared recently

Vision for senior year: have memorable conversations, build some awesome furniture, craft an innovative project with a cool, motivated team, document all the good jazz

What I love: to learn with curiosity and observe the world through photography

What I am good at: teamwork and basic visual communication

What the world needs: problem solving, teamwork, more sustainable design, better leaders, more empathy

What I can get paid for: ux

CLASS: October 23—Mapping Intervention Ideas

Overview: We reviewed what we have learned thus far, got introduced to a new Mapping Intervention Ideas diagram, and began mingling with other groups to see how our ideas relate and how we can collaborate.

Review — We’ve come very far in just 8 weeks!

Design Approach — You’re not creating solutions, which aim to solve neatly defined problems, but rather, designing interventions as a means of asking questions. This process is a form of inquiry; a design research method.

  1. Frame Wicked Problems
  • diagram wicked problems

2. Imagine Futures

  • Explore possible, probable, + preferred futures
  • Build future scenarios

3. Map Stakeholder Relations

  • Hypothesize stakeholders’ concerns/fears + hopes/aspirations
  • Create triad map

4. Imagine Futures

  • Explore possible, probable, + preferred futures
  • Build future scenarios

5. Develop visions

  • Create Three Horizons diagram
  • Construct timelines

6. Explore Theories of Change

  • Establish everyday life as the context for interventions
  • Explore Theory of Human Needs

7. Define Design Opportunities

  • Create scenarios, blueprints, touchpoints, + front-/back-end activities
  • Map ideas to a four-square model + social design pathways matrix

What is Cosmopolitan Localism?
“Cosmopolitan Localism Coined by German activist, author and educator Wolfgang Sachs, the term ‘cosmopolitan localism’ describes a place-based lifestyle in which solutions to global problems are designed for local circumstances and tailored to specific social and ecological contexts whilst being globally connected/networked in their exchange of information, technology and resources”

What is Solutionism?
Solutionism is a belief that every problem has a solution based in technology

“as technology continues to advance … there’s a growing expectation that it can solve everything, and an increasing obsession with inventing these solutions via the right codes, programs and robots”

This is something that I believe to be important to keep in mind as many of us look into careers in tech and especially studying at CMU with such a name in the tech industry. There is a growing habit of weighing technology as having higher priority and status compared with other fields as we become increasingly reliant on data, smartphones, computers and social media etc. Millenials will forget what it was like to not be connected to the internet and future generations will be born never experiencing and understanding pre-internet age. I find this to be a huge debate on how much tech is enough and how we cannot predict the future consequences of our current thinking. Overall, I will keep in mind that tech is just one part of a larger venn diagram and a commitment to balance is important for sustainability. It is again a matter of how to do this without succumbing to what’s the trend.

I came upon the following article:

Referring to workers in tech: I have a lot of respect for these people as engineers but they are being asked to take on tasks that go far beyond engineering. Tasks that have to do with human and social engineering rather than technical engineering. Those are the kind of tasks I would prefer were taken on by human beings who are more well rounded, who know about philosophy and ethics, and know something about things other than efficiency, because it will not end well.

Philosopher Evgeny Morozov’s thoughts on solutionism highlight the skeptic lens of the internet. I think it’s important to understand this point of view going forward because I find myself defaulting to tracking technology and handing societal problems to big tech companies to be the way to go where these can actually be scratching the surface of a wider problem of the health of our democracy and politics. I would argue that designers are also being tasked with issues far greater than nice posters and toasters. It’s scary to think about negative agendas and a failure of checks and balances, and worse, the lack of leadership by people who have the capacity but are lazy to lead by example.

Mapping Intervention Ideas

Task: List top 6 Sv and Si interventions and map them to other themes. Write what you are interested in exploring further, what you hope to learn, what stumbling blocks you imagine facing, and how you may deal with these stumbling blocks with existing resources

Our 3 Sv interventions were:

  • Section 8 Redesign
  • Housing Restoration Program
  • Sustainability Workshops

Our 3 Si interventions were:

  • Ai SmartPittsburgh Plan
  • Accessible alternative energy start up
  • Mixed Income Community Project

Something I thought about when diagramming was that I still am not sure what the clear differences between Service Design and Social Innovation. I felt that a lot of the above interventions overlap between Service Design and Social Innovation. Something to keep in mind for the future is creating a venn diagram comparing and contrasting between the two designs.

This activity helped me see that our interventions are not in isolation. Throughout the first half of the semester, I was thinking about how housing relates to other subjects and what it would be like to work on other themes. Diagramming how certain interventions could touch upon other themes and seeing if other groups thought and felt the same way is really exciting to me because traditionally this way of working collaboratively across disciplines is met with resistance as groups are usually siloed. I’m excited to learn and mingle with experts from other fields to research and produce something fruitful.

I found it interesting to see how many people taking the initiative to add to our diagram where they felt lacking in the sense that hey didn’t see their projects or thought process considered in other themes. I was pleasantly surprised when a group member from the air quality shared insight on how our city planning intervention closely relates to them.

Overall, housing is closely related to gentrification, since gentrification drives property value up and increases lack of affordable housing.

— — — — — — — — — — Mid-Semester — — — — — — — — — —

Week 8: Social Innovation

HW: 3x3 Social Innovation Matrix

Overview: Map scales of complexity for service design and social innovation interventions based on Affordable Housing. Write the two main Sv and Si interventions on two separate post it notes

We chose the top left and top right quadrants for the two Service Design and Social Innovation concepts respectively. I find it interesting that we chose “transformation”, the highest in complexity, and the two extremes (designer vs. group/partnership). Why do we feel that higher complexity is associated with better service design or social innovation? This could be because we feel the solution isn’t within reach and want to work around the periphery of the problem in order to resolve it more fully. But I also think small differences and changes in habits can be just as effective in the right context.

We did not feel comfortable choosing from the middle team column because we based our team column on the community, which is what we feel least familiar with. This is because the workshop with Cheryl left a deep impression on us about treading different cultures from one’s own carefully and respectfully.

Thinking back to when we were choosing 1 out of our 6 interventions, we chose educating the next generation as our long-term goal. I realize that we have dived deeper into short-term interventions in our 3x3 by focusing on how we can change legislation and how city planning can be improved to balance profit agendas and the well-being of Pittsburgh locals.

In general we thought about:

  • how can we improve the relationships between opposing stakeholders and agendas?
  • how does Pittsburgh culture’s factor into our research and intervention proposal?
  • what is the current flow when affording a house?
  • how can we collaborate with the gentrification group as gentrification and affordable housing are deeply intertwined problems?

CLASS: October 18 — Dissecting Si Case Studies / Strategies and Approaches

Overview: We reviewed the workshop on Social Innovation and were introduced with a 3x3 matrix to begin understanding scales of complexity for Sv and Si interventions

  • Warren Lehrer, Wed. Oct 25 (5:00pm-6:30pm), Kresge Hall, CFA
  • This is a survey course, throwing different types of approaches so you can pull from this library in situations
  • Less about creating the piece
  • We aren’t solving…we are hypothesizing and poking, a starting point

How was the assignment last class?

  • What is the best way of doing design, designing the things right vs designing the right thing
  • We were supposed to just look at the matrices and not make our own axises
  • Transition design may be the goal but what if our stakeholders don’t want that?
  • Low-hanging fruit solutions may be necessary too
  • When do you have enough information
  • Matrices might just be a way to check the box
  • Basing assumptions on media, do you have defense for your design? Is lack of information an issue?
  • Scale your ambitions to what you are capable of doing but keeping in mind the vision
  • If you only get trained in how to wield a hammer, then you will only be a hammer looking for nails to hammer (Maslow)

Territory Design 3x3


Transition design is NOT a template, it is learning about many types of frameworks and approaches so when the time comes, you will think about the best strategy to employ
  • vocational education to get a job vs life long education to be flexible
  • contradictory living, we are all hypocrites but what can we do to individually and collectively to move forward
  • visions are always evolving but the aim
  • wicked problems overlap
  • limited but connected interventions = multiple birds killed by a few stones

I was excited to have lunch with Terry Irwin. I wish I had started this from my freshman year because I probably would have had a more gradual understanding of transition design. I found the lunch to be very informative and a more intimate conversation about the School of Design in relation to:

  • ourselves, who we were before studying design, who we are now, who we want to be
  • job prospects (Tech vs. Non-profits)
  • peers (who’s better at making, who’s better at strategy, who doesn’t give a shit)
  • non-designers (other majors)
  • generations (20th century vs 21st century)
  • other design schools

Terry then drew a visual that was another way of looking at tackling wicked problems. I found that I was understanding this much better by thinking about layers, intersections, non-linearity and ambiguity, and small-scale to large-scale thinking. I started realizing how systems design requires a lot of skill going between zooming in and zooming out when I was taking Molly’s service design class. After Terry’s lunch and the diagram she drew, I can confidently say I have improved in this type of thinking and want to continue refining this skill through reading and more practice.

CLASS: October 16 — Intro to Si

Overview: Professor Cheryl Dahl, CEO of Flip Labs and founder of Future of Fish gave a lecture on social innovation. We then delved into an activity with mapping interventions on a 2x2 matrix.

Social Innovation Lecture

What is social innovation?

  • “A novel solution to a social problem that is more effective, efficient, sustainable, or just than existing solutions and for which the value created accrues primarily to society as a whole rather than private individuals.” — Stanford Social Innovation Review
  • Multilayers, relationships, scale
  • Examples of Social Innovations: Fair Trade, Charter Schools, Microfinance
  • Social Innovation Products: D Light, Gira Dora
  • What does it mean if a stakeholder is society?
  • Who is your client?
  • Which stakeholder view takes precedence?
  • Who gives you permission or authority to design for social good?
  • Design for catalysts and conduits, dismiss counselors (salespeople) and (compliers)
  • What do you do with stakeholders that just care about making money (developers) and not social good?
  • Changing laws to help local fishing
  • Consultancy as a business model for social good doesn’t really work
  • Existing transition designers can be independent designers plugging into projects
  • Financial Model: what is the transition you want to see happen → pitch mini projects that meet criteria

Future of Fish Initiative Example

  • Problem: How can we change the system of global overfishing? How can we transform seafood supply chain to be more sustainable? Can we get to a future where you know when and where your fish came from (higher transparency)?
  • Solution: Non-Profit Innovation Hub. Send anthropologists to 8 different sites in 4 different countries. mFish
  • Looks at ecosystems
  • Look at human behavior of a system
  • People are always doing what makes sense for them, so how can design introduce methodologies for people to think different to make better and more informed choices
  • Pay people more for doing the sustainable thing

Fishery Profile

  • 30 boats for two men
  • 2 types of boats (Mandar and Fish Aggregation Device)
  • community immersion
  • Relationship is exploitative. Processors were family members. “We’re a family”, interdependence. Newcomers need to adopt this familial network of relationships. Interviews in a group. Our fates our intertwined.
  • Oleh Oleh (giving), economy of gifting, beginning of a relationship, reciprocity
  • “There’s no such thing as weird in anthropology” / What is your norm?


  • supply chain as family
  • buddy system
  • gift economy
  • predictability and vulnerability
  • receptivity to new technology

Fish wants + needs (non entrepreneurial)

  • weather on water, not land
  • weather in future, not now
  • no interest in business visibility
  • fish pix
  • stay connected onthe water
  • shipping lanes/schedules

Activity: Using a DSI 2x2, plot at least 2 new ideas for Indonesian Fishers

Struggles and Insights:

  • What did this make you think about?
  • Going backwards
  • What’s the new culture if Indonesians began using smart phones, would they still retain communal values or become socially isolated? Is a culture shift good?
  • What are the unintended consequences…going from no smart phones to all smart phones? What is ethical? This is a conversation to have
  • Shifting a culture to accommodate a design is not good. This is destructive. Alignment is better.
  • How can we create a smartphone activity or scenario that fits the Indonesian culture?
  • What’s the most socially ethical source for funding data plans?
  • At what level should we be assuming?
  • Need partners to build trust
  • Design for extremes, inclusive design. Design for the particular and you solve a lot of people’s problems. Design the end state.

Misc. — On Frameworks…

Hiroshi Ishii, who gave a talk on tangible bits in the Design the Future Lecture Series recently posted this diagram from the World Economic Forum.

I thought this was interesting because it also depicts a framework for viewing a vision. Previously we have learned that a vision is a scenario that is desired, completely different from what is probable and expected. A vision can be achieved through backcasting then understanding what problems need to be confronted, which can be mapped on a three horizons timeline.

This framework is different because it revolves around the individual more. While it does address a responsibility for the world (World Needs), it takes into account human emotion (what you love, what you are good at) and human needs given our society (what you can be paid for). This framework seems more focused on a vision of your work in the future world rather than just a vision of the future world. How does this criteria (what makes you satisfied, delighted, excited, comfortable?) compare with Max-Neef needs?

Week 7: Service Design

READING—Transition Design Cases

READING—LEAP Dialogues; Career Pathways in Design for Social Innovation by Lynn and Sosa

READING—Toward a Preemptive Social Enterprise by Stuart Candy



HW: Service Design Scenario in Threes

Task: Create an initial Service Blueprint of your intervention in threes. My partners were Carolyn and Ty.

Approach: Carolyn and I visualized some rough stakeholder and concept maps. We were trying to strike a balance between backcasting from our ideal future for Pittsburgh 2050 and forecasting from grounded STEEP research and existing initiatives. For now, we mocked up a service blueprint on providing Pittsburgh’s evicted victims with a service that assists in transitioning them to an affordable house. Until more affordable houses can be constructed and gentrification reduced, evicted people will continue to face the consequences.

Things we questioned were:

  • What assumptions can we make to move forward with a service? For instance, can we assume that the AHTF is successful in funding 17,000+ homes in the next couple of years so we can focus on 2030, 2040, 2050 goals?
  • How can we measure how culturally appropriate our intervention is?

Current Pittsburgh Research and Initiatives:

Social—Welcome Pittsburgh Map
Technology—Innovation Works (2012–16)
Environment—Climate Action Plan (2012)
Economic—Brookings Institute Research, Pittsburgh Innovation Hub (2017)
Political — AHTF (2016)


CLASS: October 11— Intervention Presentations

Overview: Each group present their concept intervention, values provided, stakeholders involved, Max-Neef needs satisfied/inhibited

Our 4 minute presentation on Access to Affordable Housing Intervention

Overview: What are recurring and related themes between all teams and presentations?

  • copying vs. building off of repeating services
  • it’s not about originality but examining what is already working well
  • same proposals
  • tackling the periphery to tackle the root problem
  • what is the role of culture?
  • how are things framed and why?
  • what is new in our culture that already exists in other cultures or countries?
  • innate mindfulness, thoughtfulness
  • intervening with a light, gentle hand
  • deepening literacy…but this is just the beginning
  • Related: Food — Gentrification — Transportation
  • Related: Education—Affordable Housing—Gentrification

Notes on Presentations:

Intervention: STEM → (STEAM), more arts in school

  • Goal: Spark interest, contribute to communities, environmentally conscious
  • Needs satisfied: Participation, Identity, Creation, Understanding
  • Needs inhibited: idleness

Access to Clean Water

  • 1. Target younger generation through (leveraging social media)
  • 2. Fund students to create solutions (new university major)
  • 3. Pittsburgh government is a fundamental right (new policy)
  • 4. Underwater Tunnel (new infrastructure)
  • 5. Water testing (startup)
  • 6. Devices to make quality of drinking water visible (product)
  • *** Combined Intervention: Water Visibility Service


  • 1. Treatment Truck (transportation rehab service)
  • 2. Helping Hand (assistance platform)
  • 3. Studio Burgh connect with juveniles (mentorship program)
  • 4. PGH Scouts (after school program)

Air Quality

  • 1. Activity Sharing (App)
  • 2. Repurposing Land (Conversion + Renovation of unused lots)
  • 3. Community Garden Education (mentorship program)
  • 4. Bag Recycling Service (Recycling service in par with grocery stores)
  • 5. Steps for Rewards (App)
  • 6. Air Quality Sensor (Government controlled tracker/sensor)


  • 1. Crowdsourced Autonomous Food Rescue (Volunteer)
  • 2. Corporations (App)
  • 3. Garden Initiative Education (DIY Community Garden/Volunteers)
  • 4. Community Compost Service (Zero-Waste Society)
  • 5. Food Pantry (App, sorry)


  • 1. Mixed Housing (Community)
  • 2. Transparent Developers (App)
  • 3. Neighborhood latch system (DIY Community Garden/Volunteers)
  • 4. Facilitate murals, “home is”, “before i die”(Communal physical art)
  • 5. New Residential Building (Physical Architecture)
  • 6. Work into curriculum, assistance for voting and becoming an active citizen (Education)


  • 1. Sustainable lifestyle changes (education)
  • 2. Community center to promote values (community center)
  • 3. Limits Fossil Fuel vehicles (legislation)
  • 4. Carpooling (shared transportation)

CLASS: October 9 — Service Design Workshop with Molly Steenson

Overview: Professor Molly Steenson gave a workshop on service design. We got a brief lecture about what is service design, what are the differences between a service vs. product, examples of services, and got to do a 140 minute Service Design Jam in which we focused on a service for sharing music . In doing so, we can begin to incorporate service design methodologies as we tackle our transition design interventions.

Service Design Notes:

  • Good Service is well-choreographed interactions, invisible until consumed, coordinates between front stage, back stage, and touchpoints, considers all stakeholders
  • Methodologies: User research and interviews, prototypes, storyboarding, concept mapping, service blueprint, pitch video and presentation
  • Collective Health example touch points — brochure, mobile app, website, customer support, designers in office space
  • Slanted Door by Charles Phan is a good example of a restaurant service: There’s a curved bar where you can hear the person next to you, you can see the chef, bartender, and servers (see front stage, back stage all at once)
  • Services can be digital & non-digital: hair salon (physical), AirBnb (digital + physical), Lyft (digital + physical)
  • Product is a single thing vs service are touchpoints, experiences over time
  • Find value in exchange
“When you have 2 coffee shops right next to each other, selling the exact same coffee at the exact same price, service design is what makes your walk into one and not the other, come back often and tell your friends about it.”
— 31 Volts, Dutch service design studio
Prompt: Unique services & service touchpoints for sharing music
don’t do Spotify because we are all familiar with it :)
Brainstorming, Scenarios, Service Blueprint
Concept Logo design in class with Noah

Our Process and Design Concept

  • What do you think of immediately when you think of sharing music? (Spotify, Facebook Groups, Youtube, Sonos, Alexa, Headphones, Radios, Cars, A Picnic, Elevator…)
  • Each person raises a question in regards to sharing music (What does sharing music mean, what’s bad about sharing music, how many people are included when sharing music?)
  • List complaints with how we currently share music (too many platforms, softwares, and apps, Act of sharing is annoying because there are many steps, not everyone is aligned with type of sharing for instance, not everyone uses Pandora or Spotify)
  • Scenarios (at least 3)
  • 1. Classic — sharing music through sending a link to one person
  • 2. Community — sharing music to a large group
  • 3. Discovery—discovering music randomly, a curation, or through marchine learning
  • 4. Crazy — geo-location based music discovery and sharing (Ty)
  • Opportunity: Can we create new ways of facilitating reactions through sharing music, and how we can experience each others reactions?
  • Solution: A platform that allows strangers to share music seamlessly through geo-location technology.

Our Pitch: Musiiverse

  • Intro: Think back to the 18th century where classical musicians like Beethoven shared their scores and music creation + artistry → fast forward to 2030 we are living in a techno world where human-human interaction is ever more awkward.
  • Skit: Noah and I walk passed each other, we are both listening to music and have our smartphone device. Noah gets a notification of “You Belong with Me”. He slides in and begins listening to the Taylor Swift song. He can also see the lyrics and begins to sing them. Moments later, he decides to share a song back to me. I get a notification for “Baby”. I slide in and begin listening to the Bieber song. I explore the app and see a running playlist of the music shared based on the strangers or friends I’ve met today.
Classmates pitching their concepts

Reflection on 140 Minute Service Design Jam

  • There was a range of designing shared music services for different types of stakeholders, from individual to community to industry
  • Traditional mediums included apps, non-traditional mediums included playground stereo systems
  • Our pitches included prototypes in the form of skits, re-enactments, reading a script, and using play material
  • On the theme of sharing music, we touched upon the idea of mutuality, what bonds us, what can we learn from each other and about communities through sharing music
  • Prototypes and skits, even extremely low-fidelity ones, can really bring a concept to life

Resources for Service Design:

Week 6: Meeting Genuine Human Needs

HW—Defining Possible Interventions and Consequences Map

Task: Map 6 different interventions to address access to affordable housing on the map below. Keep in mind Max Neef’s Needs. (note how the lines are like needles poking at the housing)

Our team approached this map by first defining a key. We felt it was necessary to create a map that from a glance, anyone could get a sense that there were 6 major things happening surrounding housing. We also aimed for these interventions to transition Pittsburgh from now to 2030.


  • template: high-level overview (see below)
  • orange: need (subsistence, protection, affection, understanding, participation, idleness, creation, identity, freedom)
  • blue: details on how the intervention addresses this need
Template for Each Intervention
6 Interventions: Legislation, Transportation, Gentrification, Economic, Energy, Education


READING: Service Design 101****************

CLASS: October 4 —Reviewing Needs Satisfiers/Inhibitors

Overview: We reviewed Max-Neef’s theory on needs — synergistic satisfiers and inhibitors by looking at the homework we did. We then received a new map, Defining Possible Interventions and Consequences.

In general, there was some confusion on the assignment. This was the first time we did something individually and it was interesting to see that we all had very different interpretation and styles (poster design, drawing, hand-writing etc.) We had to review what was the initial assignment to begin with because so many of us didn’t interpret it in an expected manner. Terry mentioned this could be an academic research paper itself to examine individual vs. group interpretations.


  • There are a finite amount of needs, hence the complete list of 9 needs
  • Inhibitors are united and universal
  • Satisfiers are limitless and diverse
  • Attempt to kill many birds (needs) with 1 stone (satisfier)
  • Think Longterm + Trajectory. Ex. Apple: Do we need a new iPhone every new year when resources are depleting and waste is increasing?
  • Stakeholders are diverse so don’t think your view/interpretation is right. This is RESEARCH, so get over the hurdle of being an introvert
  • Can you create a template for other people to try this exercise? If you can provide methodologies, you can rise in an organization

Defining Possible Intervention and Consequences Diagram

With a new diagram, we strategized our approach. We walked through our three horizons framework to pull out 6 themes of priority and then divided the research to begin:

  • Legislation / Funding (me)
  • Sustainability / Education (Carolyn)
  • Emerging technology / Energy (Ty)
  • Gentrification / Natives vs. foreigners / Rich vs. Poor / Race (Kevin)
  • Economy / Jobs, Income Gap (Haewan)
  • Transportation (Noah)

Each person is keeping in mind the following when articulating the appropriate intervention:

  • What’s happening right now, what can we work off of? (Forecasting)
  • What are the STEEP problems?
  • Who’s needs aren’t met, who’s needs are met, who’s needs can be met? (Max-Neef Theory)
  • 2030 Goal and 2050 Trajectory (Backcasting)
strategy and dividing work for diagraming possible interventions

HW — Needs Satisfiers and Inhibitors****************

Task: Analyze two man-made things, one with a lot of consequences/needs inhibitors and one that has a lot of synergistic satisfiers.

READING: Sustainable Lifestyle Today’s Facts and Tomorrow’s Trends****************

CLASS: October 2 —Timeline Critique + Theories of Change Lecture

Overview: We critiqued our three horizons framework by going through the class and posting a red post it note on the one we thought was most successful. We then analyzed why the one with the most red post it notes were more successful. The top two were Crime and Housing.


  • What’s working and not working? What is it that got most votes?
  • The audience should feel “I know what is going on”
  • The combination of visuals and words are successful. Visuals draw people in because they are faster to process. They then help group surrounding post it notes and draw in readers
  • Achieve hierarchy with low resolution material
  • Create levels of entry
  • Clients love things even if it’s rough → gives people permission to co-create
  • Leverage group wisdom
  • “You are not weak but sometimes your work is weak”
  • Sometimes you are polishing a turd, no matter how hard you work, it is still a turd at the end of the day
  • Why are some post it notes more effective than others? → states cause, effect, and context / journalistic voice / it has already happened
  • Color is coded
  • Some went beyond post it notes (writing on the white board) because it’s easier to read

Biggest Takeaway:

  • Create stand alone things, even down to post it notes
  • What is the sweet spot for post it noting?
  • Make even your messiest sketches presentable
Head of School of Design, Terry Irwin taking pictures of our Three Horizons Framework

Week 5: Backcasting and Forecasting

HW— Mapping a Three Horizons Timeline

Task: Create a Three Horizons timeline of how Pittsburgh changes (forecasting) from the status quo to the ideal 2050 future scenario within the context of your theme (Affordable Housing). Focus on granular detail.

3 Horizons Framework on Pittsburgh Affordable Housing
Artifacts from the future: Posters advertising VR tours of new homes on the market

Approach: Brainstorming ideas for the 3 Horizons Framework

READING — The Three Horizons of innovation and cultural change by Daniel Christian Wahl (2016)

I found Wahl’s articulation of the Three Horizons framework to be very helpful in seeing how to zoom in and out of system problems. I am not used to thinking in frameworks or creating them yet but I am beginning to understand the importance of working off a theoretical framework and tool to work through granular details. I think it’s incredible to learn that such a graph is flexible enough to be applied to various UK contexts from Scottish education system to the future of Alzehimer’s research; and now we are learning how to employ it in our Pittsburgh themes. This is also a nice open template for inviting all kinds of people to see the greater context and timeframe and hopefully contribute towards designing a shared future.

Key Quotes:

“The essence of the Three Horizons practices is to … step out of our individual mindset into a shared space of creative possibility”
“Three Horizons thinking transforms the potential of the present moment by revealing the different qualities of the future in the present…”
“There is always an H3 emerging…future consciousness will not bring the future under control but allows us to develop capacity for transformation”
  • The three horizons framework is a foresight tool. This is significant because it is a more systematic and structured approach to tackling wicked problems than just prediction.
  • It’s important to maintain an apprentice mindset (‘not knowing’, continued learning, humble attitude, open mindedness) when moving towards the third horizon because solutions are not final, things emerge, and the future is always uncertain
  • Metaphors for H1, H2, H3 that I found were helpful:
  • H1 = Manager, responsible for keeping the lights on and business operational without massive disruption to basic functioning. Usually has myopic and stubborn mindset due to cultural conditioning but keeps things running
  • H2 = Entrepreneur, sees potential in doing things differently, challenges status quo without questioning cultural narrative that maintains H1 culture. Sees opportunities in the shortcomings of H1, aiming to bridge H1 to H3. Lots of trial and error and only a small percentage of innovations succeed to build the bridge.
  • H3 = Visionary, calls for profound transformation towards a better (more just, fair, equitable, thriving, and sustainable) world. Calls for regenerative cultures, constant learning, anticipation of change. Was once an imagined future turned into the present and will turn into the new H1 when we reach this green summit.

CLASS: September 27 — Sketch 2050 Beliefs

Overview: Each group presented their preferable future story. We then had a lecture on unfolding a vision.

Notes on the class activity:

  • What is the paradigm shift? Interdependence
  • Value changes to be good, everything is good
  • Distributed systems, universal pay →new sense of enough
  • Technology: run by AI/things are autonomous
  • If everything is good → How do we be human? How do we remain human? Is there still conflict? What is a safe zone? What does it mean to be human?
  • Cultural-lifelong learning → everyone is a teacher and student
  • Can infrastructure change this much?

Notes on the Unfolding Vision Lecture:

  • What is a scenario? A scenario is a hypothetical history — a point in or path through possibility space
  • What is a vision? A vision is a preferred part of possibility space
“Not only what’s happening in 2050, but how 2050 happened.” (What is the path to 2050?)

Forecasting (probable/expected) vs. Backcasting (vision/ideal)

“[A] more realistic view of humanity’s sombre prospects inevitably helped induce resignation and despair. … Yet, when we took some of the deeply pessimistic youngsters… through a future workshop session, they produced quite different, much more hopeful and positive images of the future.”
“Asked to explain the contradiction, one of them answered to general assent: ‘It’s obvious. [Before] we were asked what kind of future we expected. Here we were asked what kind of future we want.’ ”

Three Horizons Framework:

Horizon 1 (H1): Fading paradigms and technologies
Horizon 2 (H2): Transition paradigms and technologies; what arises en route, including conflicts 
Horizon 3 (H3): Pockets of the future found in the present

3 Horizons Diagramming:

We applied the above framework to our theme, affordable housing. We looked at (H1) the status quo in decline, (H2) inevitable conflicts, (H3) seeds of the future in the present that may blossom

In our first pass in class at mapping our 3 horizons, we were too surface and high level. For instance, our post it notes weren’t answering the how? We found that we needed to revise our story to be more concrete and detailed instead of settling for light vagueness.

Example post it note

  • Sense of ownership (h1)

We tried again and were more successful in focusing on the granular detail to begin approaching our vision laid out in our story.

Example post it note v2

  • Sense of ownership (h1)
  • people begin to donate what they don’t need (approaching minimal lifestyle)
  • buy only what they need (saving money + quality investment)
  • use public and share resources (interdependence)
in class
refining granular detail

HW — Backcasting an Ideal Future

Task: Write a story about a preferred/ideal future for your theme.

approach ****************

Our group’s preferred 2050 future scenario for Pittsburgh / Visual Design by Noah Johnson

CLASS: September 25—Visualizing Transition Design

Overview: We had a lecture on how to approach visualizing transition design. Then each group read out loud their forecasted future scenario type for their theme. For instance, our scenario type was discipline for our theme, Affordable Housing. We named our scenario, PittsburghUS. This exercise was meant for us to share mental models in order to design a shared future.


  • The grand experiment: Will spacio-temporal investigation inform interventions (accupunctural needle)
  • Next semester we will work in small teams and write a project proposal in either service design or social innovation
  • Recap: There are 4 setting/scenario types (collapse, transform, discipline, grow). Our group had discipline
  • Walk the tightrope of balancing between imagination and analysis
  • The availability heuristic is a mental shortcut that relies on immediate examples that come to a given person’s mind when evaluating a specific topic, concept, method or decision.
  • The more specific you are, the more likely people will believe the scenario is probable. Example: What are the chances SF is destroyed by a flood? vs. What are the chances that SF is destroyed by a 9.0+ magnitude earthquake that cases detrimental flooding to the area?
Expected Future (Current Activity) vs. Preferred/Ideal Future (Next Activity)

Our group’s collective thoughts on the 4 scenarios:

What was interesting to see from hearing the 3 other groups present their scenarios and themes were that most of us felt the need to picture a green future. The best scenarios were the ones that had both positive and negative consequences, making it seem more pragmatic and realistic. Our group’s was a bit too positive in trusting advanced technology to lead us into a more responsible and green future without consider the darker side of things like natural disasters or data mining gone wrong. A green future will seem mainstream and can be both a good and bad thing. While we could achieve more sustainable habits and culture, there will inevitably be consequences in how going green will replace traditional jobs and the status quo.

I also feel that these futures were through a CMU and School of Design lens. The fact that all of us pictured a green future has to be influenced from our conscious awareness of sustainability, which is due to the curriculum. I wonder what other people with other lenses would picture. In general, as we move on to backcasting and defining preferable futures, I want to be more responsible in defining the preferable beyond my mental model, experience, and bias.

I recognize that what I think is ideal may not be ideal for others. I hope to stay grounded in research to appropriately define criteria for the ideal future.

Week 4: Intro to Envisioning the Future

HW— Forecast 2050, Affordable Housing in a Disciplined Society

Task: Complete the Generating Alternative Futures Diagram. Write a story that forecasts the future of your theme that goes along with the Generating Alternative Futures diagram and the scenario type.

Approach *************

Reading—Four Futures for Hawaii 2050


“These four alternative futures embody some of the various key assumptions about the future that exist in the present.”

Future 1: Orange / Economic Success driven by mass tourism


  • Hawaii’s population is 4 million
  • Sprawl is occurring because tourism makes it hard to maintain originality and damages eco-friendly reputation


  • East Maui is reserved as a high tech hub for software development and IT using super computer facilities and wide band connections via biotronic cables
  • Education for all ages is provided through “just in time” and “on-demand” online services that are privately operated and augmented by personal tutors (no more public schools). Education is focused on improving eco-tourism industry

Economic Driver: Mass tourism from China, India, and Europe

  • Priority is in mass tourism industry. Islands are entirely dedicated to hotels and resorts to attract tourists from China, India, and Europe
  • All tourist and tourist-related facilities are owned and operated by multinational corporations from China, India, and Europe


  • Global warming and sea-level rise are a blessing, especially for the construction industry
  • Working with nature to build beaches “letting the sea form a new shoreline with humans providing sand, palm trees, and newly-designed water attractions”
  • Exotic organic food is homegrown for tourists and wealthy residents, locals rely on imports primarily from Asia. All imported food is genetically engineered and brought in on nuclear powered ships
  • It is too expensive to fly anything but humans (supercruiser tourists of luxury private jets)
  • While people can enjoy advantages of nature, there is strict regulation on time of contact with oceans and the sun


  • Control and zoning laws limit immigration and discourage high fertility
  • Terrorism is reduced because of careful border control and domestic surveillance by military
  • Criminals are sent to re-education camps on US mainland
  • Government is made up of representatives from multinational corporations who run major industries. Both legislatures and administrators of policies
  • Corporations are responsible to protect citizen voices
  • No taxes

Future 2: Silver / The Dark Ages due to collapse of global financial markets in the early 21st century and aftermath of worldwide currency and oil crisis

Social Driver (Community > Individual)

  • Hawaii’s population is about 300,000, less than 2/3 of what it was in 2000
  • People flea if they can (wealthy and property owners from Japan, North America, and Europe) buying out other people’s tickets
  • “Pacifikan” culture is strong and religion of ancient Hawaiian practices is growing
  • New Pacifikans are welcomed with no passport or visa necessary
  • New borns are community property and can be placed in other communities if deemed necessary by military or community elders
  • Individualism and selfishness are blamed for causing the Bust
  • Higher presence of Pacifikans and Asians has supported an increase in community-oriented culture leading to less racism → “one’s character and contribution to the community are far more important than skin color”
  • Mind-and-body training is a free form of public education
  • A highly revered group of 10,000 officers rotate between islands to regulate from the tyranny of liberal and corporatist ideas
  • Elderly citizens are sent to a fabled community “Heaven and Earth” as a ceremonial retirement. Whether this is seen as a way to get rid of non-contributing members or a prospect to look forward to depends on the person

Technological (not much tech)

  • Communication between islands is only legal by special permission from military


  • Corporations as legal technology have become judged
  • “Acquiring wealth is no longer an ethical way to live”
  • Economy is based on small agricultural collectives, craft guilds, and extended family enterprises
  • Money and credit are gone
  • Unemployed tourism industry


  • Due to rising sea levels, there is a plan to move increasing numbers of people to higher ground and into taller buildings in downtown Honolulu
  • Fossil fuel consumption has mostly ended, but bills for past consumptions continue


  • US government orders Pacific Command to impose martial law
  • King is restored but is essentially a puppet monarchy for a self-serving military dictatorship
  • No threat of invasion because Hawaii is seen as not having a strategic geopolitical advantage

Future 3: Maroon


  • Hawaii’s population is 500,000, immigration and fertility have been reduced to enforce a self-sufficient and sustainable society
  • Hawaii has little interaction with rest of the world, terrorism and guerrilla warfare are reduced



  • Economic gain mostly through local and regional communities
  • Rationing system for commerce is established so “rich cannot go on destroying islands while poor forced to save them”
  • Governance is different on each island (representational system vs family council)
  • Island has its own militia for internal order and external protection
  • Mass tourism is gone because of scarcity and extremely high price of fuel
  • Hawaii is an attractive place and caters to wealthy clients from North America and Asia
  • Tourism for exotic entertainment vs healing health
  • All land is publicly owned



  • Rationing system for commerce is established so “rich cannot go on destroying islands while poor forced to save them”
  • Governance is different on each island (representational system vs family council)
  • Island has its own militia for internal order and external protection

Future 4: Blue / “Personhood” replaces humanity due to a design and technological revolution

Arnold Toynbee: “A critical mass of humans dared to think of the welfare of the whole human race as a practical objective”
Walter Truett Anderson “Evolution must be governed as best we can…we have become as gods, so we had better get good at it.”
“individual,” “self,” and “nation” are obsolete


  • “Hawaii”, “place”, “being there”, and “culture” are concepts that no longer make sense due to the wide range of intelligent beings in existence (AI, cyborgs, biological modifications etc.)
  • “Natural” Earth no longer exists, instead it is a big bio electronic system
  • No reason for human labor or management, intelligent beings pursue arts, games, and spirituality
  • Difficult to characterize because beings have become permanently linked or uploaded to bio-electronic networks, some travel from physical platform to physical, others from biological to mechanical forms
  • There are “un-augmented” sapiens with an average life span of 130 years

Technological Driver: Evolution beyond Homo Sapiens

  • non-human intelligence, post-humans, cyborgs, augmented and virtual reality, bio-electronic chips and networks
  • quantum processors, nanotechnology, ubiquitous communication technologies, artificial intelligence, artificial life, cyborg augmentations
  • teleportation of goods


  • Basic needs, energy, and material resources are distributed evenly and freely, as desired
  • nanotechnological manufacturing has created material abundance, bio-electronic networks coordinate distribution and services but follow guidance set out by forum


  • extensive environmental destruction and ultimate extinction has been avoided when leaders “dared to think of the welfare of the whole human race as a practical objective”


  • “evolution must be governed as best as we can”
  • “hive mind” forum is an interplanetary decision-making forum that sets policy for Earth, Moon and Mars
  • There are “intelligence governance” biochips that are embedded into all physical environments
  • governance chips do not allow entities to build or consume in ways that are net destructive


What instantly struck me about reading these four alternative scenarios is how I was drawn to some and feared others. The four futures were like seeing different movie styles and meeting opposing personality types. I found myself liking certain aspects of each future and thought about how there could be more futures for Hawaii. I have vacationed in Hawaii before and cannot believe futures like Future 2, the Dark Ages could happen, or something worse. I am naive to think that everything will always be ok. I was mostly drawn to Future 1, Economic Success and Future 4, Human Evolution. I found these two to be the most positive despite how opposite these two futures were. In general, I hope for the optimistic scenario where we can avoid the destruction of both nature and humanity at all costs. I am terrified that to achieve this latter statement we may need to relinquish some of our individuality, identity, and even humanity.

I began to understand the diagram that Stuart showed us of how there are infinite futures. Whatever happens to Hawaii, these stories help to paint the “what if” scenarios and encourage a sense of urgency to plan and act.

CLASS: September 20 — Generating Alternative Future*********

Overview: We shared our haikus, got a lecture on how we can become more concrete in designing for the future, learned about 4 archetypes of the future, and began a new diagram, Generating Alternative Futures.

Notes on Haikus

  • Haikus are a constrained form of expression yet they can express a lot
  • Most of our haikus are sad, negative and have a dystopian view of the future
  • We touched on a lot of things, fear, technology, no sustainability, destruction
  • We depicted the future based on present and past experiences

Notes on Lecture

“The future” cannot be “predicted,” but “alternative futures” can, and should be “forecast.”

HW: Haikus about the future

It’s 2047…write a haiku for each prompt:

1. A day in my life

Sitting at the beach
brain plays favorite music
life is augmented

2. My community

Dancing with people
in a sustainable home
no more war just warmth

READING— Caring for Future Generations by Jim Dator*****

  • Big Ethical Question: What are the obligations of present generations towards future generations?
  • The idea of progress, development and economic growth has come to dominate the world at the cost of ruining the planet (pollution, overpopulation, debt, instability, increased danger, inequality, artificialness etc.)

CLASS: September 18 —Stakeholder Skits and Visioning Lecture

Overview: All table groups with their respective themes and 3 stakeholder groups presented their skits. We then received a visioning lecture abstracting what to keep in mind when designing for the future.

peers performing skit about air pollution strike

The skits were in two parts

  • the first is what we rehearsed between the three stakeholder groups, in my group’s case it was (Local Government, Big Corporations, Pittsburgh Residents)
  • the second was an impromptu conversation (more of an argument) between the three stakeholder groups


  • There are conflicted agendas amongst stakeholder groups
  • It’s hard to make every stakeholder group happy
  • There was humor, but to some people it was insensitive and hard to watch because we never talked to real stakeholders and were acting from assumption
  • Another way to think about humor is that it can also be viewed as laughing at the stereotypes, not the people
  • It was clear and important to see the different beliefs that everyone held
  • While we individually may think we are acting objectively, we are still subjective because we have our own experiences and upbringings
  • There’s indirect finger pointing and an urge to blame others…think about what is the root of the issue, where are people coming from?

In my group’s skit, Carolyn and I represented Councilmen who researched and drafted an Affordable Housing Task Force Report, laying out evidence and proposals to afford 17,000 houses to those in need. In our individual skit, we played good cop, bad cop where the good cop is looking at the positive side of what would happen if this effort succeeds and the bad cop feeling negative about how hard it is to get funding.

In our argument phase with the other two stakeholders, Big Corporations and Pittsburgh Residents, Carolyn and I found ourselves to be in the mediator role. There was a lack of communication between all of us where the residents were frustrated that there wasn’t a quick solution and complained about seemingly insignificant things. Big corporations only wanted to negotiate how to make more profit, yet hold a potential key to providing more funding. I was surprised by how frustrated and annoyed I felt even though this was just pretending. There was so much debate and I found myself justifying my replies by referencing the “research we did” as the “AHTF” and wanting to say anything to shut down people’s complaints. I had to promise both stakeholders the investment and work the AHTF had done, but I began to understand that when stakeholders don’t think long-term, they struggle to accept the waiting.

Watching how a larger entity was embodied by a single person and thus humanizing the entity made it easier for me to understand the tension between stakeholders. Big corporations were personified to just be “wanting profit” and being extremely cold and rude to other stakeholders. I even empathized with criminals who robbed a house when they pleaded, “do you even understand…” There is just so much misunderstanding and everyone wants their voice to be heard. At the end of the day, it is through relentless negotiation and argument to settle at something hopefully fair.

This was a valuable activity despite some of the insensitive tone towards the real situation and problems a lot of people are facing. It reinforces how privileged we are as students to be able to research and learn more about what is beyond our day-to-day livelihoods. I was touched by the number of peers who wanted to go out and interview real stakeholders to get a better understanding but learned that there are cultural and legal tensions in doing so. Overall, Stuart pointed out that despite the uncomfortable emotions and realizations this skit raised, it is more helpful to think about:

  • What questions can you ask now?
  • How can we meaningfully engage?
  • How can you go deeper?

Visioning Lecture

  • How do you design successfully?
“Always design a thing by considering it in its next larger context — a chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in an environment, an environment in a city plan.”
- Eliel Saarinen (1873–1950)
  • What is the future? What are different ways we think and experience the future?
Left (No idea what the future beholds) vs. Right (No idea what the future beholds)
  • There are three types of future thinking:
  • Probable ~ Science → tends to be singular image, linear, and wrong
  • Possible ~ Art
  • Preferable ~ Politics
“The future” cannot be “studied” because “the future” does not exist. — Jim Dator’s First Law
Which is why we should study multiple future images
Future → (FutureS)
  • examples of multiple “futures” include chess moves and the binary tree
Professor Stuart Candy explaining what we often do, design for the present when we should in practice design for the future (outside → in) and present (inside → out) simultaneously to inform successful design decisions

Week 3: Understanding Stakeholders

READING — Community, The Structure of Belonging by Peter Block

“Create a community where each citizen has the experience of being connected to those around them and knows their safety and success depend on the success of all others”
“Community is the container within which our longing to be is fulfilled”
Individual transformations ≠ community transformations


Welcome Summary

  • Leadership challenge / opportunity: “Without a willingness to be accountable for our part in creating a strong and connected community, our desire to reduce suffering and increase happiness in the world becomes infinitely more difficult to fulfill.”
  • Strength of a democracy determined by “vitality and connectedness of our community”
  • To belong has two meanings: 1. membership, being at home, being among friends 2. having ownership and accountability, being a co-creator
  • Structure vs Personal Style: Leadership can be thought of as a way of giving structure for a community instead of innate personal qualities that determine leaders.
  • “We can create structures of belonging even if we are introverted and do not like to make eye contact.”

Intro Summary

  • Main Challenge: transform the isolation and self-interest within our communities into connectedness and caring for the whole / shifting from community problems to community possibilities
  • Today we talk about how small our world has become because of instant sharing and technology, but this does not necessarily create a sense of belonging. (Facebook friend ≠ real friend in life)
  • Connection, diverse information, and infinity range of opinion ≠ grounded sense of safety, emotional, spiritual, and psychological membership
  • Lack of trust in suburbs: “Interaction among kids must be scheduled, much like a business meeting”

Communities That Work for All

  • Hospitality: welcoming of strangers and generosity, an offer with no expectation of return
  • What worked for another may not work today: Narratives of success give us hope and places to visit but do not build our community or shift fundamentals
  • First comes shift of thinking then comes methodology. Without a shift in thinking, methodology becomes technique and practice becomes imitation
  • To attain a more positive and connected future that is distinct from the past we must be willing to trade problems for possibilities
  • Challenge: understanding transformations of human systems since we know more about individual transformation

A Future Distinct from the Past

  • Individual transformation ≠ community transformation
  • Investing in individual transformation comes at the cost of the community transformation (community > individual)
  • Social Capital is valuing interdependence, quality of relationships, citizen cohesion and sense of belonging → driving hospitality and affection (Robert Putnam)
  • How do you create a community where each citizen has the experience of being connected to those around them and knows their safety and success depend on the success of all others? (individual == individual == individual)

Brief Statement of the need

  • When there’s prosperity, somewhere else is paying the price for that prosperity
  • “The question is not about the nature of the struggles; it is about the nature of the cure” (solutions > problems)


I continually think about community through an academic lens, how i’m situated within it and what my role is because I think it is important to be a part of something much greater than being a lone wolf. I’ve been fortunate enough to be attending schools where there are significant community events and support. I think back to selecting colleges and when I visited CMU, I had an instant feeling that this was the “right fit” because the community and campus had a well-rounded vibe. It wasn’t until I started studying here that I learned of complaints that the schools are still rather siloed and specialized despite the promotion of interdisciplinary work. I realized that even if I could branch out to other schools like Art, Robotics, CS, HCI, English, History, Psychology, Ideate, I wasn’t fully a part of that community because I wasn’t necessarily specialized enough or spoke the jargon of the majority. There is also so much an individual can be a part of.

However, I still think back to Freshman year orientation and how the dorm experience did a wonderful job helping to foster the community spirit as some of my closest friends who weren’t necessarily studying design are from the floor I lived on freshman year. I’ve also gotten an opportunity to take courses in almost all the buildings and was always welcomed. It was mostly an interaction from an enthusiastic teacher or student leader who helped me recognize that I didn’t have to major in a certain field to still be a part of that community and work. In general, I think the opportunity to be part of any community is here at Carnegie Mellon because so many people are so welcoming, but it is a balance between individuals taking initiative and a community platform to include these individuals.

My greatest sense of community belonging is still the School of Design, specifically in Porter Hall. It is mostly from the traditions passed down from alumni and upperclassmen from silly things like design twinning to helping each other crit at 4am before a deadline that makes one realize what a family we are. At Porter Hall, I get to exercise my leadership skills the most because I am a shop monitor. It is here that I have the opportunity and responsibility to help those in need, interact with the younger class, and oversee safety in the woodshop. I feel like the community is strong here because sometimes people literally need more than two hands to carry wood, and others recognize the need to lend a hand or more.

Ultimately, I would like to apply transition design to improve my thinking of communities to a greater context of cities and beyond as I will be transitioning into the job world. I hope to contribute to a community as robust, growing, and inclusive as the ones I have been lucky enough to be a part of.


  • Why does “western culture” value individuality and independence more than interdependence?
  • What does our senior design class care about in terms of our community (design, cmu, pittsburgh, etc.)?
  • What do my peers think are successful individuals vs. communities? Communities they want to live in? Communities they are drawn to? Individuals they aspire to be?

READING—Future Workshops by Robert Jungk******

HW: September 16 —Hopes & Aspirations / Concerns & Fears

  • Task: Create a one-minute skit with a partner to represent a particular stakeholder group and explain your critical fears and hopes. Then create a 11x17 sketch that aligns to the skit
  • Skills: concept mapping, script writing, storyboarding, role-playing
  • Partner: Carolyn Zhou

Carolyn and I worked together to represent Pittsburgh’s Local Government stakeholder group. From our last class activity, we mapped the relationship between three stakeholder groups (local government, pittsburgh residents, for-profit investors) for our theme, housing. The most challenging part was figuring out how to best approach understanding the Pittsburgh Local Government since both Carolyn and I are not familiar with government and political processes. Carolyn and I ended up doing more research on the Affordable Housing Task Force as it is one of the most recent initiatives related to our housing theme.

This assignment helped me realize the complexities and additional stakeholder groups within a main stakeholder group involved in trying to solve problems to address concerns/fears and work towards reaching aspirations. The concept map below helped Carolyn and me visualize the structure and story for our script.

What was exciting to learn was that the Pittsburgh Council actually pushed two legislative proposals this summer that will raise between $8 million and $10 million per year to eliminate the city’s deficit of affordable housing, which task force studies estimated at 17,000 units.

“You can’t make a meaningful difference doing three or four houses at a time,” he said. “We have to do 100, 200 at a time. That’s how you make change.” — Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess
Concept Mapping the nuances of our stakeholder group to better understand the story
Script Writing
Roleplaying the Co-Chairs of the 2016 Housing Report: Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle (Left) & Director of City Planning (Raymond W. Gastil)
Process for storyboard and script
List of Concerns & Fears and Hopes & Aspirations

CLASS 4: September 11 —World View Lecture********

READING: Deep Ecology from “The Web of Life” — a New Paradigm by Fritjof Capra


  • The myriad problems that we are facing (environmental degradation, global, loss of biodiversity, scarcity of resources, overpopulation, poverty etc.) are just different facets of one single crisis: a crisis of perception, or an “outdated worldview”
  • A paradigm shift is like a scientific revolution (Thomas Kuhn). An example is the shift from Newtonian physics to Quantum physics, when scientists realized their whole way of thinking was inadequate to describe atomic phenomena. There should also be a shift from physics to life sciences.
  • The new paradigm should have a deep ecological awareness (the web of life, earth-centered, holistic, treat nature as self) that challenges the current mechanistic worldview (human-centered, human as machine).
  • Ecofeminism could challenge social domination (patriarchy, imperialism, capitalism, industrialism, racism etc.)


What immediately comes to mind after reading Capra’s article is Einstein’s quote:

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”

I found this reading to be quite abstract and hard for me to fully process. I would like to read more about the drivers that caused the shift from Newtonian physics to Quantum physics because I’m interested in seeing how people can become more aware of their own worldview in order to “update” it. In general I found this article to be a sound but controversial argument against the status quo of patriarchy, capitalism etc. It calls for a certain urgency in becoming aware of what’s happing right now, what’s next, and how these are related to our individual and mostly “outdated” world views.

I relate to this “outdated worldview” when I interact with some of my older, more conservative family members and when I see babies with iPads. When I try to explain how to use a computer to some of my older family members, they usually respond with a mix of excitement, appall, and discouragement because of the learning curve. They fear going out of their comfort zones of more traditional ways of doing things yet revel in how young people are doing things smarter and faster. When I see babies already using iPhones and iPads and how they immediately think any screen is a touch screen or swipe-able, I begin to think of the worldview they are developing, one that is more fearless of technology and its consequences. Of course my current interpretation of “outdated worldview” is simplified because I’m just talking about my experiences with technology and young and old people, but I’m thinking about how we couldn’t have anticipated the new habits and consequences the next generation will be facing because of our current designs.

Questions I have:

  • What is then considered the most updated worldview? How updated is the eco-feminist lens?
  • Where does eco-feminism relate to the feminist movement in general?
  • Who are some eco-feminists and what do they do?
  • What does an eco-feminist product, service, and community look like?
  • How do you help people (including oneself) to continually update their worldview?

Week 2: Preliminary Research******

CLASS: September 6 — Pgh game, project themes

READING: Mapping Ojai’s Water Shortage

Week 1: Transition Design Overview

CLASS: August 30— Pgh game, project themes

We were assigned our project themes for this semester.

Teammates: Carolyn, Kevin, Noah, Ty, Hae Wan

Our Theme: Affordable Housing

Other Themes:

  • Reduction of Crime
  • Gentrification
  • Access to Clean Water
  • Access to Quality Education
  • Food
  • Transportation

Today we also played a game in teams to test how much we know about Pittsburgh. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I didn’t know about Pittsburgh despite living here for the past three years going on four. I have new motivation to explore and learn more about Pittsburgh before I graduate.

I didn’t know that the “We Can Do It!” was designed by a Pittsburgh artist, J. Howard Miller. “The intent of the poster project was to raise worker morale, to reduce absenteeism, to direct workers’ questions to management, and to lower the likelihood of labor unrest or a factory strike” during World War II.

“Pittsburgh” (1927) This was a painting I saw at the Whitney Museum this summer. This wasn’t in the slide but I was reminded of it when I saw the “We Can Do It!” poster in class. The artist, Elsie Driggs, painted this because as a child she saw the city’s steel mills spewing smokestacks from the train window, tinting the nocturnal sky with sulfurous hues. Years later, she returned to Pittsburgh to paint this but found that mills began using a new process that no longer discharged smoke into the sky. She painted monolithic gray smokestacks anyways, suggesting her skepticism of America’s newfound faith in technology → “We Can Do It!” (1942) Fast forwarding from the Great Depression to World War II, I find this poster depicting a female worker to be progressive for it’s time. It was interesting to read that workers didn’t interpret the poster to empower women but to mean “Westinghouse Employees Can Do It”. Nonetheless it’s interesting to see interpretations of artists from different times and themes that persist to this day.

READING: Leverage Points, Places to Intervene in a System by Meadows***********

  • What is a Leverage Point? → Places within a complex system (a corporation, economy, living body, city, ecosystem) where a small shift = big change
  • Leverage points are points of power and are typically counterintuitive

CLASS: August 28 — First Day “Learn to dance with others”

Lecture Overview

Notes from lecture

I really enjoyed the refresher on our Transition Design curriculum, especially when Terry drew the P, C, E → Transition Design diagram. It puts a lot of things into perspective in terms of simplifying and visualizing the ideal state we strive for despite all the complexities, doubts, and roughness that comes with change. I am reminded of how it takes teamwork, collaboration, debate, planning, research, and bravery to challenge the status quo. Being the first graduating class to go through this new curriculum is a special experience because we can provide feedback of what’s working and what can still be improved.

Transition Design Frameworks

On a more nostalgic note, I vividly remember when I was a freshman and Terry Irwin visited our studio. She drew the T shaped designer and explained that the School of Design is planting seeds in the back of our heads so that in the future, we will be empowered to make leadership decisions. I didn’t understand at the time as I was just focused on why drawing cubes were so important. Today, while the entire concept is still a bit challenging to fully understand, I am looking forward to working towards a better understanding. I think it’s just with more time, practice, and experience.

For me, the key learnings from this lecture were:

  • understand history and how the world works, what came before us to forecast and design for what is to come
  • leverage unused resources (be scrappy)
  • learn to dance with others (read people but I think focus on the work, not the differences)
  • embrace the ambiguity and go with the flow
  • T shaped designer (understand form giving+thinking to move up in society)
  • be able to articulate your ethos (know yourself)
  • systems are to us as water is to fish (how’s the water? what water?)


  • Our society faces mounting challenges as a result of unbalanced relationships between the built and natural worlds: massive electronic waste; increased meat production raising greenhouse gas emissions; widespread deforestation; excess water consumption, toxification, redirection for irrigation, and so on. As contributors to the built world, we designers have an enormous impact on these relationships — and a responsibility to help recover their balance through the mindful investigation of them as complex, wicked problems. Our goal is to gain insight into approaches and methods that aid the study of factors affecting the harmony between ourselves and our environment, and to apply these to designing services and social innovations that help transition societies to sustainable futures.

Things i’m curious about:

  • How do you become more aware and learn more about your own world view?
  • What are the ethics of changing people’s lifestyles?
  • Where did the metaphor of planting seeds → growing into trees come from and why is it applied to Transition Design?
  • Where are we all going?
  • Why do problems become so wicked?
  • How do you find balance in an unbalanced world?

Personal Goals for Senior Year:

  • Blend transition design processes with my current practices to create a more effective, balanced, and strategic process between form giving and design thinking → become a responsible designer
  • Move fluidly between complex abstract and concrete concepts
  • Embrace ambiguity
  • Dance with those unlike me
  • Read more
  • Watch more movies and understand the themes
  • Better articulate through writing, speaking, and presentation
  • Better visually communicate through rapid sketching and story-telling
  • Have meaningful conversations and develop lasting relationships
  • Articulate personal ethos and greater life purpose
  • Ask more questions

What is Transition Design?