Designing for Strangers Pt 3

An exercise best described by my favorite Alice Cooper album.*

Yvonne Blanco
4 min readMar 23, 2022

The last installment of this exercise proved to be rather challenging, in terms of logistics and availability as the final tests had to occur during Spring Break. Under my psychologists’ advice, I booked the week off of work for an uninterrupted medical leave to mitigate burnout. However, the uninterrupted portion was short-lived as I was in possession of the panels and the other two members did not overlap in their availability. Thus, I was present for both testing sessions, while the other members only attended one each.

To recap the second test: I built two LED boards that could be controlled via remote in order to change the colors once people stepped on them. They were set to yellow and blue, which changed to green when two people stood in unison, essentially mixing colors with their bodies. We had one successful interaction, but factors such as location and signage cues made them inscrutable to pedestrians. I made a few suggestions for improvement, such as clearer signage that asserted permission to walk or step on the boards, and extending the strips to allow for better hiding techniques. The other members suggested switching from a color mixing functionality to a “floor is lava” theme, switching locations to allow for more foot traffic and a greater chance of successful interactions.

The new setup I quickly mocked up on Figma; four boards with the LED strips, covered in black tape, extending the distance between the board and the receiver. This would allow us to control them without interference.
Seven Hills Park was agreed upon for a new location to test the boards.

After a flurry of texts, we scheduled a test for Sunday, March 13, from 6:30 to 7:30 pm. There was a suggestion to test in Copley Square, but I wasn’t too keen on that; parking is a nightmare and the likelihood that we’d need a permit or get arrested without one seemed high (no one did research on that, so who knows). We decided on Seven Hills park in Somerville because of the high number of commuters and joggers that traverse the area.

I arrived early to ponder my mortality—as I am wont to do—and observed traffic patterns, noticing that people often stopped at a cluster of statues cast from the bodies of families living in Davis and Porter Square in the 80s. When my teammate arrived, I suggested we set up there. The deal was that I would build out two more LED boards and my teammate would create the signage cues. Upon connecting the boards, one broke, so we were now limited to three.

Three-board setup at Seven Hills park. Note the paper signs on the floor/leaning on the statues.

In order to entice pedestrians to step on the boards, we took turns hopping on them. Along with the signage, we used the lights themselves as cues, rapidly blinking and changing colors when anyone walked by.

View of the signage and LED boards in different colors.

During this test, we had two successful interactions; a woman that quickly jumped from board to board and yelled, “THANK YOU!” Another woman stopped to ask questions, took a picture, and walked on the boards a few times.

Shot from a movie I took of the first woman stepping on the boards.

After these two interactions, I was satisfied with testing and suggested we focus on compiling our final presentation. My second teammate was adamant that she get a testing session in, so I agreed to meet her on Monday, March 21st from 6–7pm, as we’d get the afternoon commuter rush. She asked what she should do, so I asked her to consider improvements to the signage and cues, maybe footprints in a contrasting color to further suggest that these are platforms to step on. Once at this location, we ended up setting up opposite the statues because there was a bench to sit on.

Still from video captured during the second test, with a pedestrian stepping on the boards while his friend watched from a safe distance.

We got a few successful interactions out of this test run; we weren’t hidden so most participants stopped to ask us if they could step on the boards and inquired about the project. Given the time limitations and logistical challenges my team faced, I opine that it was a good MVP yet would benefit from further refinement.

*If anyone guesses this correctly, I’ll write a post on the antiphlogistic properties of this collaboration.



Yvonne Blanco

Making scientific data enjoyable through UX. Masters in Experience Design. Heavy Metal enthusiast. Mother of Meatball. She/her.