A neighbourhood-centred design methodology

To change a city, one should first better understand it, right? That’s the premise for this post about a thesis project by D.J. Trischler, a master of design student at the University of Cincinnati. Graphic design and branding might not be the first things we might consider changing in a city, but Trischler’s idea for, and exploration of neighbourhood-centred design is a great short trip into one way of understanding a neighbourhood and its citizens. His process was quite thorough:

I examined five ethnographic methods over several months, interviews, survey, photo, voice, visual ethnography, and many workshops. Combined the methods provided local views of identity, quality of life, and visual communication design in the neighbourhoods. Here, you can see some quotes from residents and images collected from the neighbourhood. […]

During the analysis phase, I employed 18 themes that emerged from the local perspectives in the first four methods. I presented the themes back to the community through in-person mini workshops in the neighbourhood.

I invite you to click through to his longer walkthrough of the work and have a look at his short video presentation for more detail. The “fundamental insight” from his study however is, I believe, one that can serve many settings and practices looking to influence how cities are built and how they change in coming years.

The most fundamental insight from this study is the requirement of multiple methods to build closer proximity to residents in generate inclusive representation. Some techniques are better at achieving this than others. Here in these slides, you can see the contrast between the online survey and the in-person mini-workshops. The mini workshops resulted in more inclusive representation of the Price Hill neighbourhoods, across several factors including race and ethnicity.

Each neighbourhood is different from the next, not everyone has the same needs (of course!) and not everyone can be reached or understood in the same way. The practices for understanding different groups necessarily have to be varied too.

Image: Recruitment and promotion material for the Price Hill Design Project, by D.J. Trischler.