Multi-faceted Valuation of Social Problem Solving Design: Focused on the Case of Seoul

The 2019 Internatonal Forum on Design to Solve Social Problems has obtained written consent from the speaker to publish the summarized and edited content

SPEAKER: Yoori Koo (Professor at Hongik University)

1. Transformation of the Public Design Paradigm

- Value and role of design to solve social problems

In the past, public design was understood as an urban environment, building, appearance, and landscape-oriented design activity, but today's social problems are much more complex, personal, and diverse. Therefore, attention is being paid to the necessity and importance of solving social problems in various areas, and in the past, space, reliability, and expertise were emphasized, so expert-centered solutions were attempted, but now residents, who have social problems, are approaching them. Citizens' participation is becoming very important because the residents know the problem best and it is something that should be applied after solving the problem together.

This trend has been specified in both the public design promotion plans and the legal aspect, and has already stipulated many changes.  In keywords such as development, physical environment, and top-down processes that appeared in the past, cooperation and service-side software are emphasized, and most importantly, the process is led by the people on problems that occur in our daily lives. Now, social issues are shifting toward regenerating existing communities rather than creating new buildings.

- Changes in object, process, and method of public design

In the past, public design was classified based on the physical form as belonging to the visual domain, the environmental domain, or the product domain. However, the current design domain includes things such as invisible human emotion, recognition and perception. Now, design should be understood not only in the visible area but also in the invisible design area.

2. Limitations of Existing Public Design Projects



Salt road in Yeomni-dong, Seoul

Public design projects show a lot of evolution and development. At the same time, it is true that we have many challenges together. The crime prevention design of the salt road in Yeomni-dong, Seoul, which is cited as an excellent case, fundamentally re-examined the typical ex-post problem of ‘how can we monitor and reduce criminal activity?’ To this end, an exercise course was designed to induce action so that residents can come out on the road and revitalize the street. Although this is trivial, it is possible to try to solve social problems through a change of perception. This was a successful case because both the external and internal problem solving methods were combined.

2.1. Limitations in the process 




Crime prevention design of other local governments

However, as many of these success stories become known, there are cases of unconditionally accepting the visible results. For example, 'yellow is effective for crime prevention' or 'clearing the street reduces crime’. There are cases where the superficial value is misinterpreted. Methods that do not take into account the appropriate purpose and theme can become a problem rather than a solution. If the initial problem is not the same, the solution must also be different. If Salt Street spreads the system as a crime prevention case, it should aim to spread the approach to the solution itself, not to copy the exterior unconditionally.



One-sided solution

The public has a traditional way of leading citizens and implementing policies while leading them. However, as citizen awareness has increased  and media has expanded, a one-sided top-down method does not work properly. For example, there is a difference between simply giving cognitive stimulation to the amount of calories consumed for the purpose of providing health information on stairs and it actually inducing behavior.

In a survey of pregnant women, many views about the inconvenience of using transportation were identified. Therefore, as one of the policies to protect pregnant women in the early stages, a badge for pregnant women called Pink Approach was produced and distributed. It was designed so that if you put on this badge and get on the subway, you can claim a priority seat. However, even with this badge, there were not many pregnant women who could confidently claim a seat on the subway. Because the attachment of badges lacked consideration for users, to solve this problem, the floor and chairs in the pregnant women's seating area were replaced with pink color. An attempt was also made to mark a dedicated seat so that anyone could give up a seat to a pregnant woman without questioning. Although awareness of maternity seats is growing, you can still see many men and women sitting in those seats. The media reported that it was 'disrespectful', but in fact, this only causes social chaos and does not help to solve the underlying problem. Let me ask a question: Should a dedicated seat always be left empty even when a pregnant woman is not present?

In a similar way, on Busan's light rail, any passenger could comfortably take any seat, and a method was found by which pregnant passengers would be given a seat when they boarded. The service design approach is to induce a favorable relationship in which ordinary passengers voluntarily give up their seats rather than being forced to give up their seats.

2.2. Post evaluation and management system

- The need for an integrated evaluation system considering the purpose and context of the project

Currently, the public design process is implemented in a single policy, from site selection to problem investigation and construction, followed by evaluation. The problem that arises here is that there are still many shortcomings relating to questions like 'How should this evaluation be conducted to prove its effectiveness?' and 'What does numerical information mean to us?'

Currently, the evaluation is being carried out as part of the process, and user satisfaction surveys such as the usability and efficiency of the results are the main focus. It is necessary to evaluate from an integrated perspective considering the purpose of the project, changes in consumer behavior, and impact on stakeholders and local communities.


Public design development process

- Lack of sustainability

There is also the issue of follow-up sustainability. In the case of Gamcheon Culture Village in Busan, although it was activated through public design, there was a problem that residents were excluded due to several issues (including economic reasons). Sustainable operation and how to engage local residents are also important issues to be addressed.


The case of Gamcheon Culture Village where solutions for residents became a problem again

In summary, it can be assumed that the problem of how much residents want to participate in the process and how much residents agree with the proposed solution is not a guaranteed success. In the follow-up management and evaluation system, it is necessary to consider how much value can actually be given to the local community and how much sustainable operation can be secured.

3. Approach from the service design perspective

In order to solve the previously discovered issues and practical problems, it is necessary to approach the intangibility of social problem-solving design from the perspective of service design. We would like to share seven service design perspectives from 2017 to 2018 through project examples for subway convenience.

- Utilization of design research and user-centered process

As part of Seoul's stress-free design project, this project approaches the intangible and personal issues of social problems from the perspective of mental health. Through research, I discovered a new topic by discovering that the subway space is actually a huge stress for citizens on their commute. Commuting time in Korea averages 58 minutes, ranking at the top of the OECD commuting time distribution. The time taken for commuting is closely related to the happiness index of life that one feels, and it can be concluded that the happiness index of Koreans is quite low. We selected this as an important social issue and proceeded with the project.

Dongdaemun History and Culture Park Station, at which one can transfer between three lines and which has 14 exits, was determined to be the most crowded subway station, and we tried to solve the problem by targeting this station. We tried a user-centered approach to all processes.

Through the workshop, we wanted to find out the user's experience, and we tried to use the user-centered principle in the actual application along with the prototype and evaluation stage.

For a balance of insights, when you ask users about a problem, there's a difference between what they answer and what they actually do. There are also insights that are felt subconsciously, even without speaking or acting. In order to bring these out in various ways, we used the method of asking, experiencing, and observing the citizens in various ways. Through the field investigation, we investigated where the biggest problems are actually found, and marked the points where the problems occur. A lot of external aspects such as the unpleasant underground environment, signage problems, and high congestion were discovered, and the part that actually caused the most inconvenience was when people crossed in the transfer section.

In order to find out more deeply about people's inconveniences in these macro-level environmental problems, we followed people and conducted observational research on the inconveniences they experience. Through this process, we discovered the biggest problems. The stress of citizens in subway stations was caused not by the subway signs, rest areas, or the unpleasantness of the environment, but by other perople's careless behavior and by unpredictable situations.


Shadow Tracking

After conducting an in-depth interview, the user groups were divided according to the frequency of subway use and personal stress sensitivity. As a result, it was possible to classify the sensitive group into 'commuting sensitive type' and intermittently using 'non-commuting sensitive type'. When classifying user insights, we tried to solve them from the user's point of view using the same axes as cognitive, behavioral, relational, and emotional according to user experience classification. There were four major problems found, and in the cognitive aspect, there was a problem that intuition was low due to too much information. On the emotional side, the underground space itself is fundamentally a turbid and dry space, so there was sensual fatigue.


Problems found


Citizen workshops and co-creation with stakeholders

With the problems found, a workshop was held with citizens interested in the subway. In fact, they came up with many ideas for improving the subway, some of which figured into the project solution. In the case of this project, it was very difficult to collaborate with stakeholders, but the Seoul Transportation Corporation with the Seoul Metropolitan Government emphasized safety and was a conservative group, and it was difficult to change the existing method. In the case of the station manager, who interacts with citizens in the city, it was difficult to encourage participation because he had other needs. When the solution was first proposed, there was frustration caused by negative responses, but we tried to persuade stakeholders to understand the user's point of view through visualization.

We tried a contextual and integrated approach by visualizing the user journey by type and using a customer journey map that visually shows the difficulties the user faces at each stage. In addition, we created a stakeholder map to understand the importance and influence of integration with the subway users as the center, and visually persuade us through storyboards about how the user experience can change before and after due to the nature of the stakeholders, which are composed of very diverse groups. work was carried out. Through this, we were able to effectively change the perception.


Stakeholder Map for a Contextual and Integrative Approach

The types of problems found were largely user-centered information, order maintenance/safety, convenience/rest, and etiquette/campaign. From the information system that can directly solve the difficulties with the information experienced by users, the maintenance of order in a way that can indirectly induce their actions, the induction and relaxation of actions that can give psychological stability and rest, and finally, awareness and We wanted to come up with a solution that could include both direct and indirect aspects, from software campaigns that can change value.


Direct and indirect problem solving solutions


Integrated solution according to problem type

In addition, by classifying solutions with direct impact and solutions with indirect influence by user journey within one theme, hardware, software, and humanware can be included to create an integrated solution that is not limited to space. To change the perception, the content was produced in the form of a game in which citizens can express their stress levels in a fun way and check them out by using characters and storytelling rather than simple campaigns. applied.

In general, public design evaluation and evaluation from the perspective of service experience design have different evaluation indicators and processes. The purpose of public design evaluation is to measure the quality of public design and services provided by suppliers through the derived facilities and results, but the purpose of service experience design evaluation is to support a better user experience, and service design activities. The purpose is to improve the quality of service utilization through competency evaluation.


Evaluation of the process and results

In the case of the Stress Free Design subway project, a survey of perceived experience satisfaction to find out which cognitive stresses among existing stresses have been reduced and the effect of stress reduction, and video ethnography were used to analyze changes in usage behavior. The aim is to visualize the movement, behavior, and dwell time and compare the before and after views, in order to directly analyze the change in the user's behavior. As a result of the analysis, the number of people actually wandering about decreased by more than 50%, and this reduced time was confirmed as the basis for the decrease in the stress index. In the case of the sign of standing in line, there were various opinions about the effect, but it could be confirmed that the problem was gradually improved by learning.

In the case of information located on essential routes and congested sections, intuitive information delivery is important. Therefore, the user-centered information solution that intuitively displayed the information needed by the user in an appropriate location showed high satisfaction with information delivery. Both types of users showed high satisfaction in information recognition, and in particular, regular users showed high satisfaction. Inconvenience in information recognition can be interpreted as an essential problem to be solved.

Order maintenance and safety are areas that require learning for a certain period of time, and users have shown that they maintain order by themselves after a certain period of time. Users sympathize and are satisfied with the need for signs to induce order, and the satisfaction of the delivery method of guide signs varies according to the frequency of use. Regular users were found to be highly satisfied with intuitive guide signs during busy commuting, and intermittent users were found to be highly satisfied with indirect guide signs with high attention due to the unfamiliar station environment.

In the convenience/rest area, overall satisfaction was found to be high because the user's need to utilize waiting time in convenience and rest areas was reflected. Users themselves were increasing the utilization of the work/healing zone according to their purpose of use. Regular users used the space on a daily basis for busy work processing and contact while commuting to and from work, and intermittent users used the space to search for nearby tourist spots, charge their cell phones, and chat with acquaintances.

In the etiquette/campaign sector, satisfaction was high in delivering awareness of etiquette based on a fun story that departed from the existing common campaign format. In spreading awareness through campaigns, it was found that the use of content types that can communicate with users, rather than the existing one-way method, was found to be effective.


User-centered information solution


Order maintenance / safety solution

Convenience/Relaxation Solution


Etiquette/Campaign Solutions

At the end of the project, a diffusion strategy was established. The first phase focused on the current operation of Dongdaemun History and Culture Park, and the second phase aimed to spread to other stations with similar problems. In the third stage, the purpose was set so that it could lead to the improvement and diffusion of the organizational culture in the future based on the limitations of the public-oriented top-down method of the public corporation. However, several challenges remain to be coordinated for the proliferation of the service model.

4. Social Problem Solving Design Evaluation Process Model Development Goals and Strategies

In the past, public design used to be an indicator for evaluating the quality of facilities, but today's evaluation requires a process-oriented evaluation indicator that can evaluate the activities and capabilities of public design. Therefore, the social problem solving design evaluation process model aims to establish a professional process for the social problem solving design project in Seoul and to establish evaluation factors and checklists for each stage for systematic evaluation in achieving the purpose of each process. Emphasizing the consumer-centered advantage, the object itself is not limited to tangible and intangible facilities, but a method that can be visually verified in various effectiveness is intended to secure validity.

In social problem-solving design, there are four key elements in the evaluation strategy through the service design point of view. The evaluation goal is an evaluation index that should be reflected according to the goals of the project, and it should include evaluation factors suitable for the purpose, type, and target of each project. It is said that the evaluation should reflect the themes of the many projects that Seoul has and meet their objectives. The evaluation method should be devised so that the evaluation period is not necessarily the last, but before, during, and after use.

Evaluation indicators also require a solution that covers hardware and software. Since these solutions must always be circulated and continuously spread by stakeholders, the management of the stakeholder's capabilities must also be a prerequisite. Evaluation is part of the process that can play a role in the new strategy. Therefore, evaluation should be done as a strategic process that enables us to learn and change rather than the current judgment itself.

#Public Service Design #Service Design #Stakeholders #Citizen Participation #Evaluation #Value Measurement #SocialProblemSolvingDesign

Category related contents
Hashtag related contents