Irene Ti




About Our Partner, Harrison Hotel

Harrison Hotel is a vital cornerstone of the Oakland community and provides housing to single adults with a history of chronic homelessness and or mental illnesses as well as substance abuse.


The biggest challenge here was how might we design a supportive community and a sense of belonging for a group of people with a history of chronic homelessness?



Anshu Tank (IxD), Vishwajeet Sawant (IxD), Lilia Rustom (IxD), Sylvia Nguyen (IxD), Irene Ti (IxD)


Sharon Green and Laura Weiss

(Communication by Design)


Harrison Hotel

Time Frame

15 weeks


II. The User Research



Before conducting any interviews, we began with field visits to Harrison Hotel and some fly-on-the-wall observations to identify any touch points and afterwards, we sat in on Lifelong and Harrison Hotel staff meetings to learn more about their ecosystems and how staff and residents interact with each other.

Through appreciative inquiry and generative research methods, we interviewed six staff members and residents to gain a better sense of their feelings, needs, and motivations as they informed us about the current communication systems at Harrison Hotel. From there, we discovered diverse viewpoints in the community and this allowed us to identify design opportunities to build stronger communication and more meaningful connections.

We regrouped to digest all of this information and visually laid it out using various craft materials to help us grasp the complex ecosystem. 


III. Research Findings


From our interviews and research, it was clear that there was a communication gap in what the residents wanted for their community and what the staff believed the residents wanted. This stems from a lack of clear communication as Harrison Hotel used an intercom as its primary form of communicating with the residents. The problem with this is crystal clear as it is one-sided and residents often miss important announcement if they happened to be out.


IV. Ideation & Refinement


It was clear from our research findings that Harrison Hotel needed a more solid form of communication with their residents. The current one was too unreliable and was also only one-sided. The best way to build a community is to start at the foundation and the root of all human relationships start with communication. 

We proposed a physical social platform that would allow Harrison Hotel to post important announcements but also receive vital feedback from the residents. This way, Harrison Hotel would get a better understanding of its residents and at the same time, the residents can have their voices heard. We then quickly tested this idea through a series of quick user testing sessions with our peers as well as roleplaying sessions. Based on these sessions, we were able to refine our social platform board into four sections.


V. Prototyping

Every month, Harrison Hotel hosts an event called the Lunch & Learn where the residents can join for an afternoon of food and activities. We realized that this would be a great opportunity for our team to test our prototype and so we decided to host the next Lunch & Learn. We provided food and drinks for the residents to enjoy while leaving our prototype for them to interact with.

From this session, we learned that the social platform would be a great addition to the residents' lives. The residents enjoyed the hands-on aspect of the board and played around with the stickers and they were also very excited about taking photos for the board with a disposable camera we had provided them. Because of this event, we were also able to connect two residents, who had never met each other, to bond over their love of painting and the lake.


VI. Implementation



The current board

is located right in front of the elevator and is enclosed in glass. After studying the floor plan, we realized that this would also be the most ideal spot for our board as many residents pass by while waiting for the elevator to come. We plan on replacing it completely so that our board would be free of the glass, encouraging residents to interact with it.


VII. The Final Product



The project happened over the course of three months and finally, in early of 2018, we were able to deliver the final product to Harrison Hotel. In order to be successful, we recognized that the platform needs to be continuously updated with new information, pictures, and events by staff members. We recommend Harrison Hotel to enlist the help of student interns or a highly engaged resident to help collect information, create a central digital hub to store information and ideas, and host new events throughout the year.