CityLab Studio: Designing participatory, human-centred methods for citizen engagement
What could citizen-centred governance look like to tackle issues on climate change?
This design studio was taught in the Communication Design Program, School of Media and Communication, RMIT University, in partnership with CityLab (City of Melbourne) and Victorian Eco Innovation Lab (University of Melbourne) during July – October 2015. It aimed to introduce design students to consider new models of local governance in 2040 for a future that is hotter, more crowded but has adapted to climate change and its impacts. This studio, led by Dr Yoko Akama, Tania Ivanka and Dr Idil Gaziulusoy helped students learn about emerging movements like service design, speculative design and design ethnography to propose a citizen-centred future for the City of Melbourne.
The studio introduced students to the development and use of participatory, human centred design methods and how these can be used to engage citizens in dialogue about, and the design of, a low-carbon future. In order to deliver this learning, the studio structure included in-class exercises on participatory methods, guest lectures by the studio partners, interviews with local practitioners who are at the forefront of citizen engagement on these issues. The studio centred around several workshops with citizens where students could develop, iterate and test their participatory prototypes with the participants.
“The lecturer explained that we as designers have been educated to be problem solvers, fixated on delivering a solution. This studio however, was not aiming to design a solution, but to design the process. With this acknowledgement, all of my stars seemed to align and I felt I gained a whole new understanding. .. our main focus revolved around developing prototype’s to be tested in real life settings using all we had learned around human centred design so far. This process held the most intense and insightful experience within the studio. As we were to test these prototypes on industry professionals, only just having learnt half the concepts we were exploring with them a few months ago, it was definitely an exciting process. Being able to learn from the things that may have gone horribly wrong and even get feed-back from our participants held so much value in the development of my work and also myself as a designer. Real life interactions were incredibly valuable. Being able to reflect on the process to inform and iterate future work is such an essential element to design and this studio thoroughly underlined that notion.” Galen Strachan
The process and outcome of this studio are captured by a selection of outstanding student projects:
Repurposing Waste by Carlotta Solari
Public Transport mapping by Galen Strachan
Swapping waste and resources by Harry Jones
A city of windturbines by Robert Sorensen
Household Foodwaste prototype by Anita Shao
Green infrastructure by Mary Hoang
Power Up prototype by Maria Ferreira
Bus it by Michael Santos
Wasteful Packaging prototype by Sasha Taylor-Leech
This project builds on a course piloted with final year Communication Design students in 1st semester 2014 at RMIT University. Developed in partnership with Oxfam’s Design for Change program, students designed communication strategies to engage Australian youth on climate change and food security. The teaching was integrated with research expertise and introduced human-centred design methods to assist student’s learning of design’s role in addressing complex issues.
This project further consolidates the 1st semester fruitful outcome and Oxfam’s enthusiasm to continue the successful partnership. Several workshops are planned with various stakeholders to call upon a range of expertise in Oxfam, RMIT and beyond to ensure evaluation and critical input to deliver internationally relevant curricula that integrate social and sustainable principles into design curricula, has potential to transfer into other fields, and enable students to be work-ready in local and global industry.
This is a communication design 3rd year studio offered at RMIT University. It enabled students to have the unique opportunity to work with Oxfam Australia to explore complex, systemic issues on climate change and food security through designing and research. Throughout the 13 week semester, the students undertook intensive design research, ethnography and fieldwork, which was synthesised and analysed through critical mapping. The students were required to design an innovative strategy that enables young people in Australia to see, feel and think about their enduring connection to the global communities who are affected by climate change, and help young people in Australia to take action.
The insights and strategy were presented to Oxfam on two occasions, one at mid-semester presentation and the end of semester presentation. These presentations were attended by Oxfam representatives who gave the students input, critique and advice appropriate to the assessment criteria.
If the strategies proposed by the students show potential, Oxfam representatives will discuss their choice with the lecturers and may invite those students to develop their strategies further, after the semester has ended. These students will be consulted and involved in further developing their strategy for Oxfam’s GROW / Climate Change and Food Security campaigns and be part of influencing their strategy.
The slides below were the presentations that were made to Oxfam Australia in June 2014.
Jennifer Smit: A treasure hunt
Jared Ow: #changechallenge
Celeste Galtry: A new donation platform
Jennifer Thy: One mother, one dollar campaign
Marina Sellstad: Gamification Earth
Alexandra Kimpton: Flourish
Eliza Lambert: The Social Green Pop-up Bar
Ally Parker: Brand zero
Gabby Lovell: Queen Vic Market cooking school
Luna Hao: The vegan day planner
Rachel Gan: Hello Fresh activity pack + grocery delivery service
Rainie Nguyen: The 30 Day Challenge App
Hanxun Chen: The disappearing island public installation
Diamy Pham: Packaging tips for a busy lifestyle
Yi Cheng: Pop-up disaster showroom
Francesca Carey: Oxfam Tap
Mathias Kasambalis: Connecting people through public art installations
Monica Sutrisna: Craft food template for healthy eating
Pei Seen Chew: University organic market co-ops
Bo Young Lee: Plant Me
Patrick Lavery: UGLI pop-up stores
This studio course is one of the Senior Labs in the Spring Semester (Jan – May) 2013 in the School of Design at Carnegie Mellon University. The context for the studio was first proposed in October 2012. At that stage guns were an issue in the USA, but nothing like the high profile social phenomenon — in everyone’s context — that they became post the Newtown Shootings, Dec 16, 2012. The students that elected to take this course did so initially out of an interest in design for social innovation, social change and sustainability. The topic of guns was secondary at that time. That changed with the shooting. Guns were no longer just a part of American life – they were a design issue to be explored. As such in this course we are explored two phenomena: guns and their social meaning and impact and, design’s social and material capacity to enable place-based transformation.
The students who participated in this course were a mix of communication and industrial designers. This was their last studio course before graduating in May. The catalyst for the course was a request by a local advocacy group who wanted to know if we could run a design studio that would help them argue for social change. They were thinking a new range of brochures. As we discussed the course and what design could do, they were told that a new brochure design was possible but not guaranteed. These students wanted to explore design further. As we worked our way through the semester students explored the issue through the frameworks of:
- Human Centred Design
- Information Design
- Design Futures
The outcomes is a design resource book – a reference guide for other designers to use regarding different approaches that design can take when dealing with really wicked social phenomena.
images should be credited to the CMU DP&SI Seniors Studio Spring 2013