A postcard featuring the Michigan logo that reads "We invite you to participate"

Citizen Interaction Design Initial Questionnaire

Overview

Design students are operating on compressed schedules. And, in addition to the design work they have to do, there’s classwork, too. This initial research project was designed to give the Citizen Interaction Design students enough information to hit the ground running.

Goal: Investigate pain points between the city of Jackson, Michigan and its citizens especially as pertained to information technologies.

Dates: May 2013 – September 2013 (4 months)

Target Audiences: The 33,000+ Citizens of Jackson, MI; the City of Jackson government; and the 30+ students in the inaugural Citizen Interaction Design program

My Roles: Research Assistant, Graphic Designer, Social Media Manager for the University of Michigan School of Information

Outcomes

  • Successfully managed client relationship with the city that was able to continue into the future. (This is no small thing as the discovery process with the citizenry involved them being exposed to a lot of criticism and harsh truths.)
  • Working with Professor Lampe, developed a novel questionnaire protocol for assessing social media engagement and savviness.
  • Designed and produced a 20+ question paper survey mailed to households in Jackson, MI and successfully got enough returned for valid statistical analysis
  • Achieved the goal of letting the students stand on the shoulders of giants and jump into design work faster. The projects section of the Citizen Interaction Design site is a window into the breadth of projects this research supported, particularly the projects labeled (W14).
  • The Citizen Interaction Design program was a finalist for the Michigan Municipal League’s Community Excellence Award in 2015.

Process

It started with long weeks of meetings, working with the City of Jackson to get to know the city officials and their expectations for the project.

A picture of the front of the Jackson, MI city hall, focusing on the seal of the city which is a man riding a horse that is rearing up on its hind legs and circumnavigated by the text "City of Jackson - Michigan"

 

Meanwhile, I started a Tumblr that collected examples of other urban interaction design projects throughout the world. The purpose was to inspire the Jackson city leadership as well as give the students a treasure trove of initial ideas to spark their imaginations. It’s still being updated, off and on.

A screenshot of a blog showing urban interaction design projects

 

Under the direction of Associate Professor Clifford Lampe, I iterated on the content of a mailed questionnaire. The wording and presentation of information was crucial so enough of the intended audience would be willing to actually finish the questionnaire and send it back. Another consideration was precedent set by past research literature. This was research being done by a university, after all. Papers were going to be written about this. Some questions had to be written in a way that would allow the data to be comparable to data collected by other sociologists and Internet researchers. The City of Jackson had input on question wording as well. We even tested questions we were unsure of using Mechanical Turk to make sure that Jackson’s citizenry could answer what was being asked. (An early draft of the questionnaire is available for the interested.)

Edits being made on a Google Doc, complete with some comments

 

After we were sure of the content, it was time to design the presentation of the questionnaire. Our calculations indicated that we’d need to send the questionnaire to about 2,000 homes to ensure we’d enough of them back to make the project worth it. Part of the strategy to maximize response rates was to make the questionnaire attractive-looking and leverage the full prestige of the block M, which meant printing in full color. Based on this, we determined that a 4-page, half-size booklet was the highest production value we could afford to print and mail at that quantity. This made it challenging to design, regarding both content and layout. All the questions and other information had to fit on exactly 16 half-sized pages. Below are the cover and a sample inner page of the final product.

Cover page of the Jackson Citizen Interaction Survey, featuring the michigan block m logo and some explanatory iconography (chat bubble, person, government building, smartphone)

Survey questions