Dear Crosswalk

Dear Crosswalk was 5-week group project I worked on with Jordan Chen and Katherine Bennett. It ran from 14 September to 19 October 2018. It was completed for LMC 6399 Discovery & Invention with Dr. Nassim Jafari-Naimi. 

This project served as an introduction to design research methods. All groups chose a transition space and studied it closely over 4/5 weeks. Three general methods were chosen initially and then three ethnographic methods were chosen to study the people in the space more in depth. We were tasked with observing, clustering, and presenting our data, by questioning further and further and never narrowing our focus to the point where we missed other aspects.

Phase One

For Phase One of this project, we divided into groups of six and chose a transition space. Our group decided to choose the crosswalk outside of Barnes and Noble, where a new pattern had just been implemented. Instead of the classic method where pedestrian’s moved opposite of traffic, this method allowed pedestrians to move between when the light changed. This means that they could go any direction, including diagonally.

After choosing our space, we divided into two groups, each with three people. We went through “Universal Methods of Design” by Bruce Hanington and Bella Martin and chose three design methods to study. These methods were AEIOU, a method that helped organize our notes into actions, environment, interactions, objects, and users, Behavioral Mapping, a method where we could visualize and layout movements from various groups of users, and Personas, a method that let us cluster various patterns into example people.

AEIOU gave us a solid way to cluster our observations, but also had strict categories that sometimes didn’t fit all of our observations. Behavioral mapping gave us a useful visual, but no true insights. Personas were also a useful way to cluster information, but came into trouble with stereotyping. Overall, these methods proved to be great for observing and clustering, but not so much for further exploration.

A page of my notes from one day when I watched from 10-11, catching a class change, as well as people going to work and taking lunches.

A page of my notes from one day when I watched from 10-11, catching a class change, as well as people going to work and taking lunches.

Initial Observations

To begin our project, we first simply went out and watched the crosswalk on various days and at various times. We recorded notes pertaining to the AEIOU method and Behavioral Mapping, as well as other useful information to cluster into Personas. After recording and talking about our notes and creating the first versions of some of our methods, we went out again to focus our notes further and begin asking questions about what we were seeing. In the presentation below, you’ll see Jordan’s detailed AEIOU notes and several behavioral maps that Katherine created showcasing the interaction between cars and pedestrians at various times of the day.

A whiteboard of all of our various notes from observing where we sorted out of thoughts and findings.

A whiteboard of all of our various notes from observing where we sorted out of thoughts and findings.

Clustering Observations

During our observation phase, we began clustering our data, looking for various trends and connections. We used a whiteboard during one of our meetings to help visualize and organize our clusters so that we could compare them. Most of these observations were clustered into various personas that helped us explore various behavioral correlations.


Most of our results focused on the clustering that we created and the trends we saw. In the above powerpoint, you can see several of our results from our methods, including detailed AEIOU notes, behavioral maps showing various different clusterings, and some persona examples. The biggest critique we received was that we didn’t ask enough research questions, or dive into what we seeing to analyze it. We needed to take our data and explain what we seeing from an analytical point of view, that showed areas of future research.

Jordan’s Participant Observation Notes. He walked around during various times, but due to the detail, was clearly focusing on his thoughts, thus skewing the data.

Jordan’s Participant Observation Notes. He walked around during various times, but due to the detail, was clearly focusing on his thoughts, thus skewing the data.

Phase Two

For phase two, we had to use three ethnographic methods. We choose Participant Observation, Love Letters/Breakup letters, and Directed Storytelling. Participant Observation allowed us to walk through the crosswalk with others, thinking about what they were doing and what we were doing. It allowed us to understand and get involved in what people were doing. The issue we found with this method was that we would often be overthinking while going through the crosswalk, thus influencing the data we were getting.

We chose to do Love Letters/Breakup Letters and Directed Storytelling because we needed opinions and stories about the crosswalk. We could watch people walk across the street for days, but we would never know why they were crossing the street or how they felt about the new diagonal crosswalk. Love Letters/Breakups letters gave us strong opinions about what people loved and what people hated about the crosswalks, while Directed Storytelling gave us stories about the crosswalk, that led to people explaining their emotions and motivations about the crosswalk.


Above are some example Love Letters/Breakup Letters we gathered. Many clearly had strong opinions for or against the crosswalk. We noticed that those who loved the crosswalk were pedestrians, while many who hated it were drivers. Although, some drivers did like the crosswalk because they are less likely to hit a rogue pedestrian.


Directed Storytelling, examples above, gave us a lot more mixed emotions towards the crosswalk. People told us their reactions to various events that happened to them during the first few weeks of the crosswalk being open. Numerous people talked about being yelled at for being in the intersection at the wrong time. These stories were very useful to getting inside of the user’s brain.

Final Presentation

Dear crosswalk, I really don’t like anything about you, even from a pedestrian point of view.  You’re pointless! There was never any trouble without you.

Dear crosswalk, I love how I barely have to wait to cross you when I’m on foot.  Everything moves so quickly. I get to you, glance at my phone for only a moment, and then suddenly I’m crossing you.

I tried to turn at like 4pm, which wasn’t allowed, but I didn’t know and a cop yelled at me. And I was very confusing, and I didn’t know. I missed the sign and I was just trying to get to work because I was late for work and I just needed to get to my parking deck.

If just miss the timing, I’ll wait longer. But like even then, it’s not that bad. And particularly for you, cuz like normally I’d have to wait like two cycles but now I can just cross diagonally.

You used to be a really difficult intersection, particularly during rush hour and turns. It would be really dangerous because I would be crossing but like if people were crossing, I’d like have to back up or I’d end up with weird dangerous turns.

“I noticed Sunday this sign is up, ‘Don’t get caught in the box.’ It wasn’t up Thursday.

Now if you’re green, I know I can just turn.

‘Get out of the box!’ cops yelled towards me.  I was walking with three people, but I was alone. They were talking to my soul… My mother taught me never to be in trouble.”

But I find that you’re not the good idea I thought you were, you’re just a shoddy quick-fix for a whole lot of hidden stupid.

How will we know whether to cross the street, unless we’re told?

I just don’t understand why you were created in the first place. 

They created a new behavior with you. Who feels like the winner? Walkers do. I do.


Above is a prose piece I wrote using quotes from various stories and letters we gathered that showed the different viewpoints between drives and pedestrians when it came to the crosswalk. Most of our final presentation focused on showcasing the emotions of people who use the crosswalk. Our research led us deeper into finding the difference between drivers and pedestrians, who had entirely different experiences. We found that pedestrians loved it and greatly benefited, while cars found that they were greatly slowed down and hindered. Thus, drivers were frustrated by the change.

A video animation of a poem Katherine wrote for our final project. It is a representation of how people were yelled at for being in the ‘box’ after the timer went off.

A video animation of a poem Jordan wrote for the presentation. The poem shows the thoughts of a pedestrian as they cross through the crosswalk. The thoughts end once the person is through, although the timer keeps going.

Jordan’s Process Book:

Katherine’s Process Book: