Blog task 3 – Design brief – Macleod station

Macleod station, facing south. Image retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macleod_railway_station

Background

Macleod is a leafy middle suburb, approximately 15 kilometres from Melbourne CBD. The station is located on the opposite side of a park from the small village-like shopping strip. Macleod College (P-12), kindergarten, YMCA and Banyule Nets Stadium are all adjacent. During the weekday morning peak platform 1 (to the city) sees approximately 8 trains per hour (24 departures between 5.51am and 9.01am). At least 1200 people (50 – 80 for each train) pass through the waiting area each morning. Smaller, but not insignificant, numbers of people alight at Macleod also passing through the waiting area.The waiting area at the station has been described in Designed for a purpose.

The problem

As it stands the waiting area almost certainly fulfils the needs of its owner (PTV) in that it provides the means for travellers to pay for their travel; space to display relevant information and warnings for customers; a basic level of amenity with seating, heating and cooling, and could be hosed out if necessary. But as Brown and Katz (2011) remind us we should start with the experience and needs of the user who in this case is certainly not a faceless bureaucracy (p. 382); a sentiment echoed in Design for public good (The Design Council, 2013) – promoting both design for basic need, and the understanding of citizen need.

Problems with this space can be viewed from two different user perspectives.

  1. The commuter for whom it does not provide a pleasant waiting experience
  2. The kiosk operator whose business must be bordering on unviable based on the observed lack of sales of coffee, snacks and reading material.

Specific problems observed:

  1. Congestion at the door to the platform
  2. Cold air entering the waiting area from the platform door frequently opening and closing (would equally be a problem in warm weather when the waiting area is air-conditioned)
  3. Kiosk not selling much coffee or anything else
  4. Not a pleasant environment for waiting, hard surfaces, cold lighting and colours, rarely changing information displays.

It is possible that responses to this brief which focus on the needs of only one of the users will, through abductive logic (Kolko, 2012), benefit the other as well. If the commuters find the waiting area an enjoyable, comfortable place to be they will be more motivated to spend time and money there, benefitting the kiosk operator. If the kiosk operator makes changes to his service the commuters may find the waiting experience more pleasant.

Objectives

  • Improve the waiting area experience for commuters
  • Increase the viability of the kiosk

Considerations

The “How might we” questions (D.School, Stanford) document was used to prompt some alternative thinking:

How might we…

…make the waiting area more like a cafe?

…make the wait time more productive?

…make the environment more inviting?

…make the wait time something to be enjoyed rather than endured?

…give “ownership” of the space to the users? Could it contribute to community engagement?

Constraints

  • Any changes to the physical environment would have to be approved by a bureaucracy.
  • Changes to the Myki machinery could be costly and require the input of expert technicians.
  • Unknown support for change from the facility owner.

Ideation

Suggestions arising from the brainstorm:

  • Commuters may choose not to order coffee because they are worried that the train would arrive before it is ready – explore how commuters could be better provided with real-time information regarding when the next train will arrive (currently have to exit to platform to view display) and how many coffees the kiosk operator could make in this time.

  • Consider the location of the Myki readers – currently outside the waiting area on the platform, many commuters go outside to scan on then come back in creating congestion and adding to the frequency of the doors opening and closing. Alternatively, they don’t come back in at all, meaning that they do not consider purchasing from the kiosk.

  • Physical environment – could softer furnishings and warmer colours and lighting improve the environment?

  • Entertainment – could visual entertainment be provided? Televisions showing news channel or live sporting events (sound off, with captions)? Would local musicians be able to busk in the waiting area or on the platform? Could the kiosk operator provide music?

  • Displays – could local schools, sporting and community groups provide regularly changing displays of artwork, photographs of events and community information?

  • Could the kiosk provide some cafe-style furniture – stand-up table, stools which double as small tables etc. – to enhance the cafe experience?

The brief

Macleod station is an essential but almost invisible part of the daily routine for many people. How might we make the physical and experiential space valuable and valued by all?

References

Brown, T., & Katz, B. (2011). Change by Design. Journal Of Product Innovation Management, 28(3), 381-383.

D.school, Stanford University, How might we?… Method Card: http://dschool.stanford.edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/HMW-METHODCARD.pdf Accessed 3 August, 2014

The Design Council (2013). Design for public good. Retrieved from:http://www.designcouncil.org.uk/knowledge-resources/report/design-public-good Accessed 3 August, 2014

Kolko, J. (2012). Abductive thinking and sensemaking: The drivers of design synthesis.http://www.jonkolko.com/writingAbductiveThinking.php Accessed 14 August, 2014

Comments on other posts

I have commented on:

Liz Crowder

Heather Jesudian

Katie Polis

5 thoughts on “Blog task 3 – Design brief – Macleod station

  1. Hi Heather,

    This brief is great! At the start it really delineates the owner needs from the user needs, and stresses that the user needs are nearly always the best places to start.

    I liked your “how might we” questions too – those are powerful statements which can open up torrents of ideas.

    Coffee is very important for morning commuters – get this sorted, and all the rest will follow 😀

    Cheers,
    Matt.

  2. I think this is such a comprehesive design brief Heather. I think your ideas for prototyping are very appropriate, and that the ‘How might we…” (D.school) method helped you to create ideas that look at many aspects of the problem. I wonder, for your brief, as I wondered for mine, when is the appropriate time to formally gain data from users? Before the brief or after? I noticed that in the Walker Technology College example that all stakeholders were a part of the design brief….

    D.school, Stanford University, How might we?… Method Card: http://dschool.stanford.edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/HMW-METHODCARD.pdf Accessed 3 August, 2014

    Engine Service Design & Walker Technology College. Dear Architect: The Vision Of Our Future School: Walker Technology College http://www.ournewschool.org/assets/pdf/Dear_Architect.pdf

  3. Hi Heather,

    I like how you have identified the problem from both the perspective of the commuter and the kiosk owner/operator. Like any space- this demonstrates the importance of designing with the user in mind, if this is not done from the beginning then of course problems will arise.

    I do love the idea of the music / entertainment…but it has to be quality…I wouldn’t enjoy buskers or street shows just after money- that would make the experience less inviting.

    When I was in NY this year I was on the subway and three guys started drumming (on the train itself). It was so awesome- they were very talented, yes they wanted money of course but it was good quality- it made my experience of the travel richer.

    Another idea I was thinking of was street art- many of Melbourne’s lane ways are transformed with great street art- how might Macleod Station celebrate Melbourne’s street art culture?

    If only we could make some of these changes! 🙂

    Bec

  4. I, too, observed a railway station so felt the need to comment on your brief.
    I agree that making the experience a comfortable and enjoyable one for the customer is important – the station should not just be seen in practical terms (a place to get on and off trains). Consideration for the business is also paramount due to the fact that if business is not viable, there will be no one willing to provide the service.

  5. Hi Heather,
    Great brief – I really liked your background section and thought that it provided plenty of clues. Maybe we could incorporate some of Bezaitis’ ideas of strangeness into the design and include ideas from other users of the nearby space. I was thinking of extending the use of the kiosk to others besides the commuters.
    Having wifi in the kiosk might make it more usable too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *