How can UmeÅ University city

become vibrant

and sustainable district ? 

Since many years, Umeå Kommun, the County Council and Umeå University has dealt with planning and traffic issues around Umeå University and the University hospital area. The basic outlines of the proposed plan are to gradually transform the district to get a clear urban structure with a mixed content. There is a need for a structure with a better use of land to create a denser and more attractive urban environment. The goal is to create a city district that includes housing, education, research, health care and recreation, and with high quality enterprises related to the area. The environment should attract, stimulate and make researchers and students want to stay.



During this initial research phase, we tried to find out whose actors are using the space of Umea university campus and in which way. We went to the main campus and divided our team in groups of two. We interviewed people in different study buildings, as well as Universum, the library and in outdoor areas. We asked them about their activities on campus, their backgrounds and their like and dislike regarding the area. During the interviews we also asked people to sketch where they are active on campus, mark on the campus map places they go to, or fill up a satisfaction questionnaire that ask how satisfied are they with fulfilling their live needs on campus. We used those simple methods to engage people and create a visual material that would evoke memories and make it easier for them to tell us the stories we were looking for to understand how they see campus. 


Legacy stories were a great tool for showcasing and bringing to others the stories we got from interviewing people. Using templates we translated conducted interviews into stories and than tried to connect them looking for similarities or patterns and maybe possible intresting areas to dive deeper into. 


Another way to get to know how people see campus was to use posters as a touchpoint. We hanged posters around campus area with questions what people would like to see in this area. This showed us direct needs and wishes. Since it was not facilitated people had freedom to give any answer. This was a good way to see in what direction they wish area of University campus should be developed. 


To understand better how service can work and shuld work we went on service safari. We tested coffee places all over Umea to see how different can be the user experience while getting coffee at different places. This sensitized us to small things that make the service more enjoyable like f. ex nice customer service or small discount for students. We also realised that not only them moment of using the service is important but also time before and after influences how do we rate the service 


After collecting information in the research phase and analysing it within our team, we pinpointed the potential problem areas like : social interactions, wayfinding, information, etc. While mapping out the potential areas of development, we experienced that the opportunities to create a lively neighbourhood were diverse and numerous, from small cafes to a navigation system. We decided though to approach the problem from another side and focus on people’s perception of the campus. As we found out in the research, there were already events organised sporadically on the campus and the real problem was in communicating this efficiently to the audience. Another problem was the lack of social boundaries and ways to meet people outside of your class or workspace. We discussed this topic and refined all those problems into one statement that became our guidance through the whole process.


- Restricted perception of the campus 

(people don't see campus as a place where they can be after school or work)

- Lack of events and activities to meet people 

- The students don’t feel empowered to stay and inhabit the campus 

- No common event calendar 




In the co-creation session with stakeholders we presented them findings of our research. We also heard the presentation of the main stakeholder Akademiska hus about their vision and plan for the future development of the area, as well as to receive multiple comments about our research and to brainstorm together on early ideas. Beside presentations we also used this opportunity to hold a workshop with stakeholders, trying to involve them as early as possible in our process. Together with them we created a future stakeholder map and tried to foresee how deeply will each of the stakeholders be engaged. Finally, in teams, joined by 2 stakeholders we did a round of quick brainstorming session. Our task was to concentrate on a single group of future stakeholders we pinpointed, and then try to describe their needs, fears and wishes. Next step was to try to come up with a service that will fulfill those needs. Those ideas generated during this session could serve as a start for our own brainstorming or as an inspiration.


We started our workshop with a warm up question that was “ how to engage people”. Through this question, we wanted to see what methods people see as appropriate to engage people to join a group/ service/ initiative. We wanted to use those ideas to later on support our concept, since it relied on linking together a huge amount of people and rise their desire to engage within the community. The answers were different and showed us that to a large extent, people are not self-motivated unless you provide them with the right incentives. You need to give people a reason to engage, reward them for it and show them result of their engagement. After the warm up we moved on to using lotus flower method and asked the participants to develop further on one of their earlier idea, that could according to them, motivate people to engage and create a vibrant community on the campus area. The quick pace of this method was an advantage and we saw that our participants kept their energy level high and we achieved our goal, that was getting many different ideas and not getting too lost in detail with only few. 





Having ideas from brainstormings in our team and also from workshops, we grouped them according to matching visions and similarities and we built concepts on top of these groups. We therefore came up with a smaller number of solutions that could bring vibrancy to the neighbourhood and at the same time engage people. We focused on informing people about the things happening in the campus and also on allowing them to participate and create their own events. Although we narrowed down our ideas from a broad field to a more precise topic we still created different concepts that allowed us to explore different solutions and methods.The generated concepts were the followings

KICKSTARTER OF IDEAS : Creating a platform where people can pitch their ideas and have people support it by commenting, joining or providing help or missing equipment. 

BLACK BOX : A company that helps in the creation of event. Individuals or groups can approach it and submit their ideas, that a committee will evaluate afterwards. If the idea is found relevant, the company will help bringing it to life by contacting needed specialists and professionals.

-MAP : A central platform to gather all the events that happen at the campus and display them in the form of a map, that allows people to explore the area. 

-SOUL OF CAMPUS :An IA or a powerful algorithm, doubled with sensors spreader around the campus and the neighbourhood, that would collect ideas, moods, trends, wishes and in a way feel the atmosphere of the moment, and generate spontaneous events of different size that would either match the mood of create a necessary change and improvement. 

Using the Harris profile method, we evaluated those concepts to find out which one can fit bests our brief and problem statement. We used criteria such as scalability, time needed to see result, vibrancy brought by this concept, resources needed to make it work, etc. The Concepts 1 and 2 lost because of the high amount of time needed to execute the ideas and see the results. There were also creating an unnecessary layer in between the users and the events, which would maybe affect negatively the engagement and the responsibility taken by the users in changing their environment. We wanted something that can work instantly and doesn’t need to have a long time of gathering and processing data, as well as empower the users to make change happen. In concept 3 and 4 we saw a lot of potential and we decided to test those.



We used service walkthrough for a quick testing with students. By using something tangible and visual people were getting the idea quicker and could come up with more direct feedback. It was also a great tool for starting the conversation about: how they would like to tweak the idea to be more satisfied with it. 


In this second workshop we set up as our goal to test the ideas we had developed in the previous weeks, such as exploring the area through a map and creating an event that will be placed on the map. In this way we wanted to combine the two chosen directions and create a strong and rich concept.  We created some rough paper-based models, show casing the sequence of screens as a wireframe. We used this mock-ups as a prop for testing the feasibility and usability of our concept, as well as a base to inspire users, raise their questions and encourage them to provide feedback. This was thought as a way to make more accessible and understandable something that is as a start non physical. We tested our concept with 5 different users. We chose to make them test one at a time while the other ones had an observatory role, in order to encourage them to give active feedback and to gather different depths of critics at different angles and points of view. This test brought up many questions and showed us the weak points in our design and what could be improved in our idea. We used this feedback to improve the flow of our service and refine it to a final concept.


This test brought up many questions and showed us the weak points in our design and what could be improved in our idea. We used this feedback to improve the flow of our service and refine it to a final concept.



After these valuable feedbacks, we decided to keep the idea of a service that enables to search and create events. We broke our idea into 3 main directions which were : search, explore and create.  We wanted the process to remain simple and to highlight the core of our concept : empower users to create and participate. Our approach was to see the meeting of two people as something that also can and should be supported and we decided to create a service that could facilitate events of a huge variety of size from 2 - to hundreds of people. In this way, we wanted to highlight that vibrancy is not only about big concerts, festivals and sport events that happen once in awhile, but is very much made up by constant small meetings of people and recurring events that fill up the space with small traces rather than one massive and rare sign. We went through a detailed information architecture and creation of service blueprint to be sure that every function is easy to go through and occurs in logical order that makes the use of service really easy.


For exploring the service possibilities we created user scenarios that allowed us step by step go through the final version of service. We also used it as a way to communicate where the service can be found, how the service should be used and what are the benefits of it ?


Seid is a service that allows to create and join events happening at Umea campus city. Service is a platform where people and organisations can advertise their events, and people looking for events can search through them and join.

The touch points of the service allow the user to come in direct contact with the service. Our service had 4 touch points :

-The Info booth is be a touchpoint to provide users with the first information about our service. 

-The Loyalty system is a way to incorporate existing facilities and the events they organise into our service, as a way to gain customers trust in our service by showing connection to well-known facilities.

-The app iss a way for the customers to use the service 

-Posters are supposed to create awareness about the service 


Mapping out all the information and placing them in the right spot helped us to come up with logical and consistent app scheme. Through colours we wanted to highlight even further the playfulness of the service and to distinguish our service from others already existing. We created logo and brand language for our service. The shapes in the app are soft to match the appearance of the logo and create consistency. We used a mixture of text and icons to make the navigation intuitive and simple. 


We decided not to show a step by step use of our service, since the majority of the interactions happens on the screen, but rather to use this opportunity to show through the video the spirit and advantages that our service brings. With the help of our tutor, we created a storyboard that aimed to condense the shooting in a single day. We decided in detail on possible locations and secured which one of them would be available to use. We tried to create a plan that will make the logistic of the shooting easier and will give us more time to concentrate on creating high quality footage. We were also restrained with the amount of actors and props we could use. Considering all those factors we came out with a simple storyboard consisting of 5 scenes and we decided to shoot the scenes in a way that no faces are shown so that we could distribute the roles among our team and play different parts, without needing the help of others. Thanks to this detailed planning, we managed to shoot our video within one day.


Most challenging in this course was to consider all the stakeholders while creating the solution. It is very easy to focus just on one group and becomes more complex when they are any different groups looking at the solution from their perspective. I learned that good ethnographic research can bring in depth understanding of peoples feelings and perception of things. It was also important to learn to use tangible props for explaining and evaluating concepts as a way to talk about something that doesn't exist yet and its hard to review. 

My whole team was equally engaged in the research and ideation part. I took active role in staging the user testing and also created the structure and UI of the app for our service and worked on consistent visual language of all the touch points.