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the annoying corner


Social Design w/ Co-design Challenge



project goal

To solve a social problem through conducting independent design research, facilitating co-design sessions with stakeholders, and elaborating their design solution to make it feasible as well as beneficial to them. 

team members

Yumei Jin, Tianmi Fang, Tundun Oladipo

my contribution

Research idea brainstorm, Research proposal, Co-design session planning and conducting, Design solution elaborating. 


the annoying corner & How we helped with it

In brief, what is the annoying corner and how we utilized social design to help with it?

The annoying corner is the corner of Forbes Ave. and South Craig St. next to the Starbucks near Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh campus. We noticed that the corner is unsafe and time consuming to get through.

Since the corner has been shared with various populations, we believe that social design is a good way to facilitate solving the problem as people experiencing the annoyance brought by that corner have incentive to design solutions for themselves. As designers, our job is to elaborate their design solutions in terms of feasibility and effectiveness. 

Based on the initial design solution “advertise to the student population about alternative routes" that participants came up with during co-design session, we elaborated it as the final design solution:

“Motivate CMU students to inform their classmates about alternative routes by using Canvas discussion function, and reduce density on the corner which in turn benefits people who wait here. ”



Idea Brainstorms

Before we approach to the annoying corner as a design opportunity, we brainstormed multiple design ideas that spanned a wide range of social design near Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh campus. These design ideas ranged over Transportation, Environmental Design, Student Projects, Food, Design for Startups, and Social media.

We narrowed down our ideas to 5 selected ones based on the feasibility and the potential. For each idea, we also identified possible participants:

Idea 1: A Solution for the congestion at the corner of Forbes Ave. and Craig. St by Starbucks.

  • Participants: Students trying to catch a class at 407 or 300 South Craig., employees working at the Carnegie Museum trying to cross to the museum, Starbucks customers and Bus takers.

Idea 2: Enhance the way students notify CMU shuttle drivers when they want to get off. The current sound when students request a stop is too harsh and therefore, negatively affects the mood of driver.

  • Participants: Shuttle drivers and shuttle riders (mostly CMU students).

Idea 3: A Solution to the excess printing of receipts and coupons at CVS.

  • Participants: CVS Workers, specifically Workers at CVS on Center and Forbes.

Idea 4: Encourage drivers/bikers to report potholes.

  • Participants: Drivers, Bikers, Urban plan designers.

Idea 5: Design interesting feedback from recycling bins to encourage people to recycle.

  • Participants: People who are aware of recycling, people who are unaware of recycling, bin makers.

The Annoying Corner

After carefully evaluating the approachability of the problem and the accessibility of participants, we chose to focus on the corner of Forbes and Craig street as our design opportunity. Our problem statement is:

To design a solution for the congestion at the corner of Forbes Ave. and South Craig. St by Starbucks so that different population groups can get to their destination easily and in less time.

During our research, we found that the current condition of that corner affects people going to class, who need to catch the bus, those that need to get to Starbucks and those going to the Carnegie Museum. The trash bins and the doors of Starbucks open into people make it harder for them to pass by that corner. Moreover, people who are waiting for shuttles and busses have no space to wait at the bus stop. Bus takers are often standing in the way of people who are walking on that sidewalk and are next to the trash bins from Starbucks and chipotle. These conditions result in an inconvenient and unsafe experience for those who use the corner.

We believe that social design is the best way to help facilitate the solution because this problem is a social problem, not a product or service-oriented problem. When standing on sidewalk, there are no legal rules and there are very little social rules involved. In this problem, it is much easier for participants to take an initiative to solve this problem using their own ingenuity and available local resources.

As designers, we can help recognize and facilitate the solutions by creating appropriate opportunities for participants from groups with different needs to communicate.


Co-design Session

session Plan

To prepare for our co-design session with participants who are new to design, we carefully selected design methods that are novice-friendly and promote innovation and collaborative design thinking. The design methods we selected are:

  • body-storming
  • point of view (POV)
  • how might we (HMW) questions
  • scenarios

To ensure that participants get to know each other, understand the problem from different perspectives, and become comfortable during the work session, we prepared a warm-up session during which participants were asked to discuss and identify problems. Then we assign them with different scenarios to act out as body-storming. 

After body-storming, participants ideated problems with solutions based on point of views (POV) and how might we (HMW) questions. After ideating and discussing about 10 minutes, they narrowed down their ideas to 1 specific problem with 1 innovative and feasible solution. They then wrote down a scenario to embody the solution as required by us. 

Team member is introducing the problem during co-design session.


Ideation (10 mins)


Help all participants understand problems from different views with an immersive experience and help them identify new problems.


  • Introduced the technique
  • Gave participants 2 scenarios to act out (in scenarios they were assigned to different roles, like student heading to the classroom or customer who wanted to get into Starbucks, so they could better understand different views)


Participants pointed out a new problem; the trash cans obstructed the way. They did not notice this earlier (we put trash cans on the position as they were in the real world). 







Warm-up (10 mins)


Ensure all participants become comfortable in the co-design session, share experiences about the corner, and identify problems from different perspectives.


  • Introduced the problem statement
  • Played video taken at the corner to provide context
  • Prompted participants to discuss their prior experience and identified problems
  • Asked participants to write down problems on the post-its and stuck them on the whiteboard


Participants generated 8 problems from various perspectives:

  • Hard to get around the corner
  • Hard to get into Starbucks
  • Not enough room for people to stand/wait
  • Too crowded to people trying to turn the corner
  • A lot of people waiting to cross the street
  • The waiting people make bus drivers confused
  • Unsafe when people walk on the lane to get through the corner

Reflection & Ideation (10 mins)

POV generated by participants

A person is trying to round the corner to go to class in a hurry because he has a quiz that he has to be on time for.

HMW Questions generated by participants

  • HMW squish people together to create more space
  • HMW make him faster/smaller to get through
  • HMW rearrange layout of corner (bus stop or Starbucks)
  • HMW create more space around intersection
  • HMW find an alternate path
  • HMW help him leave earlier so he has the time to wait
  • HMW alter the course he is taking? • HMW help students to get through the people on the corner?
  • HMW reduce the number of people?



Help participants brainstorm solutions for each problem with design thinking.


  • Introduced to Point of View (POV) and how might we questions
  • Asked participants to pick up one major problem and write down a POV
  • Asked participants to generate 5 how might we questions based on the POV
  • Asked participants to brainstorm 1~2 solutions for each HMW question focusing on “amp up the good” or “minimizing the bad”


Participants were confused about which problem to pick up at first. We prompted them to choose one specific user group. Then they considered the population they could easily affect, as the people trying to round the corner.

Problem lists generated by participants


Participants looked back to all HMW questions they generated and picked four which they thought have potential. For solutions, they were not allowed to change the position of buildings or bus stop.

For HMW create more space around the intersection, they were thinking about setting up some norms but then gave it up because it was hard to inform pedestrians and motivate them to follow the rules.

Finally they brainstormed solutions for the followings questions:

1. HMW find an alternate path

  • Advertise wean path

2. HMW alter the course he is taking?

  • take classes closer (so don’t need to round the corner)
  • take classes with droppable quizzes

3. HMW help students to get through the people on the corner?

  • divide sidewalk
  • change traffic light patterns
  • have lights change more often

4. HMW create more space around intersection

  • move standard weighted pole
  • move bins

Elaboration (10 mins)

The scenario generated by participants


To ensure that participants are able to narrow down the scope, bring up one specific solution for one specific problem, and elaborating and embodying the solution.


  • Introduced to scenarios and storyboards (context, problem, solution, and resolution)
  • Asked participants to pick up one solution and present it into details (either narratives or visuals)


We prompted participants to do something they could flesh out more and that has the most attractive resolution, rather than only moving the bins. In their decision processing, they thought changing class schedules were not feasible for all students, and they wanted to help students avoid the corner. So they picked up the alternate path solution.


Mike is trying to catch the morning class in Gates because he has a quiz. He wants to get to the class on time, but he knows go through the corner would run out of time. He sees a sign, notifying there is a pass way to the Gates. He chooses the passway and gets to the class on time. And other people get across the corner easily, because there are fewer people.



Design Solution

To ensure that the design solution is a social design solution that brings people actively participate as problem solvers, we narrowed down the stakeholder population of the solution to student who are taking classes at 407 S Craig St. and created a notification system for them through a Canvas discussion. Since Canvas is the learning management tool used by CMU populations, we believe that make a discussion post on Canvas would be convenient as well as effective to our stakeholders.

We also created other deliverables to help students easily spread the discussion post on Canvas: 

  • A poster that would be posted at the door of 407 S Craig St. to prompt classmates to use the discussion which includes a template that they could easily take a picture of or download as an image via the provided QR code
  • A guide on how to use canvas discussions to post the information
  • Some stickers to help highlight the routes

Our elaborated design solution is reproducible and generalizable. Anyone - designers and non designers - can easily make the stickers and posters by themselves and make discussion posts on Canvas for other classes. After a simple setup, all they need to do to take care of the thing is just updating their posts with a finger-click effort.


How does the solution helps?

We created the below scenario to demonstrate how does the solution help solving the problem of the annoying corner.

You had a final exam of User-Centered Design & Evaluation (UCRE) today at 4:00 pm. You left from Hunt library, went along Forbes ave.,  and went through the corner. The corner was crowded of people waiting for the bus, waiting for the traffic light, and heading to other places. You had to wait for nearly 100 seconds and squeezed yourself to walk through the crowds :(. 

When you arrived, you saw a poster on the door of the classroom.

The poster provided a instruction map of an alternative route from the CMU main campus to South Craig St., and prompted you ways of letting your classmates be aware of this route when the Starbucks corner is crowded.

It was already 3:50 pm, 10 mins before the exam started. It was likely that your classmates would have to be late because of the human traffic at the annoying corner, so you decided to notice them about the alternate route. Since you have already made a discussion post called Corner Alert in the UCRE page on Canvas, all you needed to do at that moment was to scan the QR code on the poster and share it on Corner Alert.


20 classmates who subscribed the discussion Corner Alert receive your post, including Jamie.

Jamie just departed for South Craig St. from Gate at 3:52pm, 8 mins to the beginning of the exam. He received a notification indicating an update from Corner Alert, and decided to take the alternate route suggested by the update. Since it was his first time taking that route, he worried about being lost. Fortunately, there were stickers on the route pointing out the correct direction for him and his worry did not become true.

Because of your post and the stickers on the route, Jamie made to the UCRE final exam classroom exactly on time :). 

Not only Jamie, several other classmates were benefited from your post as well. Your post received 10+ likes indicating that it was really helpful.