IDEO.org and +Acumen - Human Centered Design at Abovegroup

The Human-Centered Design process is used globally to address a variety of social and business problems, generating great ideas and putting them to use creatively and feasibly. 

The Human-Centered Design process is used globally to address a variety of social and business problems, generating great ideas and putting them to use creatively and feasibly. 

Human-centered design is a creative approach to problem solving pioneered by the design firm IDEO. Our team at Abovegroup immersed ourselves in a nine week IDEO and +Acumen course, testing out this design thinking process on challenges in Trinidad's context. In turn we workshopped the methodology with a group of students at Artisans for Change initiative, hosted by UNESCO. 

The problem we decided to address through this process is the absence of safety and beauty of highway walkovers. A number of initiatives exist to prevent road- related deaths in Trinidad and Tobago, yet each year pedestrians still avoid using walkovers, resulting in avoidable deaths. Ultimately, the impact we were trying to have is to save lives of pedestrians in Trinidad and Tobago, while also infusing a culture of health and wellbeing. 

 

About Human-Centered Design

Embracing human-centered design means believing that all problems, even the seemingly intractable ones like poverty, gender equality, clean water, or in this case safety on the road, are solvable. Moreover, it means believing that the people who face those problems every day are the ones who hold the key to their answer. Human-centered design offers problem solvers a chance to design with communities, to deeply understand the people they’re looking to serve, to dream up scores of ideas, and to create innovative new solutions rooted in people’s actual needs. Through a process of inspiration, ideation and implementation, we developed solutions for this problem using design.

Our team at Abovegroup chose to tackle the issue of unsafe (and aesthetically unpleasing) highway walkovers, by consulting with people who use the walkovers every day, prototyping solutions and then consulting them for feedback on the designs generated. 

Our team at Abovegroup chose to tackle the issue of unsafe (and aesthetically unpleasing) highway walkovers, by consulting with people who use the walkovers every day, prototyping solutions and then consulting them for feedback on the designs generated. 

What are the contexts and constraints faced? 

Typically, driving is seen as a higher status mode of transport, and so there is a certain amount of stigma attached to pedestrian behaviour. In some instances, people have to cross multiple walkovers, creating a situation where crossing the highway the quicker and more direct way is almost unavoidable. 

 

Insights after Interviews with Pedestrians

Not only is crime a major deterrent due to the lack of visibility, the structure feels insecure and physically unstable. Pedestrians generally seem disinterested in crossing mainly as it’s inconvenient. The walkovers are also poorly maintained - dirty, unwelcoming and not aesthetically pleasing. 

 

Adopting the Right Mindsets

Human-centered designers are unlike other problem solvers—we tinkered and tested, we failed early and often, and we spent a surprising amount of time not knowing the answer to the challenge at hand - and yet, we forged ahead. Immersing ourselves in this process meant that we also shared the seven mindsets that set Human-centered designers apart: Empathy, Optimism, Iteration, Creative Confidence, Making, Embracing Ambiguity, and Learning from Failure.