Collective Imagination (RSA) Phase 1


Process reflection
When including this work in my portfolio, I want to start by reflecting on the design process and the submission for the first phase of the Collective Imagination RSA brief.
It was one of the first projects I worked on starting the MA course. I came to the course having experience working for and with clients. However, I had very little knowledge and understanding of community-led and participatory design. The feedback I received throughout the block when we worked on Live Project One was to stop making assumptions about people as a designer. I could not stop thinking of the community we were meant to work with as an audience for a product. Who would like to watch this? Who would play it? These were the questions I asked when working on an app or a game. And this approach was a pitfall.
I want to put it all on the carb of my ignorance about community-led, participatory and inclusive design practices or blame it on being a very introverted person who trembled at working with groups.
However, after the formative feedback on the submission, I decided to rethink my approach and understanding and do more in-depth secondary research work on the practice of working with communities.
This portfolio page will present my work, but I hope it will show the evolution of my thinking and approach, especially my attempts to rectify my mistakes.

Initial approach

After first reading the brief, I began by considering societal issues locally and communities I might engage with for the project. However, I relied too much on my existing knowledge of my town and made assumptions about the local communities. Instead of thinking about people, I looked at statistics about Edinburgh, at council and government papers about deprived areas and social issues. I was gearing up to come in to try and help the community by fixing a current problem without ever actually asking the people what bothered them and never meeting a community I wanted to approach.

First mistaken attempt at designing a toolkit
What would an urban community need? A greener city.
I asked myself the question, and I answered it myself. I assumed that my climate change anxiety is universal and that no one who reads the news would ever oppose the idea of a project that adapts the city to face the challenges of the rising temperature.
The initial proposal for activities for an urban community included assumptions such as younger people being more eco-conscious, older people resisting change, and already describing the activities’ focus rather than asking the community for their priorities.

Second slightly better attempt at designing a toolkit
Thanks to the supervisory guidance throughout the learning block, the project evolved into Urbanite toolkit. The toolkit’s focus was still to approach urban communities and gather data about improving their neighbourhoods.
In developing the activities for the first iteration of the Urbanite toolkit, I wanted to create a clear template and a branded look. I devised a colour scheme and a logo to make the design more cohesive and created the documents below. The activities were created together with Mariana, as Live Project One was a duo assignment.

Activity testing

Responding to feedback
The activities introduced in the toolkit did not present the participants with too many means of giving us emotional data and insight. The questions were too generic and did not provide qualitative information.
I was motivated by hearing that the template was good quality and that my project showed a clear and genuine desire to help. However, to improve the activities, I needed to think of a way to make them more meaningful for the community. That was the focus on improving the project for Live Project Four and testing the iteration of my designs. I decided to rethink the project.

Reanalysing the brief
Defining the scope of the toolkit
Looking for a mental shortcut and keywords – how to create a toolkit for urban communities?

Investigation of the question on how to respond better to the brief and how to create a more engaging toolkit led me to think of keywords associated with urban communities. I thought of maps, neighbours, and tenements. In addition, the idea of observing and describing the city brought to mind tourists and postcards. I explored redesigning the toolkit to look like a pamphlet stand, but after some consideration for sustainability, I decided to place the toolkit in an envelope. Further design and testing were done during Phase 2 of the project.

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