Even though we usually practice design thinking for creating user experiences for digital products, this approach can be applied almost to any case even for urban development. Don Norman, the “father of UX” recalled his experience of working with the American National Cancer Institute and reshaping the life and habits of people in the Appalachian region. The initial problem Norman’s team faced was the high cancer rates, which, as have shown in the results of the research, was rooted in the problem of unemployment. Thus, by implying the principles of design thinking the team figured that the problem in healthcare was actually the problem in the economy. That appeared the primary issue that needed to be fixed in order to enable change. Moreover, this case is one of great design thinking examples to see how it works in practice.
In the last couple of months, the Pixetic team has spotted increasing interest in the historic district of Kulparkiv in Lviv, Ukraine. It is one of the historical areas in Lviv with a Regional Psychiatric hospital situated within the park area. Today the management of the clinic is putting a lot of effort into reintegrating the Kulparkiv area. Adjacent park into urban development and reshaping the public image of the organization and the district. Lately, more and more people visit this area during excursions. They share their experiences on social media and draw attention to the district itself. Willing to contribute to the community and urban development, we offered to conduct a design thinking workshop that would help to develop the area more consistently.
Kulparkiv had started to develop as a district in the late 19 century. Back in the 1890s, in the suburban forests, the mental health clinic has been built. Thus became one of the first hospitals of its type. At that time there was the only similar clinic situated in Goettingen, Germany. The territory was well developed as a district, there were multiple sports grounds, a kindergarten, a casino with bowling, a bakery, a butcher’s shop, and even a railroad. The adjacent park has many landmark buildings and architectural objects like water towers, campus houses, etc. During Soviet times, the policy regarding mental health and correspondent institutions was strict. They were all kept secret and under covers. This made the reputation of the district and its surroundings even more gloomy. So the locals and tourists tried to avoid it.
Prior to the workshop, Pixetic experts had interviewed over 40 respondents and had divided them into different user groups: locals (people, living nearby the park and clinic), tourists (both Lvivers and visitors from other cities), and clients (current or potential visitors of the clinic).
The design thinking workshop for urban development itself began to form the stakeholders’ interviews. After deep conversations with the general manager and the employees of the clinic, who are responsible for communications and strategic development, our experts possessed the full vision of the territory’s issues and opportunities both from its owners and visitors. That information helped the Pixetic team in recreating a user journey map from the moment one gets triggered to come and see the Kulparkiv area to the actual visit.
As mentioned above, previously our team has defined three groups of users with every group having its own triggers to visit the area. Thus, together with stakeholders, we brainstormed ideas and messages that might respond to those needs. Later we prioritized them and concluded with the document, which can be viewed as a rough draft of a development strategy. This paper includes a precise description of the target audience, with insights on personas’ needs and habits. Also, it provides recommendations on infrastructure and organization development. Also including communication channels and messaging as well as PR activities (events, partnerships, etc). All that is needed now – is to put this newly gained knowledge into action.
The following solution for urban development is a combination of suggestions made for each user during the workshop. Some of the proposed steps are applicable to multiple users, some are tailored for the particular user. Nonetheless, the items, mentioned in the list may become the core of the communication and development strategy of the Kulparkiv area.
The first reason why we went for having this workshop was our interest and willingness to apply principles of design thinking to an organization that never had this kind of experience. Even though some of the actualized issues were known to Kulparkiv management. Afterward, they admitted that the workshop for urban development has presented them:
“with the systematic approach to the change and, as a result, allowed to see a much bigger picture of what needs to be done”
On the other hand, once more we proved that there is no major difference between designing experiences for digital products and real-life proceedings. Of course, sometimes the visualization of ideas might look different, or the components of the solution are less tangible than they are in interface design. Yet 5 stages of design thinking – empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test – once again justify themselves as universal.
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