User Research by way of Brixton

Under the premise of my Ethnography and Culture course, I have become 1/6th of a student group looking to transform our approach regarding communities and design implementation. We are finding our place in the industrial design discipline, and using that as our approach to earnestly and honestly engage with the South London neighborhhood of Brixton. I am Marius Jackson, a fourth year student from Atlanta, Georgia practicing to digest all the new, diverse, and often candid perspectives that we are gaining. The information provided here will showcase my group-role as ‘User Researcher’ and how it has contributed to our new found understandings of creative collaboration and building community. As a group, we have been extremely privileged to have Brixton as a foundation for learning and the great people we met along the way. And hopefully, through our design efforts, we might help create a platform for the true artists, designers, and ‘creatives’ of Brixton to be heard and revered by the community that they love.

Our process was uncomfortable to embrace, but it was a necessity we were unknowingly blind to. Instead of immediately branding or labeling ourselves as one conglomerate body, we made a choice (though subconscious) to enter the community bare of standards to uphold in our exploration. We asked a lot of questions out of pure and general interest without heavy ideologies, and pushed past the awkward response and confusion that the inquiry, “What are you doing here?” might conjure. And although we can boil down our initial exchanges with the community members of Brixton as interviews, we were striving to hold conversations with individuals who cared and represented the community. We first learned how to enter this method by doing small discoveries and representing our insights through portraits. The portrait below represents an interview held with Ellie, a bartender of Camberwell. Before we decided on Brixton as a neighborhood to learn about, we did research in another neighboring community as well. We wanted to compare and contrast opportunities for design and get a vibe for how the communties differ.

In our discovery phase we went around Brixton and collected cultural artifacts that showcased the social climate, populations, and even aesthetic of Brixton

Below is a data map representing the various people we interviewed in Brixton. The key in the top left corner illustrates a difference or combination in demographic factors.

After interviewing several people in the neighborhood we began to learn about the food, music, varying dialects, community stakeholders; the occupations they take up, art, and sellsmanship that make up the culture context of Brixton. We went out into the commmunity seeking the perspectives of these various individuals, but if you didn’t make the time to, you might not know what lies below the surface of Brixton and creates the foundation. Several interviews showed a consistency between people having a high regard for the street art/ developing artist community of Brixton. We wanted to gain more general research, but we also strived to hone in on this idea. By implementing the “Exquisite Corpse” cultural probe, we were able to learn about what the community needed, or what they thought might already represent them well.

We are currently refining another cultural that we hope might give us insights about the “tone” of the Brixton community and what ideas they come together on. We have decided to do an exaggerated spin off of the game “Cards Against Humanity” and use it as a path to understand the sense of humor of Brixton, essentially. We want to see the candid honesty the probe might provide

Although we are still discovering, we thought at this point to create something about ourselves that helped to represent our vision for going below the surface of Brixton and assisting those who have a vision for their art, music, or other discourse. While keeping in mind to respect that what is there might not want to be unturned, we made a name and purpose for oursleves. We decided on “Re” a creative consultation service offering branding, events, or “juice” for the up and coming artists and creatives of the Brixton area who might not be able to brand or afford simple marketing tactics on their own

Our purpose is not financial and our existence, possibly very provisional. But we are giving it all we got. More currently, we have been strategising about how to gain more leverage and juice on our Twitter page. Our goal is to tweet about and support our local followers by retweeting and starting conversations on social media about the unique creativity bred in Brixton. We are still working towards that goal but have no doubt that soon, someone will catch on. And we’re here catching on, too.