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Image by Patrick Perkins
Case Study

Strategizing more public space designed by and for the public 

CLIENT     DC Office of Planning


  • User research

  • Product Strategy

  • Project Management 


  • Adobe Illustrator

  • Mural


  • Research = 2.5 months 

  • Product Roadmapping = 2 weeks


The Challenge

An office within the DC government, the DC Office of Planning, approached our class. They wanted to know how to get more DC residents engaged in planning and executing projects that impact their public space. 

The Outcome

After research and problem definition the team came up with a desktop web application that connects the public art community in DC with business owners and public planners while keeping them up-to-date on funding streams. 


I recruited for and conducted 25% of all user interviews during Discovery

Based on our Scope of Work, it was important for me to understand the problem space, specifically friction at the intersection of public space, health, well-being, and art, an area our client was especially interested in. I chose people to interview based on their proximity to these issues. Consequently, I remotely interviewed 14 stakeholders from librarians, authors specializing in urban planning, and DC-based artists who use public space as a canvas to amplify resident concerns. 

I synthesized research into key takeaways

  • Access to safe, human-centered public space such as parks and libraries improve health outcome, but low-income communities are less likely to have access to this type of public space

  • Residents/artists who birth the character of a neighborhood get priced out. Their contribution is co-opted, and they have less means to stay where they are. 

  • Residents/artists are often hindered by barriers like bureaucracy and information accessibility that they're not equipped to efficiently handle alone. Many also lack of access to capital and public space that affects their ability to create the wealth that keeps them where they are. 


After Discovery, I aligned 9 designer-researchers on a product vision and roadmap

There were so many insights that came out of Discovery with each designer advocating for a specific problem they uncovered. These problems included the lack of citizen awareness about local elected officials were important but not tied to our Project Brief. I needed to align the team systematically and in a way where all voices were heard so that we could solve one user problem for our client. 

I designed a series of exercises in Adobe Illustrator to facilitate on a Mural whiteboard


I created this template so each person had a spot to introduce themselves, even if we already knew each other. This allowed for everyone to feel ownership in this alignment process, to indicate where they could be the most help so that I could maximize team effort. I didn't want anyone feeling that they weren't contributing in a meaningful way. The Pre-work space also served to train anyone who didn't know about Mural's features. 

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Personas w/ Pain Points, Journey Map,  Problem Statement confirmed

Our Discovery pointed us to pain points felt by several users in our research. I facilitated a discussion to confirm these were the artifacts to solution against. 

Prioritization Matrix 

When designer-researchers brought up new problem areas and ideas to pursue after establishing the problem statement, I made sure to note their ideas as a facilitator. However, the ideas had to pass the group's priorities. I facilitated discussion about whether a new idea/problem area fit the persona, pain point and problem statement we had determined as a group. If it did, I would facilitate conversation with the group to determine where to add a feature idea to the backlog of features to test by using my Prioritization Matrix.

Product Roadmap

To create a product roadmap, I facilitated the group in a "Task Idea" brainstorm. Based on the product, a website linking artists, business owners, and planners in DC, I tasked the group with brainstorming all of the things required to present the product to our client. From that list, I guided the group in affinity-mapping the tasks, to fall under 6 types of work from Visual Design to Project Management to Usability Testing. Then I tasked individuals to determine which team(s) they wanted to be a part of. 

Afterward, I moved all the affinity-mapped tasks into a Gantt chart I developed prior and created a roadmap forward by defining the sequence of the tasks. If the designer-researchers were not in agreement with my sequencing we adjusted the roadmap, even 

I maintained our wall of work moving tasks from "To Do" to "Doing" and "Done" during each of our weekly meetings. 

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We were not aligned on our Discovery Research plan

While our team was aware on what the client was curious about, we were not aligned on our Discovery Research plan. Next time, I'll get team alignment on a research plan that states our objectives. Based on those objectives I will lead the team to create a qualitative and quantitative Discovery Research plan where we'll use available city data to determine what area to start interviewing users both close to and more removed from the problem area.and how we will come together to define the Problem Statement we want to tackle.​​

Our user research could have been more intentional

Being more intentional about who to interview, what interview questions to ask, a methodology to use would have helped the team more efficiently interview stakeholders and synthesize the resulting data. In the beginning on speaking with stakeholders in nonprofits who held executive positions.


They were less likely to be in financial hardship as our intended End User would more likely be. For instance, while I spoke with helpful members of the public library staff, I wish I had connected with the civic groups and their members with whom they worked. 

I would have fought back harder on solution-ing before aligning on 1 problem statement

Ideation is notably not existent on this Product Planning/Alignment Workshop Mural Board. Why? Because prior to this exercise we spent weekly meetings talking about what the outcome of this project regardless of the pain point/user would be  -  a "toolkit" which most of us took to mean a website or PDF. In the future I will document ideas for a solution and encourage the team to consider whether there is one clear problem statement before choosing an idea or several. 

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