Better Burnet Woods

By Abbey Ketterer, Abigail Schultz, Laura Burton, and me Grace Ficke

Getting to know the problem

Our initial research consisted of searching on the Burnet Woods website, looking at the trails via google maps, and speaking with people who are familiar with the park. We found that most people who visit the park frequently have little problems navigating around. While those who are trying to use the map located on Burnet Wood’s website there is trouble in establishing where they are in the park with minimal landmarks and signs. There are multiple trails leading off from one, which makes it difficult to understand where the user is in the park. Even with a map, the trails are also unnamed making it harder to decipher which trail a person is on.

We initially hypothesized that the problems with the experience at the park would be confusion with navigating the trails, finding where the trails initially started, deciding on where a person is in the park for if they are closer to the west or east side.

Google Maps of Trails
Burnet Woods Website

User research

  • Social/ Cultural — Do people feel safe in the trails?
  • Cognitive — Can people easily navigate the trails
  • Physical — Is it easy to hike without having physical limitations?

The research methods we applied to the design process were taking three members of our group who have never been on the trails before, without a map, to try and get from one side to the other (the pond to the band stand). Then we conducted an interview survey and used empathetic design for people to tell us what they thought we should do with the park. Before each interview we observed the behavior of the people for a few minutes to see what parts of the park they were utilizing.

The primary user is the hikers and visitors of the park. Many people have to go through trails to get to one side of the park so any visitor is basically subjected to walk on the trails. The secondary users are the workers and managers of the trails, the ones who clean up trash, fallen trees, or look after the park in general.

The final solution to ensure success should be easy to understand for multiple generations, should be timeless, implement a feeling of safety, inclusion, and minimal effort on the users’ part.



Demographics: Sarah is a seventeen year old female, who is currently attending High School within walking distance of Burnett woods. She will be graduating soon and is constantly drawing, sketching and painting.

Needs: Sarah is looking for a place to sketch people for her art class. A safe park, where she can sit for an hour or so when she gets the chance would be great. Comfortable seating in many different areas of the park and large open areas where she can view the many visitors to the park would be the best for her needs. She is also looking for a safe and welcoming place for her and her girlfriend to hang out after school.

Demographics: John is a thirty-two year old married man with a 2 year old daughter. He lives in the surrounding suburbs of Cincinnati with his wife and daughter. He commutes to a white collar job in the metro area.

Needs: John works a lot but when he does have time on Saturdays, he likes to take his daughter to the park to spend much needed time with her. He would like a safe place for her to play and a place within eye shot, where he can sit and relax. If his wife comes, he would like to be able to talk and spend time with her, while also allowing his daughter to play safely on different parts of the playground. Overall, a place to spend time with his family is the goal.

Potential concept solutions

Concept Solution 1: Signage and Wayfinding

Need | Sketches | Mockup
Need | Sketches | Mockup

“You are here” maps will be placed in areas where people get lost easily. Convenient signage locations include signs where trails converge, at the entrence to the park and at confusing intersections.

Concept Solution 2: Emphasis on safety & inclusivity

Example Product

Hangout gazebos: In order to create a welcoming, safe environment for youths to hang out (especially homosexual youths who often feel unwelcome in these parks) we would add simpler trails leading off into meadows and scenic areas with gazebos along the way. Each gazebo would have seating and tables for young people to congregate and hang out. These gazebos would each have a security camera to ensure safety and no illegal behaviours take place. These gazebos are meant for teenagers to be able to get out of the house and be with friends in a safe place. The space would be well known as gay friendly, but anyone and everyone is welcome there. These gazebos would be put in place to give gay youths a place to hang out without feeling potentially ostracized by families with children. These gazebos are not meant to segregate youths and families, they’re meant to provide a comfortable environment for teenagers to safely hang out. Adults and children are also welcome as long as it remains a comfortable environment.

User testing method

The most appropriate testing method for the new map and signage system is to make paper signs and hand out paper maps and observe users’ interactions. By the observation being unobtrusive the designer will be able to tell how the user is using the design and how effective the system is. We selected this experience for it is hands on and gives a chance to see the concerns of the prototypes without having to interfere with the process. This will tell us how to improve the design and where to improve it. For example, a user could not find there location on the map, maybe that would determine where a sign should be located.

The most recommended testing method for the security tapes, patrols, and gazebos are to develop a survey for any visitors. This could easily be done online on survey monkey, so a person can access it whenever they leave the park. It is also anonymous which incases any safety and concerns for the visitors. The results of the survey would indicate if visitors feel safe with higher security, or if they believe in any case cameras or patrols could stop any violence or public disturbance. As well as asking if any person feels “included” in the park.


Robert D: Paramedic

Why are you here?

I’m here to get out of the hospital. I get a variety of calls in this area.

John Doe: Homeless

How long have you been coming here?

He has been coming here for a long time, since “before you guys were born.”

Why do you come here?

He is homeless and specifically likes spending the days here compared to other parks. He likes this park the most out of any other local parks, likes to sit on the benches and read during the day.

Do you wish you could change anything about the park?

His only complaint is the unsolicited sexual advances made on him by the gay community. Every once in awhile a gay man will approach him and talk to him about sexual things he is uncomfortable with He says the nearby parking lot is mostly probably just single gay men sitting in their cars waiting for other single gay men to approach them.

Homosexual/transgender African American group

What is your impression of this park?

Before 2001: a hangout spot for gay youths. When childrens play equipment was added in 2001, they felt unwelcome. The new presence of families and children made them uncomfortable with being themselves in a previously comfortable environment. They felt they had no place to go and the city planned to put these playgrounds strategically around the park to keep the gay community out, also possibly to “whitewash” the area. They just wish there was a gay friendly place to hang out and be social with friends.

As a parent, how do you feel about Burnette Woods?

One of the transgender women of the group was a mother and had 2 kids with her, they were playing on the equipment. She said as a parent, the equipment is not good and the swing set and picnic benches are placed badly, inconveniencing her when watching her children play.

Do the trails confuse you?

They didn’t have a problem with the trails being confusing: “That’s the point of going on the trails- to get lost. You can always find a way out and onto a main road to find your way back.”

Mr. Professor & daughter

How often do you come here?

This was their second time visiting Burnet woods. The park is in walking distance so they gave it a shot.

What is your thoughts on the park’s safety?

He thinks it’s kind of iffy/weird taking his daughter here because of the diverse population there, but she doesn’t notice a difference from other parks.


We learned from this assignment’s process the importance of being collaborative and making sure each designer is on the same page. With our research we discovered two possible problems but in the end decided to go forth with finding two concept solutions to fit those two problems. As well, sometimes initiating yourself as a user is beneficial in adapting empathy for other users.

At the beginning of the assignment we believed this assignment to be primarily about navigating through Burnet Woods, especially after three members got lost trying to find the fourth member. But, after multiple interviews with visitors from the park we established that maybe another problem is the lack of inclusion gay people feel when being at Burnet Woods. So ultimately we decided to include solutions to help both problems with separate concepts to establish a better user experience. This ended with a signage system and implemented safety measures.

If we had to do something differently, it would be to interview actual people hiking on the trails, or people who have never attended the park.

Group Rating: 9/10


Example Signage
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