The Users group created an intimate setting using a desk lamp to create a focal point, which allowed participants to focus on their workspace and each other. They were able to start the meeting without feeling distracted by the audience or competing noises in the gallery. They skipped formal introductions and, instead, used a quick activity to get the participants focused on the topic: users of Aurora Ave. This was the first charette to begin with a structured activity during which participants quietly and individually developed and wrote out their ideas before sharing with the rest of the group. This worked well to jumpstart the conversation into an almost immediate exchange of ideas, including the drawing and writing of thoughts. The group was able to propel the conversation forward despite the ambiguous prompt: “Propose a strategy of urban accessories to engage Aurora’s user groups.”
The beginning of the charette was the only structured part, as the rest of it flowed so smoothly and naturally. The students prepared a slideshow of images and pinup of written quotes from user interviews. There was plenty of trace paper and markers on the table, but the simplicity of the setup allowed participants to focus on the conversation around the table.
By the end of the first hour, they reached consensus around a general concept with vague locations of sites. The goal was to create a proposal that they could propose to the city. At 6pm (1.5 hrs in), they split off into smaller groups. To assign groups, they used slips of paper to facilitate a random selection process, which equalized the value of tasks and bypassed the need to talk about who should be assigned to which task. For about an hour, the smaller groups worked independently and finally came together to share their results. By this point, the participants were working so well together that the observers, by contrast, were completely disengaged, and most were on their smart phones. The group took a short break during their work session, but they were obviously engaged by their concept because they continued to have more casual conversations about it during their break.
Throughout the charette, Nikky served the role of a graphic recorder. Her sketches were not just recordings of the conversations, but she was able to synthesize the group discussion into her drawings. During the smaller group work session, about half of the participants were drawing simultaneously to represent and share their concepts. Eventually there were so many drawings that the group was able to edit and select the ones that best represented their idea. The charette moved at a comfortable pace throughout, and both student and professional participants seemed to be enjoying themselves to the point that they probably could have kept talking for hours.