People centered research was a 2 week programme where through the excercise of observing Community stakeholders in the Vesterbro region of Copenhagen, we attempted to achieve an understanding of human centered design and the role of empathy in the design practise.
The major challenge (and shock) in this course was that we had to interact with a number of people which included drug users , immigrants, the working class and also the affluent. Putting ourselves in their shoes and trying to understand how they might feel and interact was a huge learning opportunity and brought about a number of designable moments.
An excerpt from our final presentation is as follows and tries to explain our process through the 2 weeks:
Our theme: Coexistence and Common needs
“As none of this team are from Copenhagen, we started with trying to gain an understanding of the neighbourhood, the residents and others using the area. This involved presentations from people in the area and two guided walks around it. After these walks, we were immediately interested in researching the Øksnehallen and Kødbyen area – a former meatpacking district, now also home to schools, offices, a music festival, restaurants and cafés.
One of those cafés is Café Dugnad, where the city’s drug users have access to free meals. We were interested in knowing how these different groups, all co-existing in such a small area, interacted. Were there problems associated with this co-existence? Did residents and others in the area see these differences as a positive characteristic, rather than a negative one? What were the needs of each group? Were they being met? Were there design opportunities there?
We identified four main groups in the area: the creative community, schools, drug users and residents. We wanted to hear what each group had to say about the area. Therefore, over the next days, we talked with people who work in the area, a local music promoter, a family living close to Café Dugnad, drug users, the manager of Café Dugnad, men from the needle patrol, a Vesterbro resident that is designing a new box to dispose of needles, an administrator at an elementary school and a city worker.
These interviews gave us an enormous amount of information to go through and discuss. To process this data we made a user board for each interview, on which we placed quotes, observations, notes, suggestions and relevant photos from each. We then discussed each one, how it related to the others and identified insights and four recurring themes, on which we based further work. These themes were: dignity, identity, public space and integration.
Focusing on these themes and the insights we discussed where we could find design opportunities. A brainstorm and ideation phase followed, from which we got initial design concepts. These concepts were discussed and story boards made for each.
To get feedback from the relevant people, co-creation sessions were set up. A co-creation toolkit, consisting of the story boards, playboards and sketching tools, was made for the sessions. The tools helped start the conversation about each concept and it facilitated feedback as it was easy to show what could be changed and how. The co-creation sessions provided us with good feedback and suggestions for improvement which helped us develop each idea further.
The project gave us an insight into the minds of people in Vesterbro. Everyone we talked to emphasised tolerance and open-mindedness as a big part of the neighbourhood’s identity. The area’s diversity is considered an asset, rather than a problem. However, certain areas seem to be frequented more by some members of the community than others – indicating a co-existence rather than actual interaction.
After going through this process, members of the team feel like they have a better understanding of the whole process needed for people centred design, why each step of that process is necessary and how it helps with both inspiration and development of concepts. We saw how important it is to go through each step thoroughly and carefully as it is both helpful for the process and vital for the final outcome. “