8 January 2020 • Martijn Tamboer
Smart society: learning by doing
Today’s major urban challenges require knowledge institutions and governments to work more closely together. Within the national programme City Deal Kennis Maken, The Hague University of Applied Sciences and the TU Delft and Hogeschool Inholland work together with the city of Delft. Third-year UXD students put their skills to the test in project Smart Society 2019.
One of the projects presented on Monday December 16 by third-year User eXperience Design students at THUAS was the development of a so-called place making tool for teens.
“A lot is happening at a municipal level. For example the energy transition, the construction of new houses or the growing aging population,” explains Ant van Koolwijk, a staff member of Agenda Delft 2040 with the municipality of Delft. To analyse these challenges and see how the city can best prepare itself for those, Delft wants to make a connection between the city and its residents. “We want to make people aware of upcoming developments in the city and future challenges. What does it mean to me as a resident and what can I do?”
Place making is a great tool for this. It can be used in the temporary planning of a development area or to poll how residents and users would like to see a future area developed. Delft uses a “very uniform open source form for this purpose,” according to Van Koolwijk. “However, this doesn’t work well for children. And we actually want input from younger generations in these areas that we are developing and where people will meet up. They are the future, after all.”
A significant amount of desk research
That’s where the THUAS UXD students were able to assist, as part of the City Deal. Their assignment: create a place making tool for 12 to 13-year old teens. Together with five other students, Lisa Berkouwer worked on this project for three months. “We first conducted a significant amount of desk research and organised several sessions with students from the Christelijk Lyceum Delft.
“You look at the social environment in which children live,” continues Lisa. We asked them to create their own city. An actual model on a table. The city they created with paper figures and pictures of bridges, playground equipment and pedestrian crossings won’t actually be built of course. “It was a way to research how to best reach out to this target group.”
The final prototype was the app Home for Gnome, created by the students. On an overview map, users can zoom in to a specific place making location, for example their own schoolyard. Armed with a set of cards with different items (for example a spot for animals, a hotdog stand or a tree), the user goes to the location. There they take a picture of where they believe the items should be placed in the area. Other children can view the location in the app and place a tiny monster if they disagree.
Cards with a QR code
By adding a game element, the designers of the app believe it will be more attractive to the target group to play around with it. To remove these monsters from your location in the app, the teens have to return to the physical location. Several cards with a QR code will be hidden around the location. They can make the monsters go away by scanning these cards.
In the meantime, the city of Delft receives all the data. They can send the participants direct messages about participating in a place making session. Wilbert Hoondert, strategic adviser for the city of Delft:
“As a city we had a peek at some things that will be very normal in the future, such as digitalisation projects, managing city heritage and targeted spatial planning. And that’s very valuable.”
Like a rabbit out of a hat
“In regular innovation projects, people work for months behind the scenes and then pull a rabbit out of a hat,” explains Tim van den Bosch, senior lecturer at the CMD degree programme. The client is surprised by the final result. Often a system has been designed that doesn’t meet anyone’s needs. Our students are agile, flexible. That is almost a kind of holy grail in governments and organisations.”
Participation in the City Deal Kennis Maken is also very valuable for THUAS. Van den Bosch: “This is the last group project before the students graduate. This is a test where they work together in a small design company for a real client. The students learn from this, the city learns and as a teacher I learn too. The best way to learn is by doing.”