Let’s Stay Neighbors: A Case Study in Civic Engagement


Let's Stay Neighbors: A Case Study in Civic Engagement. A 120 page booklet documenting every aspect of our 15 week design journey.

Results of our extensive rebranding process.

Case study breakdown of semester process.

Moments of inclusive design when language development played an important role in reaching diverse audiences and demographics throughout the Detroit.

One of 4 feedback sessions throughout the semester when the students and client came together to discuss progress and understand the needs of the project.

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Duration: 15 weeks
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Bookmark Project

Project Brief

Detroit’s poverty level is dramatically higher than the national average. To combat this Detroit offers a 100% Property Tax Exemption. The issue is 30,000 qualify but only 6,000 take advantage. There are several overarching barriers that contribute to this discrepancy that include: distrust, safety, illiteracy, language barriers, lack of awareness, shame and accessibilty. PTE is a life changing opportunity but is a difficult process to complete. So our goal in this project was to increase the number of Property Tax Exemption applicants in Detroit and create a more accessible and inclusive application process for its residents. 

Team Credits: Yasmin Ali, Will Callis, Sarah Cremering, Tracee Hartley, Erica Heathcote, Josh Krauth-Harding, Eden Loeffel, Matthew Nielsen, Chad Reichert and Jigyasa Tuli

Learning Objectives

Housing in Detroit is a complex and systemic problem. It’s a real issue with real consequences. It’s easy to dismiss it if you don’t have an intimate understanding of the struggles that residents go thru everyday. Most student projects are hypothetical in nature where research is biased and outcomes are defined by self interests. This opportunity challenged the students to have a listen-first mindset. It challenged students to look beyond themselves and understand that design can be inclusive and empathetic. This project also demonstrated that by embracing a systematic approach that is mapped to the needs of the user, positive change can happen. 


The students were responsible for delivering 4 presentations throughout the semester. Presentations were broken down into phases that consisted of: 1. Problem Definition; 2. Ethnographic Research; 3. Persona Development; and 4. Design/Prototyping. The team of students were responsible for content development, writing, design and delivery of all presentations to the clients which included Quicken Loans Community Fund and the Neighbor to Neighbor organization. Additionally, we invited members of the Detroit City Council and community members to take part in the project. It was important that we heard all voices affected by this issue. Exact deliverables included: 1. the redesign of PTE application forms; and 2. rebranding of the N2N organization to give them a stronger voice in the community.


For more information about the project and process: https://youtu.be/Ysmn06F4MeQ


The redesign of the both the application and Property Tax Exemption Guide were met with much enthusiasm. As a result the Detroit City council approved and adopted both of them for the 2020 Property Tax Exemption process. This project demonstrated that by embracing a systematic approach that is mapped to the needs of the user, positive change can happen.

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