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Friday, March 01, 2013

Creativity: Applying Design Principles

In this post I share two examples of situation in which design thinking brings a new level of creativity to problem situations. The first is from The Design Out Crime Research Centre:

The problem situation centres on entrenched and seemingly intractable issues associated with an entertainment quarter in a metropolis. This particular area with its bars and clubs attracts about 30,000 young people on a good night. The issues include drunkenness, fights, petty theft, drugs dealing and, later in the night, sporadic violence. Over the years, the local government has been using ‘strong arm tactics’, increasing the police presence and putting in CCTV camera’s. Clubs have been required to hire security personnel. All this visible extra security has made for a grim public environment, and the problems have persisted. Designers from the Designing Out Crime centre (see (Lulham, Camacho Duarte, Dorst, & Kaldor, 2012)) quickly realized that the issues presented to them were framed by the local council as law-and-order problems, needing law-and-order solutions. The designers took a broader approach and studied the behavior of the revelers in detail. Key themes that emerged were that the people concerned are overwhelmingly young people (non-criminals) wanting to have a good time ( the value to be achieved), and that they were becoming increasingly bored and frustrated as the night progressed. Paradoxically, they were not getting a good experience at all e a problem exacerbated by the security measures in place. The designers framed what were originally presented as crime issues differently by studying these themes and proposing a simple analogy: that this problem could be approached AS IF they were dealing with organising a good-sized music festival. This analogy immediately allows further exploration: WHAT would one do IF one were to organise a music festival? This metaphor triggers new scenarios for action, as well-run music festivals pro- vide for needs that have not been taken care of in this public space. Just to name a few, out of about 20 design directions that were sparked by this single frame: - Transportation. When organising a music festival one would make sure that people would be able to get there, and also leave again when they want to. In this entertainment quarter, the peak time of young people coming into the area is about 1AM, and the last train leaves at 1.20AM. Getting a taxi takes about 2 h, later in the night. So once you are in the area you cannot leave without diðculty until the trains start running again at six in the morning. That leads to boredom, frustration and aggression. Apart from putting in more trains, the designers proposed as a fall-back position a system of tem- porary signage on the pavement, helping the party-goers to get to a different train station (a 20 min walk) that has trains running throughout the night. - Crowd control. In organising a music festival, one would also create chill-out spaces and continuous attractions, to make sure that people’s experience does not completely depend on what happens on a single big stage. As it happens, this entertainment quarter has a few big clubs that form the main at- tractions. Youngsters that have visited a club and go back out on the street might find that the queue for the next one is too long, and so wander on the streets with nothing to do. The designers proposed that this problem can be minimized by providing a smartphone app, allowing them to check the waiting time for the next club before leaving the one they are in. It was also suggested that some of the laneways around the central street be opened up as rest areas, with water fountains and a more relaxed ‘lounge’ atmosphere. - Safety and wayfinding. In organising a music festival, one would plan for stað to be around to help people and keep an eye on safety. Over the years, the clubs have hired more and more sinister-looking security personnel and bouncers. The designers proposed a system of very visible young ‘guides’ in bright T-shirts, who would help people find their way through the area and also would be approachable when help is needed.

What lessons are here for teachers? When you get to know your students, you will know what kind of needs they have to be up and moving around, whether or not they are easily bored, if they may or may not be getting enough food at home, etc. What I see in action in the example above is dealing with Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Can you look at your classroom situation through some other frame in order to help see your problems in a new way so you can solve them?

This video presents a case from a county in rural North Carolina.

This is a great example of community-based education, and should give hope to those that think they have to be from a community in order to make a lasting impact on it. While I worry a bit about her claim that rural areas are great for experiments, she also says, "And I really, strongly believe in the power of the small story, because it is so difficult to do humanitarian work at a global scale. Because, when you zoom out that far, you lose the ability to view people as humans." That, and the fact that she and her husband moved there, gives me reason to trust their commitment to their work.


At 8:46 PM, Blogger Stephanie Nickens said...

I really enjoyed this idea on creative design. Once you mentioned Maslow's hierarchy of needs, I had an "aha" moment. Thanks. It really puts into perspective, simple changes in design can make a huge difference and I will be sure to utilize these in my classroom

At 10:40 PM, Blogger wellspoken said...

I was very impressed with the video on using hands on designing to help change the community in Bertie County. I agree wholeheartedly with Emily that we need to work in our own backyard and look around to find the needs and help fill them. What an inspiration she must be to students and teachers and others in her newly adopted community. We can all learn from her example!


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