“Beyond mere design practice”

Going beyond simple ‘design practice’ and implementing a navigational framework that adapts itself to the changes within the building of STPLN. This is what the student group for STPLN, an open house for people with creative ideas/projects based in Malmö, set out to do. By implementing various creative ideas within the various spaces of building, the group managed to bring together the various users and actors of STPLN, as well as making the building more inviting for new users.

For the course Design for Social Innovation, Dennis Bücker, Judit Komáromi and Lisa Rausch from the K3 Interaction Design Master program carried out a two-month project in collaboration with STPLN. For their project, the group had the challenging task to make the space of STPLN more intuitive to navigate for new as well as recurring users of the building alike, and to showcase the different resources available in the different parts of the building, all by using visual tools.

By conducting an interview with Dennis and Lisa, I managed to gain more information about how the implementation of their visual navigational framework improved navigation within STPLN, how the implementation of various prototypes changed the relations between the users and actors, and finally, how the actors within STPLN have been further appropriating the ideas proposed within the group’s plan.

Navigational Framework

The first question was aimed at getting a better idea of what a sustainable navigational framework is about and why the group designed and used this approach to make navigation within STPLN more intuitive. First of all, according to the group, merely placing more signs and designs within STPLN wouldn’t tackle the issue of making navigation within the building easier, because STPLN already has a massive amount of ‘signs’ which were trying to navigate people through the building. Dennis: “So we couldn’t just decide to put some colors and designs everywhere.” Second, the various projects within STPLN have a limited time-span, which was one of the main challenges for the students. The group therefore had to go beyond simple ‘design practice’ and instead come up with a different kind of framework that would make navigation within the building more intuitive, showcase the different resources available within the building, while taking into account the dynamic nature of STPLN.

“And that’s why we came up with a framework trying to help people to actually know where the projects are, what projects there are, and how to be part of it. We wanted to understand their point of view. As part of the whole group of STPLN. And that led us to this framework based on three words: navigation, awareness, and ownership.”


Asking the users and actors of STPLN about their opinion

By first visiting and observing the actual projects happening at STPLN, as well as inviting the various actors and users within the building to share their thoughts, the group managed to create an understanding of the issues concerning navigation, awareness and ownership which the people within STPLN were experiencing. On the basis of these results the group designed various implementable practical solutions in the form of prototypes, workshops, and even a recurring ritual with the actors and users of STPLN.


Sparkling communication between the different users of various projects through a ‘coffee-network’

Coffee-Network

In order to solve the issues concerning navigation users within STPLN were experiencing, the group designed various prototypes that could be implemented within the spaces of the building: a coffee-network, window-panels and transparent walls. The coffee-network was aimed at setting up a tray with mugs and waterproof markers every day, the users were able to connect with each other by writing on these mugs. The window-panel was a proposition to write and draw on the windows in the entrance to claim the space and show the community feeling to newcomers. The last prototype, the transparent walls, were fake windows and cracks in the ground to reveal pictures of what is happening behind the walls. The goal of these prototypes was to establish communication between the users of different projects, show newcomers that STPLN is an open and inviting place, as well as help increasing the awareness of what the other spaces within the building are offering.


The window-panels intervention near the entrance strives to create a community feeling to newcomers

According to Lisa, even though the various projects within STPLN are in one and the same building, they were not really connected with each other. The implementation of the coffee-network in the building’s kitchen for example managed to sparkle some interesting conversations between the different users. Lisa: “The kitchen is a place where people always go, coming from the different projects, and it is here that they meet.” As the group found out, there was no real communication, so this intervention was aimed at exactly tackling this issue, by establishing interactions between the people of STPLN, irrespectively of where they are within the building. Dennis: “the coffee-network was addressing this exact issue about establishing some sort of a communication interface between the basement and the top floor so to say.”


Mapping the existing connections between all the different projects at STPLN through a workshop

Workshop

Another part of group’s implementations was conducting a two-hour workshop. By inviting eight actors from STPLN, the group organized a conversation and speed-dating session, in which the actors could discuss the issues they were experiencing within STPLN and try to come up with solutions. It was this event that made an impact on the actors and which in turn generated a lot of positive feedback.

“They have one conference-room where we were doing these meetings and they said, yes thanks for letting us know that we should actually have those meetings in our spaces, and not in some conference room where we don’t have any tools, where we don’t see what is actually going on.”


The video-lunch

Video-Lunch

But the users and actors of STPLN really came together during a ritual in the form of a video-lunch, which most closely resembled an ‘open-cinema’. By setting up a video-projector in the project-space of HUB:n, a drop-in co-working space, and showing various short films and videos during lunchtime, the group managed to invite and bring together the people from STPLN on a daily basis during lunchtime. The ritual was initially designed for the users, but soon it involved all the other actors coming from different parts of the building as well. “Because they knew something was going on, so they are coming out of the basement. And we are just sitting together. I mean it was just simple as that, to have a lunch together”. Although this was happening before, the video-ritual truly managed to spark more connections, and reach more different people.

The last question I asked the group was whether and how the various actors of STPLN have further appropriated the ideas from group’s plan, after the group left STPLN. The students were proud to announce that although not all the ideas or interventions from the plan were appropriated, some of the prototypes, like the coffee-network and the window-panels were successfully adapted and integrated within the house of STPLN until this day. Although the various projects within STPLN are changing regularly, the various prototypes found a way into the rhythm of STPLN. Dennis: “The coffee-network they changed it to be more suitable to their schedule.” Also, the window-panels intervention found a place within the house. Lisa: “This is also an idea they really liked. They are going to keep it up.”

By Tim Verhoeven, student of the K3 master program Media & Communication Studies at Malmö University. This article is part of a series of publications by Malmö University DESIS Lab, with the aim of showcasing the various projects of K3 students about design, sustainability and social innovation.