Designing effective public spaces should be a participatory process if it is to effectively meet the needs of a range of community members who make use of the facility. Observations and open-ended conversations can help understand what people are doing within the public space. Often, both private and public activities occur within the same space, each with unique and sometimes conflicting facility needs (e.g., large group work spaces vs. private, quite spaces). From these observations and conversations, it may be helpful to create a series of use scenarios. Each scenario is a short story that aggregate inputs from a group of people performing (or desiring to perform) similar activities within the space to be redesigned. These are woven into a single story describing what the fictional representative character might do within the space on a typical day. Use scenarios can be very useful to consider how individuals interact with others, with the environment, and with the technologies found in the space, and how one or more changes might impact such interactions.
Participatory Design Survey
Another potential tool is an anonymous survey to understand types of activities and to probe on more and less desirable design features using sets of pictures. Here’s one such survey that might be of value. This survey has two parts: a file with pictures (docx / pdf) that can be printed once and reused; and an answer form (docx / pdf) that needs to be provided to each participant. The Public Spaces: Participatory Design Survey by Martin Wolske is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
This means you are welcome to use it for any non-commercial purpose, and can also make modifications to either file as long as you also release your derivative works under the same license.
Once you have a few ideas in mind, you might consider using a design modeling tool like Google Sketchup to help others to visualize and compare alternatives. Another very helpful tool for modeling is Logic Models. Logic Models can help with:
- Communication — a way of visually conveying your understanding of the programming and expected outcomes of the organization relevant to the proposed implementation
- Planning — a first step in deciding the desired and undesired consequences of various design and implementation plans for your final project
- Assessment — a way to compare before and after programming and outcomes and to assess whether your final project implementation had the desired affect, as well as to set the stage for iterative changes in the future to further enhance programming.
Lisa Wyatt Knowlton and Cynthia C. Phillips have written a book called The Logic Model Guidebook Better Strategies for Great Results. Chapter 1: Introducing Logic Models , and Chapter 3: Creating Program Logic Models are especially helpful in getting started with Logic Models.
Let us know if you have other recommendations for participatory design tools.