Your City Your Design

Technology (e.g mobile phones and computers) can be seen everywhere in our cities. It has become part of our environment, and is shaping the way that we interact in it and with other people. As designers, our role is to make sure the cities we live in work for everyone, and that everyone feels supported and welcome. 

In this activity, you are the designer of your future city. You will improve one aspect of your city to make it a place that works for everyone in the future. We want you to feel, observe and think like a designer. You can find some designer tips & tools in each step of the activity. We hope you would enjoy the challenge!

Step by step

Step 1

Choose and visit a street corner near your home where you can observe the surroundings (if you can, take a photo of the space you are observing).

Step 2

Take a look around you and identify one technology. This can be in an open space, or maybe you can spot it inside a shop or restaurant. (If you can, take a photo of the object you picked). For examples of objects you might find see the table below, and some extra information on their design. We encourage you to find new ones.

Designer tips & tools: Designers often observe their surroundings, document their observations with photos and notes, and engage in research on things that interest them.

Step 3

Once you’re back home, take some time to think about that technology. 

  • What do you think about it? Do you like it, do you not? Why? 
  • How does it make you feel? 
  • What do you think it was made for? 
  • Who do you think it was made for? 

We suggest that you note your thoughts in a notebook or piece of paper. You can also try drawing it, as well as the people who created it, or who are using it.

Designer tips & tools: Designers often reflect upon their experience and keep track of their thoughts as notes and sketches as part of their process.

Step 4

Think of someone you don’t often interact with. Maybe it is a person you met in the past month, or someone you saw on the streets. Maybe it is someone less fortunate, someone who doesn’t have a home. Maybe they are differently-abled (e.g visually impaired), perhaps someone much older than you, or much younger. Now, try to imagine the world from their perspective, try and think as if you were actually them. This ability is called ‘empathy’. Empathy is an important skill to help you understand how someone else is feeling or to understand the situation they are in. It is the ability to “put yourself in someone else’s shoes” and to understand how a situation might make them feel, or why they may respond to something differently to you. Follow the points below to practice empathising with the person you chose. Trying using this empathy map to map out your thoughts.

  • THINK & FEEL: What do they think and feel? What is important to them? What are their aspirations, desires and worries? 
  • SEE: What do they see/perceive/experience in their environment? What is their environment? What is going on in their world? 
  • SAY & DO: How is their behaviour? How do you think they might react in a public situation? 
  • HEAR: What might family, friends and influencers say to them? Who really influences them? How? What influences them? Social media, books, magazines, TV?

Designer tips & tools: Designers often try to empathise with users because it helps them challenge their own assumptions and design things that work for other people. The ‘Empathy Map’ is a tool to map out what a user might feel and need.

Step 5

Now that you have made your observations and done some research on your user, can you think of a way to make the technology you observed in Step 2 better? 

  • Is there something that can be done to it to help other people navigate the city? 
  • How might you change it so that it would help the person you previously empathised with? 
  • How would it look like in the environment if it were redesigned in that way? How would people use it differently to the way it is used now? 

Sketch out an idea, and go crazy with it! If you can, record an audio or video where you explain your design, and how it makes your city better for other people. We would love to see how you would make the city of the future a better place for us all to live in!

Umbrellium works with ambitious cities & companies throughout the world using participatory methods to design & activate urban environments with technology.

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