Design Research Studio

Senior Design Studio

8/30/17 — Meadows Reading

Leverage points- places within a complex system, where a small shift in one thing can produce big changes in everything (“points of power”). We usually have a backward intuition/counterintuitive, pushing leverage points in the wrong direction. For example, we’re trying to solve a lot of problems with growth, but sometimes what is needed is slower growth, no growth, or even negative growth.

Places to Intervene in a System (by Meadows)

(in increasing order of effectiveness)

12. Constants, parameters, numbers (such as subsidies, taxes, standards)

11. The sizes of buffers and other stabilizing stocks, relative to their flows.

10. The structure of material stocks and flows (such as transport networks, population age structures)

9. The lengths of delays, relative to the rate of system change

8. The strength of negative feedback loops, relative to the impacts they are trying to correct against

7. The gain around driving positive feedback loops

6. The structure of information flows (who does and does not have access to what kinds of information)

5. The rules of the system (such as incentives, punishments, constraints)

4. The power to add, change, evolve, or self-organize system structure

3. The goals of the system

2. The mindset or paradigm out of which the system — its goals, structure,rules, delays,parameters — arises

1. The power to transcend paradigms

Meadows Reading

“Those are two negative feedback loops, or correcting loops, one controlling the inflow, one controlling the outflow, either or both of which you can use to bring the water level to your goal.” (Increasing/decreasing water in a bathtub as a metaphorical system)

Parameters- things within the system that controls/adjusts how much inflows or outflows that goes in or out of the system. Sometimes fixed, but most often very common places (90–95% of our attention often goes to parameters) that people try to intervene as leverage points. But according to Meadows, it’s one of the last things on his leverage intervention list, because they rarely change behavior. They do come in to play when they kick-off something more essential in the system. Rarely are there critical parameters/numbers, that will drive a system out of order.

Buffers-Slow in/out flows with big stocks have larger buffers. Systems with larger buffers are more resistant to change/stable, but then could be less flexible and not quick to respond.

Stock-and-flow structures- How things are laid out (Where roads are laid, the large baby-boomer population) Physical structures are really important to a system, but changing them are usually not simple. Leverage point is understanding it’s limitations.

Delays in a system- Delay in either the system responding from your change, or your delay in responding to the system. “A delay in a feedback process is critical relative to rates of change in the system state that the feedback loop is trying to control.” Changing delays can produce great effects, but their often not changeable.

Negative feedback loops- or self-correcting feedback loops, may sometimes be stripped away because they don’t seem to be that necessary (habitats for endangered animals). Helps keep its appointed stock at or near it’s goal and it’s strength is relative to the impact it intends to correct.

After the first class, I felt a little overwhelmed; I couldn’t imagine myself trying to design for a complex system and having to think of all the consequences and chain reactions my decisions could kick off. But after reading this paper, it gave me a clearer idea that it doesn’t take a whole redesign of a system to fix a problem. Rather, there are leverage points that could create a great impact. Now the problem is finding them…

9/5/17 — Starting research & Ojai Reading

Our team got “Reduction of Crime” as our topic. I’m pretty excited to see how we will dissect and understand the complexity of this problem. During our meeting yesterday, someone said that our topic is like the result of a few of the other topics, because of the lack of affordable housing and lack of education, crime rates are higher. Of course there’s many other factors, but we’re starting to see how entangled our problem is with other team’s. Our team decided to divide different possible factors that will result in crime, someone is looking at the history of Pittsburgh, trends of crimes based off Pittsburgh districts, and I’m looking at the judicial system and particularly where it has not helped with reducing crime. I feel like we still have a long way to go in terms of understanding the whole problem and I wonder if our current approach will help us get there soon, it just feels like there’s so much we still don’t know yet. I’m looking forward to see what insights my other team mates have come up with.

I skimmed over the Ojai reading, I think the images really helped me understand the workshop process better. I’m also taking the Futures class this semester so it’s been particularly interesting to see how Futures and this studio class with it’s focus on transition design has been overlapping in many of it’s concepts. I think a tricky thing about transition design is that I feel like it’s kind of hard to measure success when we’re trying to design something so far off in the future. Or if there’s unforeseen circumstances that come up that was not taken in to account when designing for something in the present. I can imagine that there’s a lot of goal markers along the way to the ideal future solution and working up to that with a more detailed plan in the present.

9/10/17– Finding holes & Capra reading

I’m feeling better about our topic after meeting with the team yesterday. Keeping in mind that all our post-its should make sense to an outsider, we rewrote some that seemed a little too vague and started mapping them out on the STEEP map. As we predicted, the Environments category was pretty empty, but we know we just got to dig deeper and look at how it relates with crime in a different angle. We also noticed a lot more other holes that we should do more research on. I’m feeling good about our direction, knowing that hopefully as we do more research, we could find more leverage points. And eventually focus on one that we would think would have the most impact on the whole system.

The Capra reading had a lot of new concepts that I’ve never thought of before. It was interesting that he related the new paradigm that we should be moving towards to to be more feminine (ecofeminism?) I agree with how we should aim for a more cooperative and holistic worldview instead of one that’s competitive and rational. I read a book recently about how the industrial revolution (Western mindset) of having to pump out work and products to survive infringes on our capability to work for satisfaction. I wonder how that paradigm shift (working for satisfaction) will change how our society is ran now.

I saw another relevant point from Futures that was brought up in the reading about how sometimes “human-centered” design isn’t enough. Although it’s great to keep individual’s needs in mind, we need to see that in a system encompasses more than just individual humans, but groups of people (with their own unique needs, cultures, and values) and even inhuman things (infrastructures, animals, bodies of water…)

9/17/17– Leverage points, empathy skits, and readings

We amassed even more post-its on our map over the past week , and I know there’s a lot of information that we’ve researched, but it still feels like I have a very disjointed understanding of crime. I’ve researched mostly on drugs and how that has affected crime and I know a lot about it, but I guess I don’t really know much about what my teammates have looked in to. And even by reading their post-its, it’s still hard for me to form a cohesive picture of what crime is. Maybe if we started drawing the connecting lines like we did for the stakeholders exercise we would have a clearer picture.

The stakeholder activity where we drew lines of affinity and opposition between different groups of stakeholders gave us a good representation of how there’s many opinions on what the problem is and how to solve it. I think our team, and me included, were kind of uncomfortable with stereotyping who criminals were and what they’re intentions were. Or even assuming what were the cop’s motives without actually speaking to some actual stakeholders. I know with the time frame of this project, it’s not feasible to do that, but without research a lot of this feels like just an exercise and not real (I guess it isn’t real with so many assumptions.)…and I guess it’s just harder for me to take seriously.

The readings, especially Block’s was really interesting to me. I really think that there’s an art to building a community that is open with each other and where everyone feels like they belong. Some points that really resonated with me was that he wasn’t focused on just improving communities, but transforming them in to something new (from isolation and individualism to communities that are connected and care for each other.) But transforming a community doesn’t just mean transforming a group of individuals. I used to think that a community would be fine with a group of strong leaders, but thinking of the larger community as a whole, the leaders would have to transform those they are leading. Lastly, having a positive mindset of looking at possibilities within a community instead of the problems was something I never really thought of either especially we seem so focused on “Crime” as the problem right now.

9/20/17– Intro to Futures

My Haikus:

“Day in the life in 2047”

A Voice wakes me up
Tells me my goals for today
It knows me better

“Community in 2047”

Everything is fake
Our food is not from the Earth
But from sterile labs

Main takeaways:

  • The future can not be studied because the future doesn’t exist
  • We make the mistake of thinking of future linearly, but single images of a future are almost always wrong
  • We have to anticipate change (to be more ready for surprises)

Dator Reading:

I think taking the Futures class at the same time as this class is really helpful, since all of Peter’s lectures seem very relevant and I have a place to apply it here in studio. In Futures, we were looking at when some of our own worldviews and assumptions were challenged. In the Dator reading, it talks about how a lot of things we know now and assume as the norm(the image of a nuclear family, college as the next step after high school, retiring at hopefully 65) is all relatively new in comparison to how we lived 200 years ago. It makes me wonder how much of my own worldview will be challenged in the next few decades, how would the world change, and how can we forecast that?

9/21/17–Generating Alternative Futures

I’m really enjoying the lectures that Stuart is giving us. Although I’m still having a hard time envisioning myself actually putting these exercises in to practice. I know it’s a helpful way to think and powerful when we’re in a place to make those big decisions, but a part of me is a little short-sighted and want to improve on skills that will make me more “hire-able” as probably a junior designer. I know that’s a short term goal, but I can’t help it sometimes. There’s also a little frustration in the uncertainty of what we’ll end up making. These exercises seem a little disjointed. We did the STEEP framework, stakeholders mapping, and now these alternative futures exercises; I’m curious to see how we can put these all together.

Last class we broke down alternative futures to 4 different themes: Growth, Collapse, Discipline, and Transformation. We were tasked with constructing a future around transformation and we decided to look at Pittsburgh in 2050 when working is no longer the natural pathway people go towards. In our scenario, 80% of the population are unemployed because working is no longer necessary and they live on an universal basic income. It was exciting to see how this one bold statement allowed us to start filling out the gaps of this imaginary future that would provide a context for the worldview of working was no longer necessary. Our scenario does sound a little ridiculous, but as one professional futurist said, it only seems ridiculous on the surface. Things could possibly end up like this too.

9/25/17– Growth, Collapse, Discipline, Transform

From out Alternative STEEP Futures map we wrote out a story that encapsulates an image of how the future would look like if there was a transformation in our current worldview. We chose to look at a future where working is no longer necessary because most jobs are automated. The following is our story:

In 2050, we have experienced a shift in perception around occupations. As large corporations and technology companies build monopolies around all facets of human interactions, money is put into automation to replace most jobs requiring manual labor. These companies have dominated market share of their respective fields in return for paying high taxes to the government, and the taxes are in turn used to provide universal basic income for all. As the population’s physiological and safety needs are met, self- actualization and fulfillment have become core principles by which the new generation lives by.
Politically, the cultural shift from economic fulfillment to a more hedonistic culture has been supported through a heavy tax on automation. This new revenue has gone to supporting stipends for the masses of unemployed individuals who don’t wish to work. On this universal basic income, they are free to pursue whatever they please. School curriculums are now tracked from early on into workers or non-workers, and the reduced number of companies in play has resulted in more granted monopolies. People are generally apathetic towards the power of these large corporations because they are so constrained by high taxes. Unfortunately, the lackluster financial quality of life on the stipend has created a huge incentive to practice organized crime.
Since the influx of automation, the focus of life is now centered on one’s passions. The universal basic income have given people the opportunity to put their personal interests before their careers. With the automation of industries once dominated by manual labor, creative and technological fields make up the majority of the workforce. Only 20% of the population remain in the workforce, and they make up the upper / upper middle-class and the 1%. Because the majority of the population do not work and many are living on a basic income, living standards have decreased, but overall morale has also increased. People are no longer put into less than ideal working situations, and lower income jobs are mostly in the maintenance of machines, which is significantly less demanding of the body. Social status is no longer based on one’s wealth and career, but rather how successful they are in pursuing one’s passion. For those who can afford it, a nomadic lifestyle has also become the norm. Environmental changes have also instigated a mass migration of the upper class to areas less affected by climate change and natural disasters.
With an 80% unemployment rate, the middle class has been diminished to nonexistence. As a result, the gap between the rich and poor is immense. Though most of the population finds pursuing a career no longer a necessity, small-batch products and online shops are seeing a rise as passion projects are encouraged and many wish to move their quality of life above the baseline. A few monopolies now produce and automate almost all products and most services, from buying food to viewing a new home. The job market is only open for those who specialize in creating and designing technology that will continue to automate jobs once held by humans.
A steep rise in the availability of automated services has all but eliminated the need for humans in transactions. Kiosks accept debit, credit, bitcoin, and DineX in exchange for customized meals and have replaced most restaurants. Behemoth construction robots roam the streets at night, settling down by morning to patch the aging infrastructure. The self-driving bus system has began to pay for itself in the past year, but Port Authority still cannot afford to keep up with hackers that sell spoofed bus passes. Amazon’s drone-delivered groceries are popular among the college population. Cellular and implanted devices are connected to the 10G network (there was never any 9G). Building a robot is as easy as building a computer, and a few gangs have begun using robots to both sell and deliver drugs. Police drones are in development, and are not allowed to carry weapons but are required to have body cams.
Despite the advances in technology and infrastructure, the effects of decades worth of ignorant over-consumption has left the planet in a state of crises. The Saffir-Simpson scale now goes up to Category 8 Hurricanes which can reach up to 200 mph. These intensely dangerous storms have ruined the coastal US requiring the american population to move inland, and for closed borders to immigrants. With California, Florida, Texas and New York no longer in a habitable state, cities such as Pittsburgh have begun to thrive. The influx in population, as well as the history of pollution have left the rivers and lakes of the US deeply polluted. However, air quality has improved due to the all vehicles being electrically operated. The Automation Age has deprived the Earth of most of its minerals and resources, and have generated solar panel and wind turbine fields as large as countries. As a result, critical species have gone extinct such as bees, which has lead to a domino series of multi-species extinctions. Due to the overwhelming amount of irreversible environmental devastation the general public has become emotionless and apathetic towards the situation.
As the cornerstones of this socialist society becomes creativity and natural intelligence, a greater population of creatives and innovators are enabled. Resentment between those who work and those who don’t widens the gap between classes, making it more and more difficult for the government to appease those who become unsatisfied with their standard of living. Society as it is produces a duality of characters, while the earth slowly plummets into one environmental disasters after another.

We spent a good amount of class time also listening to other team’s futures. It was interesting to hear that many of our stories although different genres(?) had many similar factors. Most of the stories attributed the changes in the future, whether good or bad, to technology and automation. There was also a large focus on how society would view environmental factors as energy resources like oil is depleted.

9/27/17– A snapshot of the ideal future

This time we focused on creating a snapshot of an ideal future in 2050 where crime rates have lowered dramatically. It’s only a snapshot because we don’t really address the “how” (which is honestly the much harder part)in this write up. I found it a little difficult for myself to envision this future without thinking about how it came to be. It just sounds a little unrealistic when we throw together a bunch of ideas of what we think would be good for the future.

Crime 2050
Socially, crimes are viewed as acts of laziness and corner-cutting. No longer are the economic and political circumstances so poor that crimes of desperation can be rationalized even by the most liberal individuals, which allows for more consistent law enforcement. In general, individuals feel safe enough to live alongside neighbors of highly varying income levels, further increasing individual exposure to and increasing sympathy for other lifestyles. When crimes do happen, the neighborhood takes a shared responsibility. Communities reevaluate varying degrees of crime to better reflect updated moral values. It is also easier for criminals to get help, whether that is mental illness counseling, medication, or simply education.
Infrastructure and technology now play a large role in crime prevention. More and more of our urban environments is designed to passively prevent crime: highly visible gates, long sight lines, some surveillance, and recognized boundaries between public, private, and semi-private spaces that keeps people safe and comfortable. Increased tech use in crime enforcement improves police performance and reduces brutality. Technology has improved communication between the community and emergency services, both witnesses and victims have the proper support to report crime.
Economically, a federal, financial safety net protects all communities where crime is highly prevalent with a universal basic income level that is high enough to de-incentivize violent crimes and most property crimes. People are able to live comfortably and stress-free. With this system in place, the justice system post-conviction is streamlined.
Committing crimes against the Earth is now taken with more consequence. It is viewed as a severe crime and results in the worst punishments. Laws have become more strict with endangered species, resources, and consumption. Companies have taken the biggest hit with these law changes. They must abide the law in order to remain in business.
More money will be spent on education as an investment to reduce crime from the start. Smarter kids in turn has led to safer communities with more involved, educated, and active voters. Politicians are active and trustworthy, especially at the local community and county level, which contributes to a sense of physical community. Criminal sentences are reduced to prevent overcrowding of prisons, and alternatives to prison are given to those not engaged in violent crime. Less technical and more swift criminal proceedings have moved administrative processes faster in courtrooms.

In class, we were able to address how this future could come to be. I know that this class has a short timeline and this is just an exercise, but a part of me still wants to be sure that this a good future before diving in deeper. But I did really enjoy using the 3 horizons framework. I liked how it was able to provide more of a structure for me to backcast from our ideal vision of crime and to see actual years made our possible solutions more concrete.

Wahl Reading:

Wahl goes in more depth of the benefits of using the Three Horizons framework. In his article he breakdowns the three different horizons and assigns almost a personality to each one. H1 is ‘business as usual’, or ‘the world in crisis’; it’s a manager that makes sure the lights stay on as transitions are happening. H3 is the ‘viable world’, what we envision a better future would be like, as a character it’s a visionary with hopes of a future that is more sustainable, just, ethical… H2 is the transition between the now (H1) and the ideal future (H3) and represents the ‘world in transition’. There probably is never going to be a smooth transition from H1 to H3, we have to take in account of all the conflicts that may emerge in order for the future we envision comes to be.

This graphic is not in the book chapter this excerpt is taken from. Source: H3Uni
Future consciousness will not bring the future under control, but allows us to develop our capacity for transformational response to its possibilities. — Bill Sharpe (2013: 15)

I like this quote because it’s acknowledging how impossible it is for us to control the future. But it’s still encouraging able to understand the future better the better we can better respond to the changes.

10/2/17–Timeline to the ideal future

My artifact: A disaster in 2034 that causes people to rethink how we treat our inmates
Digitalized version, color coded by issue type (ex. purple is related to drugs)

We went around looking at all the timelines the other teams created for their pathway to the ideal future. It’s interesting that we spent the first hour talking about how we visualize our sketches. I think we tend to forget that even for things like post-its that are so low-fidelity, the reason for these sketches is still to communicate ideas to our audiences. It’s easy for us to think that our timelines only need to be understood by us, but in reality, it’s so important to be able to bring people in to our process. It helps them understand and be invested in the solution and we can do this by providing hierarchy in our information through color, placement, size…

One thing our team touched on while we were drawing out our timeline is what might be needed in order for there to be a paradigm shift/a change in how the world views criminals (as we’re working on the stigma of ex-cons). What causes the perception of crime to change?

  • Social Media
  • Riots
  • Entertainment
  • Media Attention
  • High profile case study
  • Advertisement

We came up with a list of these things that have helped shape and change our worldview when we thought about issues like smoking and homosexuality. It’s interesting to see that other teams looked at how even on the road to the “perfect” future, riots are big disasters seem necessary in order to get the attention of the public. It’s kind of sad that the world has to have something that shocks them in to seeing how much change is needed.

10/4/17–Breaking it down with Max-Neef needs

I think I got really in to the bigger system of how products were manufactured and the backend of things when I could have thought more about the consequences of using the products more too. I started to see how the manufacturing process of shampoo can really affect the workers who have to man the factories and deliver the shampoo to retailers. I also noticed how the Max-Neef needs don’t really consider the environment as much, but as Terry mentioned, how we treat the environment will eventually affect us as well.

Compromising the environment will eventually inhibit them human needs.

Look at all the undermined needs with shampoo!

I found this chart with more concrete examples for each need and it’s been pretty helpful for framing our team conversations:

Another interesting thing Terry pointed out was that according to Max-Neef, human needs are limited and universal but how we satisfy these needs are limitless and diverse/depends on our culture and background. As someone who’s from a religious background, I can also see how religion can be crafted so that the allure of something/someone that claims to satisfy all those needs will draw people in.

I’m learning to understand and appreciate futures thinking but I’m still concerned about how to convince say my boss or the CEO of some company that because the feedback loop is so long, results will not be immediate. It will require a lot of conviction that action is needed now for the greater good that can’t be seen for another x years. But I’m glad that we are being equipped with the skills to understand the trajectory of where we’re going and provided with tools to respond and direct changes.

Notes and Max-Neef needs broken down according to our topic

It was really exciting to see that many of the issues we wanted to cover fulfilled multiple needs. We decided to focus on the issues that satisfied many needs and were generally different from each other:

  • Disagreement with justice system
  • Juvenile prevention (preventing juvenile entry to criminal activity)
  • Neighborhood safety
  • Re-introduction of ex-cons in to society
  • Rehab
  • Support for families of victims

10/9/17–Service Design Workshop with Molly

10/11/17– Interventions

Link to presentation slides for interventions:

My intervention — PGH Scouts

Roots of juvenile delinquency is often found in a lack of affection and attention during childhood. So, the intervention I decided to focus on was about reduction of juvenile crime through providing a safe space where children can go to after school.

The program we tentatively named PGH Scouts keeps children occupied while parents are absent or negligent.

Service blueprint of a possible pathway through PGH Scouts

Thoughts on the social enterprise readings: 
After reading both Stuart’s foreword and the conversation between Lynn and Sosa, it’s apparent that futures and design thinking is necessary for social enterprise to be ethical and sustainable. I just finished watching some videos about consumerism for Peter’s Futures class (the overlap in curriculum is sometimes too much haha) and these readings definitely answered some of my lingering questions from Futures. I was thinking that a huge paradigm shift is needed to change the minds of consumers. It felt like we will always want the best deals (the cheapest things!) at the expense of millions of factory workers and the environment.

Perhaps I was looking at it from the wrong angle. If we are able to fill companies with people who are more intentional about how ethical their products are and are mindful of the consequences that their products will cause in the future, maybe that is one way to create the paradigm shift necessary for social enterprise to be successful. But I think I’m still wrestling with how can we convince people that ethics > money?? and that people who are capable of foresight for a sustainable future are as important as people who know how to rake in the most profit at the current moment? (although those two things aren’t exactly mutually exclusive, but still!)

10/16/17– Social Innovation

“[Social innovation is] 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
rather than private individuals.” — Stanford social innovation review

10/18/17– Territory mapping

10/19/17– Social Innovation vs. Service Design

What’s the difference?

I went back to my notes when Molly came during her service design workshop and looked through the social innovation lecture from Cheryl and it gave me some clarity, although I’m still a little fuzzy about this.

Service design– stakeholder-centered, value is in choreographed interactions (Example: Ordering a food at Mc D’s is service design, when we look at the interactions between the customer, cashier (front-stage actors), and the people making the food (back-stage actors) )

Social innovation– society-centered, benefits society as a whole rather than individuals (but isn’t it impossible to design something that is beneficial to everyone, do we choose who is more important? then how can we call it benefiting society as a whole when there will be some undermined needs)

(Example: Tagging fishes when they are first fished so distributers and consumers know where it comes from and what fish it is)

Many social innovations make up transition design (that larger paradigm shift) I’m imagining like a bunch of social innovation eggs in a larger transition design basket.

Hmm…So social innovation could be a single product or a larger system of things as long as it helps across multiple levels of stakeholder groups? Whereas service design is more about the interaction between stakeholders. Can service design fall in to the social innovation category? Or are they mutually exclusive?

Ideas for crime:

Service design- A program that pairs up adolescents with working adults in their community so they can learn their trade. (Apprenticeship/mentorship program)

Social innovation- Drones programmed by non-bias algorithms that surveillance and collects data surrounding police arrests (flying body cams LOL)

10/21/17– Mid-semester thoughts on class

I honestly was surprised to find out that this class’ focus was on the transition design frameworks and not on any actual deliverable. I understand that these frameworks will be helpful for us to organize our thoughts and help us be more mindful when we design things that will affect the environment, people’s needs, the future. But maybe I’m just really short-sighted and it’s hard for me to envision myself in a position where people will actually take me seriously when I present a solution that will not rake in as much profit, but will (hopefully) have some impact in 10 years. I guess I’m just not very good at presenting things with confidence when the results are delayed by years. I know transition design also applies to things closer to the future, interventions that act as stepping stones to reach that ideal paradigm shift where everything is moving towards the “right” decision. But then again, how do we know what is ethical? And what is the “right” decision?

Something Bettina mentioned in class/talked to me about was how these frameworks seemed very disconnected. It feels like a workshop almost where we learn about the these ways to organize our thoughts but the content we’re using doesn’t seem very real? I feel like my understanding of crime hasn’t particularly deepen with the help of these frameworks. I thought how LXD was taught, with half workshop like style of studio (exploring new ways to map information) and other half of working with an actual client and applying these skills was a lot more fulfilling. It feels like we’re learning these frameworks just for the sake of learning them.

But I do appreciate learning about transition design, it does help me be more mindful and understand that whatever I make has other consequences that I might not be aware of. I’m just having a hard time seeing it in practice in the real industry.

10/29/17– New groups!! Crime & Education

Our Idea: Cleaning up neighborhoods with the help of an organization (Home Depot) to ultimately reduce crime. (crimes of opportunity/desperation, vandalism)

Gentrification: the process of renovating and improving a house or district so that it conforms to middle-class taste.

Identify problems that lead to interventions (Home Depot)

Unkept neighborhoods are often times associated with crime/unsafe

Environment allows for opportunities for crime:

  • Poor lighting
  • Isolation
  • Unkept roads/sidewalks
  • Overgrown foliage
  • Populated
  • One of gentrification effect is making a safer area, but unfortunately pushes people out of their homes
  • Broken Window Theory
  • The prioritization of needs is skewed towards subsistence
  • People may not have time or $ to maintain the community/their homes
  • People value other core needs (Max-Neef) more than maintenance
  • Social pressure in the neighborhood to maintain the safety of the community perhaps does not exist
  • Focussing on crimes of high quantity, low severity:
  • Crimes of opportunity, desperation
  • Property Crimes

List research questions, what do you want to learn? What impact do you want to make?

Define the design opportunity, what might you achieve? What’s the shift in power?

  • The major design opportunity we have here is to educate a generation about safety and empower the community to maintain its environment, while keeping its integrity.
  • Curricula in school supports community maintenance, family, etc.

Shift in power:

  • How can we shift the power of property value from contractors to the community homeowners
  • The youth can reclaim power to break the cycle of crime, and use that power to improve their community

Start telling stories

  • Two paths: taken over vs. constant deterioration vs. IDEAL
  • Skid Row, East Liberty, Brooklyn, Harlem
  • “colonization”

For us: what kind of deliverables do we want to make?

  • Fliers
  • Community artwork samples
  • City proposal, curriculum proposal

10/31/17– More planning

What do you plan to investigate?

Empower and educate communities to maintain their neighborhoods with the help of an organization (Home Depot) to ultimately reduce crime and increase the neighborhood’s safety. (crimes of opportunity/desperation, vandalism)

Why? (Describe how the work you’ve done earlier in the term has helped you define the defined investigation as a worthy design opportunity.)

The crime group has been investigating low-level crimes (crimes of opportunity, property crime, etc.) and the effects of gentrification and lack of education/schooling on increasing or decreasing low-level crime. These crimes tend to happen in run-down neighborhoods that are not maintained aesthetically or infrastructurally. Our group is attempting to empower communities to clean up and take care of their environments by partnering with educational and local organizations. We want to preserve the qualities of the communities and neighborhoods, empowering members of these locales to enact their own change, reducing crime while avoiding gentrification. In partnering with education, we hope to generate systems-level change of behaviors via education, both in school and externally, of all members of the community regarding social responsibility and safety.

Do you plan to investigate it more through a service design or design for social innovation lens? Why?

A social innovation lens because we aim to change behaviors within the communities. Rather than having a group provide a service to our stakeholders — we want to see the change being implemented by our stakeholders.

What do you hope to learn through the study?

  • How do we increase safety of neighborhoods without leading to gentrification?
  • How can we preserve the integrity of the neighborhood, but move away from deteriorating standards/quality?
  • How can education of social responsibility and community respect generate a generational change?
  • Can we prevent adult crime (opportunity, property), while simultaneously reducing juvenile crime and delinquency
  • How can we shift the power of property value from contractors to the community homeowners?
  • How can we help the youth reclaim power to break the cycle of crime, and use that power to improve their community?

What do you perceive as stumbling blocks?

We are outsiders to this community. Do we hold the authority to claim that neighborhoods need this intervention?

How do we encourage communities to make time for keeping up their neighborhoods when they live a “just in time” lifestyle/live check-to-check? How do we free up time/find time for those things/shift peoples’ needs and priorities? How to we encourage long-term oriented habits in government, cities, and small communities?

Lack of Pittsburgh specific research is a concern. There is significant research on cities such as Detroit, LA, New York, and Chicago, however these cities are significantly larger than Pittsburgh. We can use these cities as case studies, yet we are still left with a lot of assumptions.

How do we tie together the education factor with the community improvement goals? The biggest issue for current communities is that they do not have enough time or money — So how could we provide solutions to these two major factors?

Given resources on hand, how do you plan to address the stumbling blocks?

As a whole we are communicating our deliverables as a hypothesis. These deliverables are proposals to generate questions and understand that there are plenty of unknowns. We hope to use these deliverables as a way to start the conversation and visualize the questions we’re asking.

Bring in more research on education and its power with regards to enabling communities to enact their own changes.

  • Looking at cohabitation/communal housing as a means of giving an example of social/communal responsibility of members of a space

Doing research on Pittsburgh policies about low income families and maintaining property.

Talking to gentrification and affordable housing to understand the details and research of those wicked problems.

Examine how to shift short to long term perspectives, also how to shift needs and priorities of members of community.

  • Maybe this is an opportunity for education about how maintenance of the community/community empowerment positively impacts the livelihood of members of the community.

Shrubbery and trees are an issue in community maintenance in that it can easily increase or decrease property value. In society, well maintained greenery is a sign of middle / upper class neighborhoods, and out of control greenery is a sign of lower income classes.

Greenery that infringes on lighting or sidewalks can propagate an environment for crimes of opportunity. However getting trees trimmed or removed isn’t obvious or seen as a priority.

Communities get billed for maintenance of public greenery. This could potentially be intervened in the form of policy change regarding how Pittsburgh Public Works handles these types of matters.

  • Potentially partnering with professional arborists in order to help maintain greenery in neighborhoods

Pittsburgh Public Works currently has a system in place where they try to encourage civilian communication with the city

  • One-day volunteer events to clear trails and parks
  • Can report potholes, request projects to pave streets and fix infrastructure

(Requesting projects take time to submit a pretty detailed form, which civilians may not have the time or the expertise to do so)


  1. Government: City policy proposal regarding long-term structure of aesthetic + community maintenance (aka protection from gentrification??)
  2. Local Organizations: Organization/business proposal for community support + social responsibility
  3. Education: Curriculum proposal for a school regarding social responsibility
  4. Neighborhood: Toolkits of resources for communities (paint, brushes, etc)

11/1/17– Things are clicking!

“You could design a brochure for the universe, or an encyclopedia for a single moment” — Stuart Candy (on the elasticity of scope)

Ah, things are making sense now! I know we weren’t designing for a solution, but I think I finally get it.

We’re not even designing a way to educate or teach people about a change in mindset, we’re just sending out a probe to answer the questions we have. Like we’re not sowing seeds of change, we’re designing the single seed! It makes a lot of sense because we don’t know anything about our stakeholders, this makes me feel a lot better knowing that we’re not designing something that’s based off our probably wrong assumptions.

Most basic hypothesis: Mindset shift is necessary to realize long-term goals

What is their current mindset? (My previous thought was we can’t figure this out without research!!!)

“What resonates with people?” — What is the role of time/money perception that affect their mindsets

Let’s design something that will help us answer that question! (throwback to Research Methods class with Molly haha)

It took us a while to get here (thank you Stacie), but it was really cool to see how we were actually using the frameworks that we’ve learned so far to help us back cast and pinpoint what we want.

We first wrote out a hypothesis (looking back isn’t the most basic hypothesis that we could test but…) “If neighborhoods are well maintained, then property crimes and crimes of opportunity will decrease”

We then wrote out attributes of what an ideal future would be for our problem space and then back casted using a timeline to see what are the steps necessary to reach that future.

Photos of Larimer (Neighborhood in Pittsburgh that fits our target community):

I also got the chance to visit one of these low-income/high-crime neighborhoods earlier this week for another project. We drove and walked around Larimer. Even though it was still light outside, I definitely didn’t feel safe… It was really interesting to be able to bring in to context of the places that we’re trying to intervene.

11/5/17– Studio Meeting: Thinking about probes

How do we design something to answer these questions?

Questions we have:

  • Is a mindset shift necessary?
  • What are their current values and priorities?
  • How do they manage their time and money?
  • What motivates them?
  • What is your timeline of action (how much are you thinking about the future?)
  • If you had more time what would you do? If you had more money what would you do?

Probing Youth too (probably in a different way)


I’m assuming that people don’t have much time/wouldn’t be motivated to fill out a bunch of surveys (even if it’s fun). What other ways are there to collect information that doesn’t take much time/involvement and is more interactive?

Rough ideas:

To see what their financial priorities are: Given $100, what would they spend it on? (Any different if given smaller multiple sums?)

It’ll be interesting to install something in their house for a temporary amount of time (a whiteboard?) where they can write down things??? A template of like a timeline where they can map their thoughts about money or feelings? Could have like different types of activities to do with the whiteboard. (Some activities could be geared towards youth) Magnets???

Vlogging LOL , give them a camcorder or something

11/6/17– Narrowing in on what we want to focus on

How do we build trust with the community?

From PennState’s Center for Economic and Community Development:

Several key imperatives are found throughout the substantial trust literature. Each of these can be enhanced — or conversely undermined — in a number of implicit and explicit ways. They include:

  • Effective communication. This includes before, throughout, and following your formal engagement efforts. If pursued effectively, the more citizens and communities understand the process, your goals and intended outcomes, the information they need to make an informed decision, the perspectives of each other, and their role(s) and stake in the process and issue, the more trust your engagement efforts will engender and be able to build from in the long-run.
  • Respect. While this sounds obvious, it is absolutely essential that the tone, content, and facilitation of your engagement efforts genuinely respects the input of all participants or members — even if it’s sometimes difficult.
  • Transparency of processes. Your entire engagement efforts should be clear and well-understood by all stakeholders, devoid of ‘hidden’ or alternative agendas (personal, political, or informational), and honest about the role and influence citizens will have in the either the decision-making or implementation of solutions. Many community engagement efforts have failed in this regard.
  • Sharing information widely. Effective engagement and trust requires that everyone involved is working from a common understanding of the issue and each other’s perspectives as possible. If participants or residents feel that information is only shared with some members or does not do justice to all perspectives on an issue, you are very unlikely to be able to create the trust you need for effective or sustainable engagement.
  • Engaging stakeholders in meaningful ways. Although closely related to respect, stakeholders will show greater trust in the engagement efforts that account for their perspectives, view their contributions, and employ their skills in a manner that they feel is consistent with their perspectives of these attributes.


  • We need to be transparent with our participants what our goals and process are. Be honest! Have them see how the information we collected and the intervention we provide is consistent with their perspectives/attributes.
  • We need to be extremely careful in how we construct the tone and design of our intervention
  • Get multiple perspectives, and sharing information back to the community

I feel like building trust really requires human-to-human interaction. I don’t think it’s very personal to just send something in to the community and hope that they’ll truthfully give us the deep authentic data we are looking for.

How to build trust quickly?

From a Trusted Advisor article:

Only reliability takes time because it needs to be proven over and over again.

  • Credibility is established not just in histories, but in symbols, credentials, and insights — and in a firm handshake, a look in the eye, and a straight answer.
  • Intimacy is established not only by knowledge acquired over time, but by a knowing nod, a sense of empathy, and a recognition of the personal.
  • Self-orientation is not just established through a history of customer-focused behavior, but by how we conduct ourselves daily, what questions we ask, and whose concerns dominate our reactions in the moment.

Rough ideas:

Reverse confession booth: Booth where people can go in and listen to a recording or someone (probably outside the community) apologizing for the assumptions we’ve made about them. (And then maybe asking for their help? They can write a note or something to us to help us understand?) Us taking the first step to be vulnerable in order to elicit trust. Our vulnerability needs to be very genuine or else it could seem like we’re just mocking them…. tricky

Edit Room: A way for us to ask for their help? Acknowledge that we don’t know much, inviting the community to help us and fill those knowledge gaps. We put our plan out there in the community and invite people to edit it?? They become part of our team…Or something like an open discussion/community board

I just want to meet and talk with people and get to know them…

11/8/17– Revised Hypothesis

We aim to build trust and empathy between ourselves as designers and the community in order to establish genuine and open lines of communication. This trust needs to be established to ensure the neighborhood shares honest feedback with us regarding their values, needs, and wants without imposing our biases onto them. In order to build these lines of trust between ourselves, the Hill District, and the local government, we plan to facilitate discussions in the familiar Hill community setting of Grandma B’s Diner. By directing productive conversations on different topics, providing different weekly themes (podcast, Open Mic, speed dating), and bringing in different members of the community (local officials, cops, etc), we hope to build these lines of trust in a reflective, participatory, and productive way. Once we’ve built up trust and understood the values and wants of the community, we will be able to identify the Max-Neef Needs and work with other organizations to implement designed interventions that actually help the community and lead towards a safer future.

11/15/17– Max-Neef Questions

poorly framed, but…some questions we would like to indirectly ask


  • Are you afraid you won’t be able to eat or go home?
  • Have you ever gone to bed hungry?
  • What do you worry about on a day to day basis?
  • If you could have something taken care of for the rest of the life, what would it be?
  • What do you prioritize over everything else?
  • How long have you gone without a job?
  • Have you ever not had a roof over your head?
  • Do you worry about providing for your family? Are you the sole provider for your family?
  • Do you feel like your basic needs in life are being met? What are those basic needs?


  • What makes you feel safe?
  • Who makes you feel safe? Does anyone?
  • Where do you feel the most safe?
  • What makes you feel uncomfortable/vulnerable?
  • When was the last time you felt scared?
  • Would you let your kid walk alone in your neighborhood?


  • Who makes you feel the most loved?
  • Do you dread going home?
  • You had a terrible day, who do you want to see the most?Wha
  • Where do you feel most loved?
  • Who do you love?
  • What do you love?
  • Who is your best friend/most trusted confidante? Why?


  • Do you feel as if your voice/needs are being heard and met? why/why not?
  • Who is a good source of knowledge to you? / Who is your mentor?
  • Do you feel like you have a mentor?
  • Do you feel like you’ve learned everything you need to learn?
  • Who listens to you?
  • What is something you want to learn?
  • What are you passionate about?


  • What do you belong to?
  • Where do you feel most needed?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • What community/club do you attend?
  • Do you go to church?
  • Where do you spend your time the most?


  • What do you do for fun?
  • When do you feel the most relaxed?


  • What was the last time you were proud of yourself for creating something?
  • What is something you think you’re talented in?
  • What are you proud of about yourself?


  • How would you describe yourself?


  • Do you feel like you’re in control of your life?

11/17/17 — Trip to Grandma B’s

After talking with Stacie, we decided to scale down even more. What are some interventions we can put in place now even before the dinner party? How can we collect information so we’re not going in to the dinner party blind? These interventions would help us figure out the direction and topics we need to focus on for the dinner parties.

So on Friday, we went to Grandma B’s with the mindset of enjoying the good food, seeing how it’s like there at the actual diner, and looking for places where we can insert some designed artifacts that would help us collect information.

food was so good and the chefs were so nice! they gave us free french toast (pic of our bbq chicken fries)
possible places to intervene: condiments holder, bulletin board, chalk sign

11/20/17– Ideas

Bulletin board:

I’m imagining the whiteboard would pose a question of the day/week like “What do you love?” In their condiments rack, there would be index cards and drawing tools (pens, pencils, crayons?) and they can draw/write things while they wait for their food. They can pin it on the bulletin board right next to the door so others can see too.


Is there something we could do with the fact that they’re meant to get dirty/thrown away? Like sad stats from the Hill district? So they can wipe their mouths on that ?? (that’s a bad idea, but ya know)

Takeout boxes/Receipts

Good places if we want an intervention that leaves with them? More self-reflection things. Like on the takeout box.. “Other than this yummy food, what else brings you joy?” Although it’ll be hard to get feedback from these questions, I think it would help people be more self-reflective? Prime them to be more open to deeper discussions.

Conversation cards?

The way the diner seats make it really easy for conversation between you and the person next to you. What is something we can make that facilitates that type of more intimate conversation? I don’t even know if people would want to talk about things from a card, seems unnatural! Especially with people who already know each other, they don’t really need conversation starters. Also, what is something we can do to get feedback from conversations?


Part of me feels like Grandma B’s is a place where people kinda escape the harsh realities of the Hill (light conversation, laughs) and forcing them to think about things they don’t want to feels kinda wrong…

I also don’t want to design something that changes the atmosphere of the diner too much or add something that totally feels out of place. But then I feel pressured to design something that reflects the amount of thought we’ve put in this project. Like a bulletin board doesn’t seem like we thought much.

11/25/17 — Making

I felt like we’ve just been talking about concepts and stuff for like 90% of the class and now there’s only like two weeks left to make things. With Senior show, I feel like my team’s motivation is pretty low and things are getting pushed back so I’m worried that the stuff we’ll make wouldn’t be able to show the amount of thought we’ve put in to this.

Angee and I spent some time looking in to what kind of visual style our deliverables should have. I’m pretty interested in a lot of organic handwriting that we’ll get from the response cards. Angee looked in to the spray paint rougher feel. Stacie did a cool thing with us, we looked at how distance can help with building hierarchy in our posters. More important elements should be able to be seen from a distance.

Angee & My Pinterest for branding Gma B’s
color studies


lots of handwritten elements here, wanted to show the authenticity of the responses
Each month would have a different question and responses

Angee had this cool idea to post the responses on the billboard in a more interactive way. So each bar is a response from someone from Grandma B’s. Every month, we’ll curate the responses and put it on this billboard across the lot from Grandma B’s.

12/6/17– Deliverables

Study Inquiry

We aim to build trust and empathy between ourselves as designers and the Hill District community in order to establish genuine lines of communication. By directing productive conversations on different topics via interventions within and outside the Hill District’s beloved Grandma B’s diner, we hope to build these lines of trust in a reflective, participatory, and productive way.

Study Structure

We have designed materials that stimulate conversation about important topics to the Hill District: safety, community, etc. These materials will be distributed within Grandma B’s diner, a popular community hangout in the Hill District. Diners are invited to write responses on provided index cards and have discussions about questions that are written on the whiteboard at Grandma B’s. Once enough responses have been generated, we will collect these responses from Grandma B’s, analyze them, and then arrange them onto a billboard that will be placed in the empty lot across from Grandma B’s. The questions and the billboard will be changed weekly, as this installatioin is intended to be a short-term installation. The billboard will be highly visible from a long distance, but invites viewers to move closer to read the responses. The intent of sharing these responses on this billboard is to engage with the community, share the sentiments of residents about important topics, and invite more members of the community to participate in the discussion by going to Grandma B’s.

Value of Study

Throughout its history, the Hill District has been misunderstood and the needs of the residents have been subverted to fit the needs of the local government. We hope that through our conversational design intervention at Grandma B’s, we have made the voice and the needs of the Hill District heard by the greater Pittsburgh government and communities. Long-term, we hope to hold discourse between policy-makers and the Hill District in order to enact policy change that acknowledges the community’s desires.

Grandma B’s System Map


The sign is meant to be read from different distances. The wordmark is meant to be seen from the farthest distance to draw the people of Hill District in. The paragraphs are seen at a medium distance to explain the purpose. Finally, once users are up close they can read the responses from their fellow community members.

Wood Sign

A scaled down model of the sign. This model is to display the material we would implement the sign. It would be laser cut with Baltic birch plywood, to cut the cost of such a large print.

Response Cards

These cards allow for customers at Grandma B’s to respond to the monthly question written on the whiteboard in the diner. We hope these cards would help the Hill District reflect and be more aware of what is going on in their community.

Conversation Cards

Situated in the diner’s condiments containers, these cards act as a primer and an encouragement for conversations about the community and community member’s needs.