Crossing the Fence

Our research started from field observations and urban exploration that provided us with the backdrop for the central part of our project: the people of Vesterbro.

Conducting a dozen interviews with a variety of people – drug users, caretakers, cultural actors, families and students – gave us precious insights on the neighborhood’s communities and their habits, while allowing us to enhance our user-research skills and giving us the opportunity to explore design methods tailored for our interviewees and for our research topic: we started from classic interviews, documented through pictures, audio, and notes, and we tested design games, low-fidelity prototypes, and physical prompts, which proved to successfully enable co-creation.

As a team we swapped roles, acting successively as the listener, the interviewer or the observer – acquiring greater understanding from our different viewpoints.

Later processing our raw material – images and quotes – back at the studio, we selected key insights and clustered them into three main themes, which provided us with “How might we” questions which generated design directions. We then reflected on design concepts, which we discussed during co-creation sessions with various members of the Vesterbro’s community.

The learning experience went way beyond the pure syllabus of the class. The excitement and the fear connected to such a delicate research topic quickly became the engine of curiosity, eagerness to learn, and positive criticism.

Field research has shown us the power of connecting with people: by offering a cup of hot coffee and a sketch drawn on-site, we have managed to establish a short yet very personal conversation with some of the drug users in the backyard of Café D (a café that offers free food and affordable beverages to its guests). Through this extremely touching experience we have easily abandoned preconceptions and almost naturally embraced empathy.

After interviewing different stakeholders in the community of Vesterbro, we were astounded to discover themes and needs arising from the words of the interviewees. The extrapolated insights clearly deviated from what our presuppositions were, and, once more, showed us the strength of listening and reflecting on what people say.

The gathered insights were the basis for the subsequent brainstorming sessions and proved priceless in guiding our creation process. Yet, the importance of verifying assumptions and the importance of iterating on ideas became evident after the first co-creation session: through naive and genuine feedback our ideas gained a new perspective, allowing us to better understand their potential in a real context.

Finally we found out that design tools are… just tools. Being creative and flexible about them can greatly encourage collaboration and trust from the interviewees.