I took part in the planning of the research phase, moving from the ideation phase to co-design session with the users.
During the concept development phase, I explored the service design applied to interior design, working with one of my teammate who has a background in interior design.
The first problem with which we had to cope was the short time of the project: we were only given one month to gather meaningful insights, build a concept and present a raw prototype and a structured plan.
We chose the best methods for our case, to study people, create interactions, communicate and understand them better. So, we started by creating a good plan of in-field research.
The idea was to organize a big event, inside the dormitory, composed of some organized activities to gather insight. We had to create these activities in order to make them appealing, but also useful to have meaningful insights.
So we created a plan…
“The triad of space, object, and people is fundamental to be matched with innovation and experimentation. Therefore the process starts by studying the environment and the people concerning their needs. Develop different ideas and proceed to proposals.”
We used an informal approach to organize an event and talk more with the students and, at the same time, we met them in the dormitory and tried to live their life for a moment to be sure to better experience their actual situation.
We created boxes to collect their ideas and proposal, survey sheets to mark their problems, and possible changes that could be useful for them. To help us we premade sheets for interviews with questions focused on different everyday activities and spaces. We also created instruction sheets for shadowing to explain the steps to the people who would have developed it.
Last but not least, it was up to the photography team to capture moments to translate insights and keep the paperwork for further analysis. Therefore the materials were used for further presentation of the research phase and post-development.
Managing the feedback
The biggest challenge of this project was to manage all the different feedbacks we received.
Even if the activities that we planned where we expected a certain type of feedback: the result were unexpected. I learned that you always have to be prepared, to be surprised by the people. This was a great insight for me.
“They are really helpful to present the average day schedule of the students, the spaces they use, their interests, the social media they use. Therefore is an easy tool which follows us during the design and development phase of spaces, service, wayfinding but also the communication part.”
Framework of the project
The research phase started right after, with a brainstorming to analyze the main problem we wanted to be more focused on as a team and also the minor average needs of the Newton residents.
The concept we wanted to follow was the perfect mix of one main problem and some minor ones and the goal was transforming them into opportunities.
We decided to use one of the strongest terms, that is “family” and analyze it. We started talking about family, what that group meant for us and the values of it.
“Family is more than a group of people sharing the same space. A family is a mix that consists of values such as trust and support, of rules, habits, experiences and memories.”
The concept our team wanted to follow was trying to deal with diversity inside Newton concerning the different cultures that coexist in it. We formed bigger and smaller groups of people who were similar in customs and habits. The main point for us was to find the way to connect these groups in different ways as if they were unities.
The most useful method to deal with diversity was to create good experiences made by the perfect combination of spaces, services, and people. During the post-journey phase, it is also important for the students to keep these experiences as strong and important memories of their student lives.
“To Create the most interesting experience for them and leave strong memories out of experiences.”
Make the space and people communicate
So we started to design the space.
The main goal was to provide the tools for creating different events and activities in the building, to mix the groups of cultures, by involving them in the creation of new ideas, activities and in building strong friendships and relations. Our mission was to create an easily adjustable space according to the different kind of ideas we proposed, but also to be ready to accept even new ones.
The perfect area for our purpose and mission comes from the combination of living area, study area, and games area. The project aims to mix these 3 areas in a main big space so that it can be easily associated with a new social hub inside Newton that can be available any time and for everybody.
The big social hub is strongly connected by materials, items of furniture and colors, but at the same time, each corner of it serves a different kind of activities. Space, for example, can be formed by the user and host a different kind of activities. Although the rules now are not as strict as before, there are still some restrictions in some spaces.
Then it comes to the environmental communication, or way-finding, to make Newton dorm communicate with people.
This was one of my favorite parts of the project. We did a lot of user studies with the ideal path of them, to create different proposals and options of way-finding. Then we tested them. We moved to the actual environment and, with the help of paper prototyping, we started testing the different signs.
We developed a methodology in order to test the different paths: we build specific personas and some path-tests, then we took some real users and we started by making them try to follow this ideal path.
The good part of this process was that we were not only testing our way-finding but also gaining a lot of meaningful insight from people that already knew that place.
The final result was a mixture of main and secondary signs, all with a specific design direction: we provided clear icons for all the spaces and services that Newton Residence has in order to communicate both styles, delivering an accurate message and preserving their main function.
Create meaningful memories inside Newton
Now that we had managed the space and the identity we were ready to face with people inside the dorm. How to make them interacting more together?
Newton board is an online service which was created especially for Newton residents. It serves the combination of spaces and activities and let people use them to invite people, create events, promote activities, offer courses/services and basically creates a big inner network of friends.
As it was described before, the plan of a united area combined with different areas suitable for a variety of activities, could not have worked without an online service to organize them.
To develop a service that was suitable for our environment and the community inside of it, we started from a user journey and we created some storyboard with different solutions to the main problem that the service had to solve: organizing the space and connecting the students inside the dorm.
We were particularly focused on creating something that was easy to read and immediate to understand, so at first sight, the users would have known which kind of event was happening and who else was participating. The navigation tree helped us to complete the step by step service behind the interface, in this way we shrieked the process as much as we could because one of the insights that came from the users was the messy interface and process of all the Politecnico’s platforms.
The service is accesible by all the students of Politecnico di Milano who live in Newton. The interface is simple and minimal.
At the main board (home) the user can see the events and activities and can join each one of them. In this was every action is promoted online and it is easily accesible.