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Visual Guides

I'm working on a project to design visual guides concerning the buying and storing of food for resettled refugees in the Pittsburgh area.

Photo of Adria Spivack
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For my senior capstone project, I wanted to design something that would make a difference in the lives of resettled refugees. I reached out to resettlement agencies in Pittsburgh to get a feel of the needs of resettled refugees and the services they are provided with. Based on my conversation, I found that a visual guide of navigating and understanding  everything having to do with buying and storing food. This includes understanding what they can buy with their Access/EBT cards, how to get money from ATMs, getting money from ATMs means that they have less, how to use the buses, the English words for common food items, where those food items are located in the store, and how to store those items at home. 

The underlying goal of this project is to help resettled refugees to feel less culturally isolated and to give them the confidence to live in and navigate Pittsburgh. By doing this, it sets them up to be happier and more successful at living in the US. 

I am still in the process of designing this visual guide but you can see my process here:

I would love hear any feedback you might have as well!


Join the conversation:

Photo of Hong

Hi Adria,
Great Idea. My parents moved to New Zealand as refugees some years back from Cambodia. I remember them telling me stories of how hard it was adjusting to a totally different culture. They have some funny stories from purchasing unfamiliar foods and using/cooking them in odd ways. Perhaps you could also maybe somehow include methods of cooking?

Photo of Adria Spivack

That is a great idea and I think there is room to include that in a more expanded version.
Here is my idea:

Photo of Lee Shaari

I think it is a noble idea to begin with Adria. The language is a barrier so nice graphics helps. I was thinking of following these communities to the supermarket on a regular basis within a frame of time and see what problems they faced (in my town). But thanks Shane for exposing Adria's work. Keep going! :-)

Photo of Adria Spivack

Thank you!

Photo of Adria Spivack

Hi! Just so you know, I posted my idea!

Photo of Shane Zhao

Love this share Adria! The idea of a visual toolkit is very intuitive and can possibly be implemented at scale. I like the thought of having a navigation guide to help refugees make a more natural transition into their host communities. Have you thought about how this approach can be adapted to expand learning opportunities? It'd also be interesting to put your mockup in front of real people so you may build on the user feedback. Excited to see what this might spark for the Idea Phase of this challenge!

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Hi Adria. What an amazing and thoughtful project!
Shane - Great suggestion about getting the idea in front of some users for feedback. Maybe bring them into the process? Learn what is missing by walking though the spaces with folk? What do they want from a guide? One example might be – Food - Where can they find the foods that are significant to them? If unavailable, or not affordable, what can they use as replacements? Where in the store are these, what do they look like etc.?
I had an interesting conversation years ago with a social worker who worked with an Ethiopian Jewish Refugee Community in Israel. He was also a member of the community. In Ethiopia a mainstay of the diet was a flat bread, injera, made from a grain rich in iron, teff. This grain was not readily available at the time in Israel and the community had to make bread from white flour. He explained to me that this was a cause of great stress for the community. There were also heath concerns due to the difference in nutritional value between injera and other breads.

I wonder if folk would carry a guide and use it in public places, or if it might be used more as a study tool at home. Not sure. When traveling, depending on the situation, whether I feel safe, vulnerable, or just want to blend in with the locals, I may not open a map/ guide in public spaces rather I would read a map ahead of time, plan, put notes in my pocket. Perhaps refugees feel different and out of place and would like a guide that is as discrete as possible, or perhaps alternatively they are happy to use a guide publicly that invites assistance?

I like Shane’s provocation about how this can be adapted to create learning opportunities! Any thoughts? Maybe prototype adapting the section - "Using the ATM" - Perhaps "link" this section to financial literacy learning opportunities? The other OpenIDEO Challenge at the moment is on financial literacy. Maybe some inspirations over there? What are the unique needs of the refugees in your area? Just a thought. Your project is awesome!

Great ideas Adria. Excited to see how this can lead to more great ideas!

Photo of Shane Zhao

Excellent feedback Bettina! Likewise, I'm looking forward to how this idea can be iterated through prototypes and be adapted to the contexts of refugees overseas.

Photo of Adria Spivack

Thanks Shane! I am still working on my senior project so that will have a big influence on how I propose this for the idea phase. If you have anymore feedback I would love to hear it and I will be sure to keep you updated!

Photo of Shane Zhao

Great! Adria you might be interested to reach out to Martha and check out her Cultural Cues project. Perhaps what you're both working on may complement each other:

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Really cool idea Adria. I hope you posted it as an idea (I'm going to look for it).

Bettina has provided you with great feedback and questions re. how visible the guide should be... This is definitely an assumption to test.

I also like the idea of also mapping places where people can find food that they can use to cook their own recipes. I remember interviewing a service designer in London working on a project on food in diverse low income neighborhood in London and where to find food that they knew how to cook, but also that allowed them to keep their traditions, was key.

Photo of Adria Spivack

Thank you! I am actually working on finishing up the project so I haven't been able to post it as an idea yet. That is a really interesting comment. My goal with the food was to illustrate the basics since a wide range of people would be using the guide and everyone has their own preferences. Ideally I would love for the guide to cover more food.

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

As Zhane mentioned, you can post the idea even if not completely finished and update it later. It will allow people to provide you feedback along the way.
In fact, your idea inspired discussions we had with a students club as NYU last week !
I was also wondering if our mapping idea is something that makes sense for the refugees you are designing for.

Photo of Adria Spivack

Hi Shane (and everyone else following this conversation!),
I was just able to post my idea! Here is the link:

Photo of Shane Zhao

Adria, our Ideas phase will begin in a few short days – and we'd love for you to contribute this idea or another idea. Hope to see you soon!

Photo of Adria Spivack

Thanks Shane! I am actually working on finishing up this project for my senior capstone. What I was thinking of doing was using that and then adding onto it for the ideas phase. Hopefully my fully fleshed out project will enable others to understand the basis and see how it could be applied in other ways!

Photo of Shane Zhao

Sounds good Adria. We actually love ideas that are just developing or are still in progress. The Ideas Phase is a great place where you'll gain feedback from our global community to help you iterate your idea further - whenever you're ready to share:)

Photo of Sarah Lowe

Wonderful project. I enjoyed checking out your Tumblr site, too, to see the progress. It's true that no one really understands how confusing a grocery store can be until they see it through the eyes of a recently resettled person. We take for granted so much, but my students have hurt themselves to the point of needing medical attention--especially with over-the-counter medicines and hair dyes--because they thought they were using very different products than what they actually bought.

Photo of Meena Kadri

Wow – Adria. A while back I volunteered with an organisation here in New Zealand which helped resettle refugees and I can really appreciate what you're up to on this. Having a goal to build confidence rather than just supplying information is applaudable. Way to go.

Photo of Adria Spivack

Thank you so much!

Photo of OpenIDEO

Congrats on this post being featured in this week's highlights!

Photo of Adria Spivack

Thank you!! This is so exciting! It made my week!