Human-Centered Design Methods meet a Community Block Party


Trilingual branding for the Block Party. Students named the event in collaboration with the teen interns from TASC.

Book created collaboratively by the class to document the experience and share research insights.

Information diagrams created based on the "dream wall" installation at the event where teens shared their hopes for the future.

Information diagrams created based on bingo cards from the event that gathered information from attendees related to language, transportation, jobs, etc.

Information diagram created based on a "this or that" ball game where attendees threw a ball into the cylinder of their choosing.

Duration: 16 weeks
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Bookmark Project

Project Brief

This research based studio will introduce students to design methods that focus on an audience centric process. Students will make connections between visual communication and other subjects by researching specific audiences, contexts, and problems. For the first part of the semester, we will work to deeply understand a variety of user research methodologies and foundational theories through readings, discussions, creating artifacts, presentations, and more. For the second part of the semester, we will work with the Teen Action Support Network (TASC) in partnership with the The Social Innovation Initiative of the Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation as well as the School of Art studio Social Justice and The Arts. We will work with TASC to support their initiative of throwing a series of community block parties to engage area teens. We will use the first block party as a space to carry out human-centered design research activities in order to better understand the ways in which the community could benefit from future block parties as well as ways to better serve area teens. At the end of the semester, we will provide TASC with a book that documents the experience, shares our research insights, and teaches them about human-centered design. Additionally, in service to this community event, we will create the branding and promotional assets to help promote the event.

Learning Objectives

Through the completion of course projects you will be able to: —Conduct self initiated research on a design topic at an advanced level —Utilize user research to identify and frame design problems —Apply research knowledge to the thoughtful creation of appropriate design artifacts —Demonstrate an advanced level of formal experimentation and craft —Demonstrate your ability to work with others


—Branding for the community event completed as a group —3–5 human centered design research activities —Collective book created by the class summarizing the experience and the research insights 


1_The Field Guide to Human Centered Design by IDEO (introduction: 9–25) 2_A Designer’s Research Manual by Visocky O’Grady (introduction: 11–20) 3_Graphic Design Theory, by Meredith Davis (Communication Models, 15–30) 4_Equity-Centered Design Guide by Creative Reaction Lab, (introduction 1–12) 5_Graphic Design Theory, by Meredith Davis (Representation 34–44)  6_Graphic Design Theory, by Meredith Davis (Context 57–63) 7_Design Research Methods and Perspectives By Brenda Laurel, (Ethnography and Critical Design Practice 30–38) 8_Dori Tunstall, Communitas, presentation 28–33


As with any community based project, you have to be flexible. I went into this partnership knowing that so I was able to adapt and pivot as needed. I was lucky that almost half of my class was bilingual so they could easily create design work in both English and Spanish to meet the community need. We needed to also provide all communications in Marshallese and that was harder to make happen. In retrospect, I would have applied for a general teaching grant that could cover unexpected costs like translations that are destined to come up during community collaborations. Overall, it was a wonderful experience where our class become close with the teens from TASC as we worked together to host this event for the community. We had many working sessions where the two groups would come together to critique work, produce work, brainstorm, etc. Because the students worked so closely with the community, I think they really began to understand why human-centered design methods are so important to design research and that it is very necessary to use methodologies that empower audiences and push beyond standard interviews or data collection to better uncover the core issues.

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