In Service Design for Public Space, my partner Karla Calderon and I had a special activity planned for the class. Rachel told us ahead of time that we were NOT to use Power Point or Keynote to bore the class with a slideshow. Instead, we got a bit more creative and decided that a fun drawing and mapping exercise would best illustrate some of the concepts that Kevin Lynch and Edward Tufte wrote in their essays we read. Lynch wrote on the importance of five physical features in city layout that are key to orientation: paths, landmarks, nodes, districts, and edges. The overall principle in the reading was that if you can find just one of those five, you can make out the rest in your image of the city in order to navigate. This could be applied to service design as well, in that paths could be information channels, nodes could be information hubs, and so on. Tufte wrote about the importance of data informatics and visualization. He drew upon the work of John Snow, and his meticulous research of the cholera outbreak in London, and how he used data visualizations and maps to figure out the source of the outbreak. The main concept students should draw from this essay is that your data must be visualized in such a manner that the story you wish to tell is effectively communicated.
With all that in mind, Karla and I came up with a simple exercise to engage the class in the concepts from Lynch’s reading in particular. We took a map of Manhattan, cleared it of all defining features except streets (Thanks photoshop…) and gave four groups of three in the class a copy. We gave each group one of Lynch’s features to find on the map, except for edges, which were pretty obvious. The paths group had to draw the Yellow, Green, Blue, and Orange subway lines and label them. The landmark group placed as many gold stars as they could for landmarks in the city. The nodes group marked down each subway stop that had access to 3 or more trains. Lastly, the districts group outlined the neighborhoods of Manhattan that they could remember. At the end of the exercise, Karla and I tacked all of the maps that people drew on next to each other on the white board. From there it was easy for the class to see that many landmarks happened to be where there were major nodes and paths in the city, that the subway paths were made up of various nodes, and vice versa. Next to each other, all these maps illustrated the idea that all five features were interconnected, and interrelated. The presentation was a success and we have the insight of Rachel and her interesting choice of Lynch’s reading to thank!