PUBLIC UTILITY, OBSERVING THE PUBLIC

It is necessary to understand social characteristics in order to create Design Solutions for Public Utilities, as well as to clarify questions such as “how” and “where” before starting the process. The strategy is to create messages that does not intend to “assault the audience”, but that is able to “reach the public” so that the solutions make sense and work well.

Communication Solutions for Public Utilities are often limited to formulas, tone of voice and even protocols that are not related to the local people. These practices, in many cases, generate inappropriate and ineffective messages for the community. Communication Solutions for Public Utility is a field full of opportunities for designers; there is a lot to be done, but it needs to be done well.

“Public Utilities” was a proposed subject for the 3rd year graphic design students at IED Sao Paulo. The aim of the course leaders was to enhance the students’ vision toward the projects’ possibilities.

Existing solutions and conventional formats were deliberately excluded from the project frame so that students would have the possibility of exploring different and new ideas. The designers, specifically design students, were told to push themselves outside of their comfort zone, and always look for challenges and ways to support specific formats, media or styles.

In this project, we made use of observation methods within a defined urban area to show different strategies that would lead the creativity of the students. It was necessary at this point in the project for the designer’s to have a sensitive eye for observation as well as the potential to be amazed by the ordinary things, not just take for granted the “obviousness” that they might find on the way.

For example, some common behaviours that the exercise observed were that when people walked on the streets they also spent time interacting with their mobile phone – writing SMS, surfing on the Internet or even playing with applications. If we take in consideration this behaviour, what could be designed as graphic support for the public?

The methods used in the urban observation practice had 2 objectives: (1) understand the behavioural patterns, the gestures, the dynamics and situations of the people in the context of the study (street, neighbourhood, metro, etc.), (2) capture all elements of communication already incorporated within the public context. Going from the observation to translation and then to the instrumentalisation of ideas.

Some have already find the appropriate communication channel to send their messages to the public. What can we learn from that?