Wave / University Project

Visualising community wellness

Wave is an interactive data visualisation service that is presented to the public via city billboards and street screens. Wave visualises how a community is feeling by daily user inputs from the public of their emotions throughout the day, of which is fed into a database and shown through character animation & expression.
Data Visualisation
UI Design
The Challenge
"Your task is to investigate what is happening on the cutting edge of your chosen technology. Who is doing what, how and why? What software/hardware is currently available and what are the strengths and weaknesses of competing products. You are required to predict where your chosen technology may be going, be able to suggest new and innovative ways that your technology could potentially be used, and design a prototype to demonstrate your concept. "
The Solution
With this project I mainly looked into the current social climate and how it has been impacted by technology and social media. By outlining the problems caused by this and the physical distancing of local communities, I decided to create a product that would aim to bring people closer together in their local area, raising awareness of how others are doing via visualisation tools, and ultimately improving the wellness of a community.
Understanding our Social Climate
I began this project by first researching how technology has impacted our social climate, and the wellbeing of the individuals within it. At the time of creating this project we were in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, meaning our world is as detached as ever before. Furthermore, social media is at an all time high, and with recent documentaries being released such as Netflix's 'The Social Dilemma', there has been a lot of exposure on the negative effects technology is having on our societies.
What's on the market already?
I wanted to look into what products are already out there trying to combat inidivudal and community wellness as this would give me a good insight into the methods put in place and how I can create something unique. For this, I user tested and analysed 6 apps in total. The initial 3 focused around individual wellness and how technology has been helping us in our own personal lives.
For the second batch of market research I looked into more community based apps that focus on inidivuals connecting one way or another. These ranged from food sharing services to volunteering platforms, making sure that I questions why each of these would be relevant when going forward with this project.
By picking apart aspects of existing apps, it's clear to see that personal and community gain need to be at the forefront of my ideas.
Idea Generation
The brief I set myself was to come up with an idea that is able to bring communities together through the use of modern technology, whether this be through augmented / virtual reality, public installations, ubiquitous computing, etc.

The final idea will aim to improve the wellbeing of an individual through the interaction and engagement of a wider community project, and overcome challenges we currently face such as COVID-19 restrictions or monetary budget.
Chosen Idea
My aim with this idea would be to create an interactive public installation displayed on city centre billboards, which is able to visualise the overall frame of mind and mood of its community as a way of bringing people together. The data would be collated from the general public inputting their emotions into a daily journal app on their phone, via a simple points scale, which is fed through into the live installation to visualise.

My hope is that the council would be able to regulate events in response to low morale or spirits of their communities, and can strive for greater community togetherness and positive movements as a result.

Leading on from my idea generation, I wanted to gain more of a motive to see whether my community installation idea would be beneficial in a real-world setting. I decided to go with a survey because they are pretty quick to create and offer speedy responses.

It was a simple survey, clearly stating my proposed idea at the beginning, asking a few personal questions to gain some insight into the demographics secondly, then delving more into the publics use and connections with their community to get a broad overview of the area I’m looking into. Some of the key questions of the survey are displayed below.
Personas & Scenarios
Rather than completely making up fictional people who will interact with my idea, I took some of the information gathered from my survey to construct 5 individual personas / scenarios, one from each of the main age groups. By doing this, I was able to gain a better understanding of how each of the users engage with it differently and for what purpose.
Comepetitor Analysis
I started looking into existing public installations, and what impact they have been able to achieve in doing so, learning from their applications in the real world such as their location, environments, etc. Leading on from this, looking into data visualisation techniques was key in understanding what makes design and communication useful for the viewer.
Data Visualisation Study
In order to feel comfortable designing my data visualisation, I first thought it would be insightful to gain some primary data on the matter.

To do this, I put together a quick study that I sent round to a wide demographic so that I can understand how people feel, and how I can design something that can fit it. This study is essentially a ‘paper prototype’ experiment where the participants track their emotions over the course of 5-7 days using a 10 point allocation system, and simply send me the results at the end. It was extremely useful when refining my data set and the feasibility of how it can work.
Data visualisation
I knew that designing the data visuals was going to be a big task, so I started off by sketching down different techniques and methods of showing data that I could potentially venture into when developing more digital versions.

As time went on, I started exploring data visualisations through the use of characters, and resulted in an extremely versatile method based upon body language and expression in character walk cycles. The happier the data is, the happier the character moves. Likewise, the more negative inputs there are, the character will be slower, slouched, and 'moody'.
App Design
Despite the installation being the communal experience of this project, the app input was also just as important, as this is what the public would use to input their emotions and look at community events. I started by wireframing some screens of the app, making sure I kept it simple and accessible to encourage wider public use. After this, I developed them into a Hi-Fidelity prototype, making use of the branding and character designs to add life to it.
Installation design
After developing the app, I went ahead and starting designing how the installation will look, deciding which information to display and how it looks in situ. Despite digital screens in the street being quite big, when people are walking past there is little time to grab their attention, so making sure that there was a strong visual hierarchy was quite important.

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