‘Design is an everyday challenge’
Peter Smart, a designer based in the UK, set himself the ultimate challenge by trying to solve 50 social problems in 50 days using design…
In just 50 days, Peter travelled 2517 miles, stayed in 10 European cities, slept in 15 beds and solved 50 everyday problems with a unique twist. These problems included Homelessness in Turin, Tube Congestion in London, Graffiti in Berlin, Language Barriers in Amsterdam, Wifi Issues in Munich and Pick Pocketing in Paris to name but a few!
With much motivation, in-depth research and curiosity!
With just 24 hours to identify a problem, find a solution and communicate it, Peter learnt how to integrate design into every solution with surprising results. Day 19 and Day 29 feature as the highlights of his journey.
got off to a good start, with Peter using a Mind Map as his trusted aid and brainstorming issues facing the city of London. One of London’s biggest problems is tube congestion, with delays and overcrowded trains being the daily dread of London commuters. A conversation with a tube attendant revealed that one key factor of this problem is commuters not using space effectively on the Tube.
With the help of Mind Mapping, Pete came up with the two solutions to overcome the ineffective use of space.
‘I started my Mind Maps with a central theme and then, as I conducted research and observed, I would draw branches off this idea. Mind Mapping was a great way of documenting this process: it allowed me to work quickly which was vital when trying to solve a problem in only 24 hours! ’
The first solution involved printing images on the doors which, as they closed, encouraged passengers to also move closer together.
‘This solution felt too much like a public service announcement rather than an appropriate solution. I wondered if a solution could be better realised through the use of ‘play.’
In response, Smart then turned the floor of the Tube into a game of Monopoly. With Go to Jail located nearest the doors, commuters are indirectly encouraged away from the doors and towards the centre of the train.
‘The hardest part of the trip was maintaining motivation to keep going even through set-backs and failures’
brought a social problem. Peter found himself in an Amsterdam hostel and witnessed hostel staff struggling to communicate with guests; an all too frequent occurrence! More Mind Mapping ensued in a co-creation workshop with hostel staff, in an attempt to solve the communication breakdown. The hostel staff contributed by identifying the most frequent requests they receive from travellers.
With all the questions written down on separate post-it notes, the challenge then arose to make connections between the notes and identify common themes between them.
Peter then created a flowchart for hotel staff to follow when communicating with guests. Staff portrayed the key themes, such as luggage and breakfast, pictorially, as visual images are universally understood. This was incorporated into an interactive communication manual for staff entitled ‘Speak’ aimed at overcoming the language barrier.
Being able to incorporate images as a visual aid, is one of the key features of Mind Mapping, as it is proven that our brains respond positively to visual stimuli.
‘’Mind Mapping is a tool that I have used throughout my life. I find it to be a really effective method of displaying information and enables me to connect discordant concepts and observations together in order to foster innovative ideas”
‘I kept previous maps to draw upon them at a later date and recycled unused ideas for new designs. With design as an everyday challenge, this saves so much time.’
Since publication, Peter’s project has received an unprecedented amount of recognition and global attention. The project has received a variety of awards including D&AD’s ‘Best New Blood’ 2012 and ‘Site of the Day’ at Design Taxi. It was also awarded 18th most visited design site worldwide by Design Charts.
To find out more about the 50 problems, visit Peter’s website www.50problems50days.com and get the full story!
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