Brainstorm… ideas flood!!!

“factors of intensity influence ideation during processes of empathy”

 Preparing questions

 Once we had a point of view and some sort of ideas of what could be done in the site, we needed to know all we could from 3 different stake holders around the pit (community, Recycling Company that owes a part of the pit and the government). We did a brainstorm based on what we extract from day one to get as many questions as we could to ask the stakeholders, distribute those questions in different groups and proceed to get that info in several interviews. All this process was time limited and as concise as we could, which helped our local pairs to translate all the questions to Mandarin.



 3d model

As part of one of the 5×5 exercises we put all our basic Ideas in a 3d model. We needed to create a basic 3d representation of what we wanted to do in the pit. We had 5 minutes to create the model using various tools. The Idea was to have an extra means to communicate our ideas to the stakeholders and test the concepts with them. Some of us took the model to the stakeholders; some others took pictures of them and showed used them to base all the questions we had.



After our visit to the government building making the respective interviews to the people involved in the pit issue, we proceed to brainstorm as quick as we could all our findings in a big paper. The idea was to get as much as possible findings in the table as quick as we could so the concepts were simple. We had much more ideas than we thought so we had to divide them in 5 categories to understand how they were related to each other. After that intense process of getting all the ideas classified in paper the next step was easier and we moved to create our empathy map.

Empathy map

Once we had our findings categorized, we tried and extract all that information to understand the government’s position. According to what we found we extract as many concepts as we could read on the categories and then we classified them again in an empathy map. We had again heaps of concepts that gave us a clear understanding of the situation and what needed to be done in the space. After finishing the map we were ready to present, just before the deadline. 


Day 2 – “A picture is worth a thousand words”


For the past three days I’ve been thinking a lot about communication – it’s not one of those things you can not think about when you are in a foreign country and not only you do not understand people around you, but you can’t even read a menu or read a map. I never had this problem before, I never felt I could not make other people understand what I was after, what I needed, what I wanted to give. I naively thought that going from Milan to Sydney was a big step. But here in Dalian the more I am immersed in this new world and culture and the more I understand what it really means to travel “far way from home”.

The communication within my team is made easy by the fact that they all made the effort to learn English – I wonder how it would be if they didn’t. I have to say that this need to communicate and get my point across, has made me notice how much I can become addicted to pen and paper. Sketching always does the trick! It’s true that “a picture is worth a thousand words” – and a great example of this is represented by the prototype we designed during the last phase of the 5X5 stoker we did in class before lunch. We all had great ideas and we all had our way of expressing them but due to our diversities we needed a little bit of planning before execution. It was great to see Micheal and I communicate on a piece of paper sketching rough concepts one on top of the other, adding value step by step – it was like a conversation where the leading actors were not words but lines. The outcome was great!


Another funny episode that just now comes to mind is my “pharmacy adventure”. Unfortunately I’m getting sick, to the point that I can’t breathe properly. After the stoker, instead of following my team for a rushed lunch I decided to go to the nearest pharmacy buy some medicine and a nasal spray. I was completely unprepared but after a good ten minutes acting to the pharmacist how I felt I was able to gather aspirin and cough drops – but no nasal spray. I thought I had no chance of success, but then I drew it and there it was! I was so proud of myself, and so were Betty and Xanadu seeing me come back with all I was looking for.

@ the site …

This afternoon when we went back to the site to speak to the locals for our empathy interviews, I really wanted to participate in the process, but the language barrier was to strong to hope that I could actually engage with the people. What I could do though, was buy a pack of cigarettes to offer to whomever had a few minutes to chat with us and I could also record on my iPhone all the conversations Micheal and Xanadu had.

While I was listening to the people speak, I was observing how they moved trying to guess their feelings about the questions they were being asked. I was very surprised to see that it was very difficult for me to read their body language – so different from mine.



The non stop, go go go, you can sleep when your dead day. (Intensity – AY2)


Talk about intensity,

Today was non-stop, beginning with a 5×5 that produced a physical prototype. To get there was bang,bang,bang. 

Anything in your head went down on paper, a post it note, transformed into a shape or was expressed in hand and face gestures.

25 minutes produced a refined direction that the group could present on, and use in upoming empathy work.


Doing the empathy work was tough, A quick hour of interviews with local residents (all in Mandarin) was an intense situation of not knowing exactly what was going on, forcing me to peice together information from gestures and expressions.

Following was another quick fire 45 minutes of video interviews at a a local shopping centre to gain a broader understanding of how local people view Dalian.

The intensity of the tasks brought out more gut reaction decision making and improvisation that would otherwise be squashed by having the time to think. Producing representations of ideas is best done on the fly by the seat of your pants.



Empathy Work


This morning saw me struggle to get out of bed where it was nice and warm and to make my way to class in the bitter cold (bitter by Sydney standards!).

Arriving at 8:00 am to find no one there, Dan and I decided to go for a walk to find something that resembled a coffee. After wandering around for 20 mins and yielding nothing, we decided to head back to class and begin for the day.

We had to conduct some empathy interviews later that day, and therefore needed to produce a list of questions to ask the interviewees! We also were required to come up with an initial concept for our proposal in a short period of time.

Our time limitations gave us the ability to focus on the task at hand and to generate a physical model of our concept that was not only colourful but also creative!

Our teamwork allowed us to utilise different skillsets and to play to our strengths when it came to developing the questions for the interviews as well as creating a model of our concepts!!!

CO-OPOLIS Workshop in Dalian – Day 2

First up on the agenda for Day 2 of the CO-OPOLIS Workshop was team time for the groups to share background information on the site and begin to ideate. 

A couple of hours later, to re-energize the session as well as help the teams begin developing their proposal, a 5×5 design stoker culminated in the production of rough concept models made from a range of materials including foam board, construction paper, tape, glue, stickers, toothpicks, paper plates and cups, Q-tips, felt, tissue paper, pins and plastic pawns.

Some common themes emerged from this activity, including environmental restoration and rehabilitation, multi-purposing, economic viability, future outlook, and needs-addressing, all encompassed in initial concepts such as agricultural tourism, dynamic and multi-level spaces with living roofs, and space-age, mind, body, and spirit rejuvenation centers. It was an interesting challenge to reconcile the green- (natural environment) and blue- (lakes and rivers) dominated models with the currently color-less and bleak site, but the longing for a deeper connection to nature came through clearly.

Following a rushed lunch, the whole afternoon was taken up by empathy interviews to further our understanding of the stakeholders and their viewpoints and needs. The groups split up to speak to a number of different parties, including local government, a private recycling company which currently occupies the site, urban designers, and local people and workers at the site area. With a thick fog having descended over the city, it was an almost apocalyptic, post-WWII scene driving out to the site past the many skyscraper shells, near ubiquitous construction rubble, old dilapidated trucks and bleak, barren landscape.

However it was well worth braving the cold, as the a greater understanding of the demographics, leisure activities, shopping habits, transport issues, and values of the local people was gained. After bucket-sized coffees to warm up, a trip to a mall near the center of the city provided an opportunity for several groups to speak to a more middle-class demographic and gain some feedback on their initial proposal concepts.

After dinner and back at DUT, the groups shared their newly acquired knowledge in short presentations, putting all the teams in a great position to begin to analyze, organize and consolidate the wealth of information and begin refining their proposal concepts over the coming days.


– Sonja


Communication, State-change and the Comfort of the Mall




“Someone she loved once passes by – too late to feign indifference to that casual nod. ‘How nice’ et cetera. ‘Time holds great surprises.’ From his neat head unquestionably rises a small balloon… ‘but for the grace of God…’”

In The Park, Gwen Harwood



The morning glance out of our hotel window, revealed a grey blanketed landscape, the fog hanging so low and dense over Dalian that the tops of the buildings were obscured. This descending haze seemed to exacerbate our feelings of impending doom.

From hotel room to class room, our mood lifted, buoyed by the excitement of the task at hand. The 5×5 exercise got everyone’s minds ticking and we began to articulate our feelings about the site and our hopes for it.

Building our model prototype, clarified that vision and we all played and created like children making things for the first time. Our appropriation of every day materials for the model, made communicating our ideas easy; Chinese and English becoming the universal language of the imagination.

Out of the comfort zone again and back to the site for empathy interviews, the fog now so low that people walking in the streets eerily disappeared into the ether. Our communication was a little limited at this point, as the empathy interviews were conducted in Mandarin, but it was important to be present and see the local residents in their home environment, to better understand their needs as stakeholders in our project.

Surprisingly, most people we interviewed wanted a shopping mall on the site. We were a little sceptical of this response initially dismissing it as materialistic. Then after a frosty hour of walking the neighbourhood, we all piled back into the bus and headed straight for… the shopping mall! Our hypocrisy mounting as we sipped hot chocolate, comforted by the brightly lit avenues of stuff.

The power of state-change was never more evident as when we wandered that mall, the dichotomy of urban Chinese life in one short bus ride.