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CommuniKIT project

Context

For this project we worked alongside the Scottish outdoor education centre, know as the SOEC, based in the Belmont centre near Meigle. We has the opportunity to visit the centre, participate in some of the activities and talk with the site manager and staff. This gave us insights into their values and aims.

Design objectives

Our aim was to work with the centre to improve their products or systems. Through the primary research of community interviews and primary school teachers questionnaire survey and secondary design research, as a team we discover the gap between the users, stakeholders and the SOEC as there were many complex communications connections. Co-designing would allow us to create a possible solution to improve these communication and bridge the gap between SOEC and stakeholders. To achieve our aims we needed to develop tangible tools to improve the communication. This is how the concept of communiKIT was first developed. It is based on the idea that communication plus a toolkit equals communiKIT.

Our idea was inspired by the work of Bill Gavers and his use of culture probes. He uses this concept to develop research tools and interaction techniques. The probes encourage responses and reduce distance between individual parties. It was important as this was something which we were trying to achieve with our communiKIT service. This method is that the materials had been specifically designed for the people and their environments. Therefore we were mindful of this when developing our own communiKIT.

Contents (System map)

  • The CommuniKIT is the first point of contact with schools. The first kit contains an introductory letter, teacher’s instructions, a “TOP SECRET” mission letter for the class, business cards for parents and set of paper animals, which make up an interactive game.
  • The teacher hides these animals which act as a hide and seek game, allowing pupils to find and plan their own trip in an engaging and fun way. The mission is for the pupils to find all the animals in a treasure hunting game and bring them back to the classroom. The animals are all native to Scotland in order to promote a relevant outdoor theme. Every animal displays a QR code, which links to information about the trip to the SOEC. Then the links are displayed by the teacher on an interactive board, so pupils can see all the trip information about SOEC. The pupils then together with the teacher pick the activities they like best.
  • The teacher then sends this activities back to the SOEC.
  • At this stage the teacher can update parents with new information.
  • Pupils then go on the trip and capture their memories.

Once at the centre another communiKIT is given to the class which includes digital camera, a flip video camera and postcards, which children can use as a visual diary and a suggestion box, they can write down different ideas during their visit to help SOEC meet their target’s needs.

  • SOEC send each pupils’ memories in digital form.

The finally communiKIT is provided to the class at the end of the pupils visit to SOEC to take back with them to school. The class is then asked to create a short video and photo presentation to represent their experiences at the centre. This presentation can later be sent to SOEC for promotional purposes as both teachers and parents could see a real and honest account of the experience.

  • Pupils share their outdoor memories inside with parents, friends or community.

CommuniKIT is a sustainable and reusable service that is handed down from teacher to teacher after completing the experience. In the event of loss or damage, the individual components such as the paper animals can be downloaded online, which means there is only one initial cost to be considered.

Why is communiKIT important?

  • It encourages communication between SOEC and their stakeholders
  • It promotes a co-design approach, allowing pupils to co-design their own learning, promoting the core values of the Curriculum for Excellence.
  • It provides opportunities for meaningful feedback from all users.
  • It is a low cost marketing tool.
  • It creates a platform for users to share their own experiences.
  • It connects people with OR technology in an interactive and engaging way.
  • It releases the staff from the SOEC from heavy administrative duties, giving them more time to work in their specialist areas.

Method

This project had four main parts of the research, inspired by the double diamond Design council’s approach. These are called discover, define, develop and deliver. Within this framework we used many different methods to make sense of our research. In particular I found using a system mapping approach a very useful tool. This method can help visualise the relationships between users and stakeholders. It helps to break down the complexity so we can identify the problems more easily. It helped me to think logically allowed me to put service design thinking into practice. As a designer my previous approach was all about creation and my own ideas. However now I see that designers need to use many different methods to discover the problems and then solve the problems. It is very important to use this at the initial stage as it is valuable to the development of the service design process. Therefore when approaching future projects I will try to use different methods to solve the problem.

  • Interview transcript
  • Collecting their stories together allowed us to evaluate their connection with the community. This helped us to identify some of the core problem. There appeared to be a lack of community awareness, limited community engagement with the SOEC and little interaction between the centre and the local children.
  • AFFINITY MAPPING
  • As visual designers we tried to breakdown our complex research into visual stories through the use of affinity mapping. It is a direct and visual approach which allowed us to share new information and collate all the various ideas into one place.
  • Glimpses
  • We discovered a useful tool called glimpses. This method is described as ‘a collaborative tool that helps people to explore and envision sustainable futures’. They act as a prototype for new relationships. This helped us to identify the main service users, which are the teachers, children, parents, the school and community.
  • Blueprints
  • Using blueprints and touchpoints methods we analysed our potential communication service. This gave us an idea what the deliverable service would like.
  • communiNET
  • we developed a tool to map communications between lots of different people, know as communiNET. This tool uses images of a person, a question mark and non-hearing sign. As the interviewees answer questions they are able to record the communication process and indicate areas of difficulty. Users feedback indicated this was a very worthwhile process.
  • Prototype
  • Prototyping our idea allowed us to show active user participation, identifying physical touchpoints. It provided a deeper understanding of the service and possible solutions.

Ideas

During this project our team used brainstorming, affinity mapping to inspire us to find the possible connection between the complex systems. For me, design research is a dynamic process. It helps me to go from a fragment of an idea to a holistic design concept. It is a process to navigate the complexities of the service system to see the potential perspective to innovation. At the beginning our group found it difficult to find a connection to inspire us to generate an idea. Every day we were facing a huge amount of information and it was easy to get lost. For me, I found it better to have an awareness to not view it as a map but as a compass to help us navigate through the complex information. In the future I will continue to develop my natural abilities to visualise complicated data into a structured and understandable way. Drawing on the multiple experiences of the group members means that inputs were more innovative than if we had all come from the same background. Creative idea is a mixture of capacities. Working like this, with others is something I want to continue to develop, it allows thinking to become strategic and creative.

Co-design

Having a co-design approach provides the platform necessary for a open source mindset. We used a co-design approach to explore potential opportunities because we can get inspiration from a wide range of perspectives. During this process we involved the SOEC staff, teachers, children, parents and the community to collaboratively create our SOEC communication service. During our co-design process there were some challenges that we faced. Firstly found it difficult to have access to all the stakeholders together for discussion. However as a designer I think this is very important that there is one person hosting these discussions and opportunities. This ensures that information stays focused and relevant. We designed a communiNET tool to help others co-design with us. This tool helped users map out their communications along the process of the SOEC journey. For me, co-designing is not just about the involving the stakeholders to design together, but it is about mixing many different aspects. For example combining real and virtual technology, stakeholders and our own research. Convergence is important during this process, if we don’t understand that it is easy to lose our way.

Teamwork

For this project I think that it is important that one person has a leadership role, more of a guiding person to pull the team together, to organise the schedule and to bring all the members together. This is very different from in China, because in China we need to learn how to interact with the person before one can do the work. Whereas here we can work and get to know the people as we work. This is a positive approach here, it is more peaceful and more focused on the project. It allows everyone to have a job and contribute to the work. Whereas in China you have to focus on the relationships first and the work second. This group was a mix of different backgrounds and training. We had different role matrixes. Sometimes this meant that it was to generate ideas as we all have different approaches and experiences. However for design this diverse approach means that the work is richer and innovative, drawing on a broader base of experiences and insights.

Conclusion

Three weeks teamwork project helps me to understand that the capability of problem solving is vital. We face and deal with different issues from research, design, people and technology every day. During the project of SOEC, at the beginning we should build a deep understanding of SOEC, its curriculums, stakeholders, market, competitors, strategy and management, this means that we need to think big and carry out methodologically design research to generate insights to find out the potential problems. Before to deliver a design solution, we need a profound understanding of the issues and a clear vision of how to tackle them. A design that doesn’t meet the needs of its users or create any value for its owner is not a good design. Therefore a good design is really about problem solving, it is far more than just aesthetics. As designers we should not be afraid of problems, what we need to do is to challenge the problems and summarize from problems, and the most importance is to learn from the problem and navigate through problem spaces to identify opportunities for positive change.

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