Better Hiking in Burnet Woods

Samantha Hughes, J Tong , and Sheridan Anderson

Getting to know the problem

In order to fully identify the problem, we began initial online research. We started with the Cincinnati Park service’s website to familiarize ourselves with the features of the park. We also used platforms such as Yelp, Facebook, and Google Reviews, to gather a sense of the perspective of visitors to Burnet Woods. Key insights from this preliminary investigation were that visitors had mixed reviews regarding the space. There was a fondness for this quiet space in the busy neighborhood of Clifton, yet feelings of disappointment over being able to fully appreciate and utilize the space due to lack of proper signage and upkeep of the park. From our secondary research, we initially hypothesized that the overall hiking experience at Burnet Woods was underutilized due to lack of knowledge of the amenities of the park, that lack of proper signage added to user discomfort, and that the perception of Burnet Woods was unsafe and not worth visiting.

Initial Online Research

User Research

After fully identifying park problems such as lack of visitor knowledge of park amenities, proper signage, and unsafe perceptions of the space, we conducted user research. We began our user research with a visit to Burnett Woods. Our initial goal was to try and identify problems with signage and safety as newcomers to the park. We focused on physical, cognitive, and social human factors, such as signage placement, signage interpretation, and user experience in relation to park visitors of all ages.

Field Observation of Existing Signage

As first time visitors to Burnet Woods, we wanted to immerse ourselves in the environment and fully explore the park. We conducted observations and field studies throughout our visit. One of the initial park features that we noticed as “lacking” is signage relating to park entrances. We started our journey at the corner of MLK and Clifton Ave. and noticed that there was no official marked entrance to the park. The only signage that we found towards the mouth of Brookline Drive south described the speed limit, park hours, and encouraged park goers to “pick up after their pets.” This is true for ¾ of the park entrances, excluding the north side entrance on Brookline Drive which includes a small stone off to the side of the entrance, surrounded by bushes, that is engraved with the park name. We continued our research by strolling through the park, continuing to navigate the space as newcomers to the area, while photographing any evidence of signage and map information.

Our Exploration of Burnet Woods

During our journey, we stopped to interview fellow park goers to conduct empathic research. We asked each visitor if they were enjoying the space, how often they travel to Burnett Woods, and what they do during park visits. We interviewed visitors of all ages; college students, a father and son, and an older gentleman and his dog. All interviewees claimed to visit Burnett on a semi regular basis, enjoyed the natural space in the heart of clifton, and the peaceful environment of the park. In addition to interviews, we took photos and observed people using the space. We found that most people come to the park in small groups of 2–3 or to be alone. Based on these field interviews we developed the following personas and stakeholder map.

stakeholders + insights from surveys

Develop a set of standards for success

To verify that we have successfully designed a solution for our identified problem, we created the following set of standards.

  • The solution provides a sense of fun, adventure and exploration.
  • The solution makes people excited to experience Burnet Woods.
  • The solution is easily understood regardless of age / reading level.
  • The solution makes the park more inviting and less intimidating.
  • The solution can be interpreted by all visitors.
  • The solution does not corrupt the visual of the park or ruin the experience.
  • The solution does not wear quickly but is durable and lasting.

Potential Concept Solutions

Burnet Woods Adventure Trail

Our first solution, Burnet Woods Adventure Trail, addresses the problems of lack of visitors fully utilizing the amenities of the park and the sentiments that visitors feel like the park is not worth their time. Burnet Woods Adventure Trail is a five series guided exploration through the park. Utilizing the established trails, points of interests, and the surrounding features in Clifton, the visitors to Burnet Woods are guided in a day of fun. Visitors can choose their own themed adventure such as Inner Kid, Food + Finds, After School Adventure, and Walk your Dog from the marked signage that would be posted at each park entrance as well as at points of interest around the park. Each guided path would be color coded with corresponding signage along the path to ensure that visitors confidently feel like they were on the correct route. Burnet Woods Adventure Trail provides a sense of fun and adventure making visitors excited to experience all that Burnet Woods has to offer. The signage would be color-coded allowing for easy interpretation and it would not corrupt the visual natural experience of the park.

initial brainstorming
Potential Burnet Woods Adventure Trail Guide
Burnet Woods Adventure Trail Guides to be placed along the routes

Improved Concentrated Signage

Our second solution is focused on signage and addressing the lack of clarity in the location of entrances and exits. Some visitors to the park are not familiar with the area. The current lack of signage is a barrier to use. The intimidation of the unknown and lack of guidance in exploration leaves users somewhat helpless. Rather than being able to get to the park easily and feel comfortable about roaming, it is easy to be concerned about getting lost and having difficulty navigating back to a starting point. We would like to place consistent signage at each entrance to the park, as well as at each major attraction. This would show a clean break from the normal city society as a user heads into the park. This would also create a sense of safety from the consistency and organization of the signage — making users feel as if there is a constant force keeping them safe. The lack of consistent signage in the park leads to a belief that there is a lack of competence in those who maintain it. Having visual unison in all implemented visuals would counter this and make the park seem better maintained both visually and psychologically.

Kiosk-styled signs placed at points of interest throughout park to provide sense of location for visitors.

User Testing Method

The best way to test out the solution of Burnet Woods Adventure would be to implement it temporarily in the park through signage. The start of each adventure could give user-testers several tickets that they could put in collection boxes along the adventure path. This would gauge not only how many people are interested in each path, but also how likely people are to follow it through. There would be surveys posted at the completion of each path to get further feedback and we would spend time interviewing users as well.

The best method to test the Signage solution would be to post surveys both physically in the park and online before and after a temporary implementation to gauge any changes in attitude about the safety and approachability of the park overall.


From the project of Better Hiking in Burnet woods, we were able to fully immerse ourselves in the design process. We learned how to deeply and accurately perform each of the seven design steps of identify, define, ideate, select, implement, and, evaluation. We learned the importance of user research and going out to explore on a first hand account our subject matter.

Initially, we assumed that people did not know about what the park had to offer and that people were concerned about park safety. After user research and interviews, we discovered that park visitors were more concerned about the quality of trail markings and trail condition, muddy trails that are difficult to travel through, than park safety. To try and satisfy this problem we developed concepts for improved trail markings and signage.

In addition to learning more about design, we also learned about the demographics and needs of the people in the community around UC. We were able to experience the park and see how a natural environment behaves in the middle of a city — as a sort of refuge from all the chaos around it. While many projects that we will do in the future will be directed at a very specific demographic, this project allowed us to explore a more encompassing user base.

We could have done more initial brainstorming and come up with more ideas. Also, during the process of understanding burnet woods further, we could have interviewed more people to understand better why people go there now and why those people thought it wasn’t as populated as it could be.

Overall, we would grade our group a 9/10 on process. We felt that we successfully identified and understood the problem through user research, field observations, and interviews, however we could have improved our design research process by going further into the prototyping stage. Once we developed a scope of potential solutions we quickly narrowed it down to develop our final working concepts, but could have further explored various layouts or methods of delivering our solutions.


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