UI images for the croissant app

CoLens: an inclusive co-creation toolkit

This toolkit is a compilation of research, modules, and frameworks to guide designers, researchers, and community leaders in conducting inclusive and equitable co-creation, community engagement, or workshop sessions.

The toolkit consists of tested, sample ways of altering co-creation session designs to be more inclusive, as well as a case study of how and why the toolkit was designed this way.


My Role

September 2020-April 2021
Just me! (Solo undergraduate capstone project)
Research, strategy, and design for the final toolkit


The Challenge

How might I remix co-creation session planning to be more flexible for designers, and to make the process more inclusive for diverse participants?

The current understanding of equitable design

Before diving into user research, I did a series of literature reviews to understand existing strategies for equity-centered and inclusive design, as well as reviewing and gaining an in-depth understanding of existing co-design techniques.

Key findings:
Co-creation sessions often don't benefit the participants, resulting in an unequal power dynamic with participants.
Contemporary ways of framing equitable work aren't structured for creativity and ideation.
Our systems and structures of design and research are just as, if not more, important in creating equitable research sessions as our interactions with individual participants.

Primary research & co-creation testing

As part of my research, I conducted user interviews and user testing with co-creation, to determine how I could best include, embrace, and enable diverse participant groups to participate in co-creation workshops or research studies.

My initial research was focused only on artists, but this expanded overtime as I realized the broader applicability of my research.

Examples of my synthesis process in Mural of affinity mapping themes to turn into insights, and for testing, co-creation recommendations and modifications.

Key insights from primary research

Testing and prototyping co-creation methods

The testing phase of this research involved testing once with "traditional" co-creation methods, and a second time with my remixed techniques aimed at making these sessions more inclusive. Below are some examples of how I went about drawing out insights from these sessions.

Overall, I found that working through stages of user testing, peer critique, and the literature review to keep building and rethinking my project to be a challenging, rewarding experience.

I was able to go deep in an area that was often messy, and hard to parse through and make it to a solution, but this was so much more rewarding than the path I originally though I would follow going in to this project.

Sample outputs from user participation in my co-creation sessions
Example template that I prototyped

The user journey

To guide the structure and positioning of the toolkit, I created this journey map, which represents the future-state journey of crafting a co-creation session using my toolkit.

The toolkit

The end product for this project was a series of modules within a toolkit for inclusive and equitable co-creation methods.

Each module provides theoretical and practical grounding in new and revised co-creation methods, and templates that designers and researchers can use in their own project.

Download the toolkit
The toolkit includes a case study, showing the application of these methods with diverse groups (artists, in this case.)
A sample introduction page for a module with key terms, and an explanation of the module purpose

Reflecting on the process of creating the toolkit

  • Overall, I found that the most rewarding part of this process was in developing something new, using methods and deliverables (a toolkit) that I had never tried before.
  • Although it was intimidating at first to pivot half way through the year, it was exciting to be able to work on something that was more of a growth experience for me.
  • The form of the toolkit is not yet optimized for accessibility, and this is something I would like to fix with the future iterations of the toolkit, so that screenreader users can also navigate the toolkit

At the beginning of this year, and throughout most of the first half of working on my project, I thought I would end up with a series of traditional interaction design deliverables.

The entire course of this project, I was able to challenge myself. Having the freedom to try new research methods (e.g. diary studies) and design tactics like co-creation, both helped me be more engaged in my work and also to learn skills and grow as a designer.

I also had to make a big decision in the later half of the year: stay within my comfort zone and produce an interaction design “typical” project, or go into unknown territory for me and explore a more research and generative outcome for my work.

Although I did find it intimidating to take that on, I’m so glad I did because I learned a lot more about how to frame research in a practical way, and make a deliverable (a toolkit) that I hadn’t had much previous experience with.

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