LOOKING  OUT

UNDERSTANDING  THE  RELATIONSHIP  OF  WORKING  NEW  YORKER'S  WITH  NATURE

ABOUT

 

'Looking Out' is a design research project,

aimed at understanding how working New Yorkers integrate nature into their daily lives.

The objective was to explore various design research methodologies, identify and

prototype opportunities for design interventions.

INNOVATION STATEMENT

Improve the experience of working New Yorkers in connecting with nature.

OUR FUTURE VISION

 

We imagine a world where one can connect

with nature while living and working in the city.

From an observational study in Central Park, NYC

​ TYPE

Classroom Project, 

Disruptive Design

​ MENTORS

Siri Betts-Sonstegard

CO-WORKERS

Alyson Fraser

Esther Jing

Jacqueline Bao

Yiran Guo

​ EXPLORED

 

User Research,

Participatory Design,

Prototyping & Testing

​ DURATION

4 Months

PROBLEM BACKGROUND

  • New York City is the 6th most stressed-out city in the United States. 

  • NYC is often perceived as only being a 'concrete jungle'. However, it is also home to a plethora of flora and fauna.

  • A growing body of research points to the beneficial effects that exposure to the natural world has on health and healing.
 

Despite this, New Yorkers are finding it difficult to connect with nature.

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OUR PROCESS

 

Our process was divided into two main phases:

1. Discovery Phase

2. Prototype Phase

 

We started by understanding how New Yorkers perceived nature and why and how they were presently interacting with it.

 

Our research methods and inquiry areas included observational studies and intercepts, participatory research, and diary studies. Each stage was followed by a round of insight synthesis, 

debrief, and reflection. The insights garnered

from each stage would in turn inform the next

research step.

 

This phase was followed by designing and testing prototypes as possible design interventions. 

​​


 

NYC NATURE MAP

60% of NYC is:

Built

Environment

40% of NYC is:

Landscaped & Natural

Statistics borrowed from the Natural Areas Conservancy

Left: From a participatory design study at Washington Square Park.

Right: Synthesising insights with the team.

THE DISCOVERY PHASE

Observational Studies and Intercepts

INTENTION

Understand why and how working New Yorkers currently integrate nature.

 

HOW?
• Observations on working adults interacting with nature in public areas.

• Intercepts to understand working adults’ relationship and experience with nature.

MAIN INSIGHT

  • Working New Yorkers have a desire to connect with nature but are not making enough effort to connect. Why?

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Observation and intercept guides.

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From participatory research conducted amongst a diverse demographic and across parks in the city. 

Participatory Design

INTENTION

Understand the conflict between intention and behavior of New Yorkers when connecting with nature.

HOW?

• Using prompts, understand how nature-

related activities are prioritized according to

personal values.

• Understand the barriers of engaging in such activities.

MAIN INSIGHT

  • Working New Yorkers believe that their biggest barrier in connecting with nature is the lack of time. Where and how are they spending their time?

Diary Studies

INTENTION

Understand the daily schedule of working 

New Yorkers.

 

HOW?
• “Take a photo every time you do a different activity”

• Post diary questions to understand current interactions with nature.

 

.

MAIN INSIGHTS

  • Working New Yorkers spend a lot of time commuting.

  • 'Happenstance' integration with nature does not provide satisfaction.

  • They connect with nature in varying capacities in their daily lives to destress.

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We conducted diary studies and interviews with 5 working New Yorkers. 

CURRENT STATE

Strong desire to connect

with nature, with a perceived time barrier.

DESIRED STATE

Reduce stress and

prioritize time with nature.

SYNTHESIS

 

For our next step, we reflected upon our research and synthesized insights from the discovery phase.

DISCOVERY PHASE IN A GLIMPSE: 

 

Spanned across 8 weeks.

With 60+ hours of fieldwork.

Covering 7 green public spaces in NYC.

APPROACH

Having had interviews with various working

New Yorkers, our next step was to develop an approach strategy and design a persona, our

ideal user. This would help us in designing

our interventions and conduct testing with the

right group of people. 

INSIDE-OUT APPROACH

Bringing a change in mindset and behavior patterns.

 

 

We decided to take an inside-out approach as we believed it to be a more feasible and long-lasting option. We believe that change starts from within and that an inside-out approach would serve as a quick win while serving our purpose and vision.

OUTSIDE-IN APPROACH​

 

Bringing a change in culture

and the environment.

LILY GREEN

 

Financial Analyst,

Lives in Brooklyn, NYC

"Nature is important to me” “Nature helps me feel disconnected, I miss that feeling” “

I’m so busy with my job I just don’t have time.”

 

NEEDS:

Lily, a busy working New Yorker, needs a way to integrate nature into her existing environment and schedule so that she can reduce stress. 

Motivation to connect with nature

Don't care

Nature enthusiast

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Low fidelity prototypes were designed for the first round of testing.

DESIGN INTERVENTION

Bringing a change in mindset and behavior patterns requires strong motivation for the user.

The first two prototypes aimed to stimulate motivation through:

  • Convenience

    • Accessibility​.

    • Integrate into familiar practices.

    • Meeting people where they are at.

    • Personalize to meet flexible schedules.

While the last two prototypes aimed to stimulate motivation through:

  • Novelty 

    • New activities.

    • Surprise factor.

    • Personalized preferences.

TESTING

According to Fogg's Behavior Model,

Behavior Change = Motivation X Ability X Trigger

 

Keeping this model in mind, we tested our prototypes with 8 participants, who fell into our ideal user type. The tests were done to understand each prototype by themselves as well as in reference to the other three.

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An example of the testing guide.

TEST FINDINGS

1. Convenience works better than novelty for long-term change. 

  • Novelty is not the best motivator for long term behavior change.

  • Convenience is important for busy, working New Yorkers so they don’t have
    to go out of their way.

2. Personalization is important.

  • People’s lifestyles and preferences differ greatly.

3.  Build small wins towards a larger

mindset change.

  • Small behavioral changes lead to mindset changes, this is sustainable for the long run.

  • Small wins create a sense of achievement.

WAY FORWARD

Putting these prototypes on a short term to long term effect scale, we believe that there is a great possibility in taking the third prototype forward i.e. incorporating mindfulness through smartphone integration. 

This prototype has values that are beneficial to our ideal user:

  • It meets the user where they are at.

  • It provides personalization and control.

  • It provides clear and actionable steps.

  • There is room to further gamify it and add more incentives, making it more engaging and fun!

 

We believe that in order to tackle this issue at a scalable level, there is also a need to look at this issue from an outside-in approach. By bringing in cross-disciplinary stakeholders, one can engage with and act upon external factors, such as the spatial environment and the culture that this issue lives within.

However, while we do believe that systemic change is a necessary long term step, by engaging in and
developing such suggested small wins, we can change the perception around nature from being far and wide to being closer than we imagine, and practice exploring it in more mindful ways.

   

 

THANK YOU!

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