conversation space

What kind of design intervention can foster new relationships within Jovenes, Inc., a local organization that helps homeless, at-risk youth?

The initial iterations of this project created private spaces for conversations away from the noisier group activities during our eight-week engagement. Although successful in creating a more secluded environment, these iterations did nothing to encourage their use. The onus relied on the youth to take a leap of faith with a stranger in a tight space – a far-reaching request.

As we spent more time at Jovenes, Inc, we began to recognize the importance of cell phones. Cell phones are one of the only ways the youth stay connected to their outside networks. During our workshops, most interactions between the youth were around cell phone charging and negotiating the exchange of much needed phone chargers.

With this new insight, the final iterations of the space included two universal cell phone chargers. However, with our main goal of fostering new relationships, the chargers were designed to only work when two people stood on the foot switches on either side of the shelf. Additionally, the chargers sat under a shelf, blocking the phones from use when charging. These purposeful design decisions encouraged proximity, collaboration, and conversation all while blocking the ability to hide behind the cell phone.

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This project was a collaboration with Jacob Brancasi, Maria Lamadrid and Cory Bloor