We designed a new postgraduate course structured around a practical challenge presented by a partner. Students from Design and Informatics studies came together to use data and design to develop new ideas to address the challenge of engaging more people in walking and cycling in the city. Students used design methods to prototype and test ideas such as a city-wide umbrella rental system, an app to encourage people to get off the bus ahead of their stop and walk, and a tool to share information about preferred cycling routes.
Design for Informatics introduced students of the MA and MFA Design Informatics programme to interdisciplinary Learning by Developing in the context of a University-City ‘Living Lab’.
Students were asked to develop innovative solutions to 'wicked problems' in the city. The course started from the premise that new solutions should always involve users from the start, and as far as possible should take place in real world contexts: on the street, in parks, cafes, community centres, homes and offices, rather than in contrived laboratory settings. As well as designing in collaboration with users, students were encourage to rapidly prototype project ideas, testing and measuring their effectiveness, refining them or throwing them away as required.
Through a combination of lectures and workshops, students explored a range of design methods. This included techniques for ideation including identifying assessment criteria, understanding users, user mapping, design probes, physical prototyping, the role of focus groups and user observation. The course continued by looking at contemporary design processes including the 'double diamond' that involves the four steps of Discover, Define, Develop and Deliver. Guest designers from a range of backgrounds offered lectures and workshops on their methods and processes.
Our approach gave students the opportunity to work on challenges in areas of potential employment, and to build skills in interdisciplinary teamwork, design approaches and the development of self-reliance and autonomy.
This Masters-level 20 credit course was delivered between 2014 and 2016, but is no longer being offered.
The aim of these events is to open up new conversations and connections between university researchers, industry practitioners and local people, to share knowledge and create a network of people working to improve local places using either community engagement and/or data/tech approaches. We also hope they will start to identify what some key built environment challenges of mutual interest might be for people across Edinburgh. This will feed into EFI’s work longer term, with discussions, connections and thinking all acting as a pre-cursor to a series of in-person physical events and Smart Places exhibition and conference to take place later in the year.
As we consider the way forward into a changed and changing world, EFI seeks to put research, education and engagement in the service of the wider community and to support recovery and regeneration. The Smart Places initiative will contribute to conversations and activities in core sectors linked to the Data-Driven Innovation and City Region Deal contribution including creative industries; tourism and festivals; financial services/fintech; public services/data civics; future infrastructure; and ethics of data and AI.