Citizen Interaction Design
During my Winter Semester at the University of Michigan, I undertook a citizen interaction design class that focused on a single project for the semester. We were partnered with local governments, and set to find a solution to a particular issue they were facing.
My team, consisting of two others in the School of Information, were designated to work with Ferndale City Government, and in particular, their Planned Natural Landscape Program (PNL). The PNL program is an initiative in Ferndale for homeowners to switch their gardens from a traditional landscape, to a native landscape. By doing so, they are assisting with storm water drainage, reduction of unwanted rodents, and making a positive environmental impact.
The issue my team and I faced, was overall lack of visibility of the program and lack of resources for participants. The PNL page was buried deep within the Ferndale Site, and participants were not given the appropriate tools to inform neighbours on their plans.
Through interviews, we found that participants had been harassed by surrounding houses due to the state of their garden whilst they transition, as well as the city inspectors receiving redundant calls on registered houses.
Our solution to this problem was two fold, combining both low tech and high tech solutions. Firstly, we redesigned the website so that it was more digestible to a new user. This included a logo and branding to help Ferndale residents begin to identify the program. We designed the site so that new participants would feel like they are joining a society, rather than filling out their taxes. As Ferndale was in the process of overhauling their website at the time of this project, we were able to have designs implemented easily with the rollout of the rest of the site.
The other solution was to create a physical sign with information about the PNL program, and the steps that need to be taken in order to transition. This will help community members be more aware that the transition phase can be difficult, and to also learn more about the program. The sign also included links to the website, and plantable seed packets for community members to take when they pass by. This encourages a positive interaction with the community members, especially those with children. The signs were only prototyped during the semester, however we are confident that the project manager for the PNL program will implement the signs the following spring.
At the conclusion of the semester, we presented the solutions on a single poster at a design exposition. The poster had to be both informative and visually appealing for a wide audience. All the final products can be seen below.
To view Final Sustainability Report, click here.
To view Final Website Design, click here.
Below: Final Sign Design for participants gardens.