Vancouver Mural Festival (aka VMF) is a non-profit organization founded in 2016 to fight the stigma of Vancouver as a "No-Fun City” by increasing mural literacy and street art engagement in the city. In alignment with their long-term goals, we designed an educational toolkit that equips teachers with lesson planning resources that encourage students to engage with art inside and outside the classroom.
VMF is a local, non-profit organization founded in 2016 to fight the stigma of Vancouver as a No-Fun City” by increasing mural literacy and street art engagement in the city. Their long-term goals are to:
The focus of our design is to support VMF in improving and promoting mural literacy across Vancouver, because our research revealed a disconnect between the public’s perception of street art and VMF versus VMF’s perception of themselves.
Mural literacy refers to the ability to engage with, interpret, and understand the differences between murals, street art, graffiti, and vandalism.
In our initial research, we conducted interviews with members of the VMF executive team, as well as artists, curators, and business owners around Mount Pleasant. Through these meetings, we surfaced three opportunities for design which were 1) the process of acquiring walls, 2) the festival experience, and 3) the walking mural tour.
Of these, we identified the walking tour as our design focus, because it has the potential to reach under-served audiences but is currently limited by the lack of staff to lead the tours.
With attendance rates increasing rapidly, ensuring a positive experience becoming a larger concern for VMF each year. By studying the walking tour, we can identify and address any lower-level pain points within a smaller scope and scale these up to the overall Festival experience.
Through a co-creating workshop, we found that the coordinator's of VMF are confident in their ability to deliver an engaging experience at the festival itself for a general audience. However, their key concern was with individuals who may have difficulty engaging in the festival due to limited mobility, newcomers to BC who may have limited English, and students and younger audiences.
In consideration of VMF's long-term goal of improving and promoting mural literacy, and opportunities revealed through our design process, our target audience is BC classrooms, with a specific focus on grade 6 and 7 teachers and students. This is also aligned with the BC Ministry of Education's recently implemented Arts Education Curriculum goal to encourage students to:
We also found that budgets for BC schools are always taking cuts, and music and arts activities are usually the first to go. This highlighted this group as having specific needs we could address. Following this, we sought out collaboration and user testing with several elementary level teachers at UBC.
After analyzing our design process and combining all of our findings, our final design for VMF is a mural literacy classroom kit that equips middle grade (grade 6 and 7) teachers with resources for art lesson planning and encourages students to engage with art inside and outside the classroom.
The importance of a kit overview that highlights the value of the kit, alongside the need for detailed instructions, was brought to our attention while conducting user tests with 4 teacher candidates from UBC's education program. The instructional booklet outlines the purpose of the kit, and provides a detailed breakdowns of the contents of the kit and how to use them.
These cards aid teachers in integrating art education into the classroom. Modelled after the BC Ministry of Education Curriculum, featuring 1) a Big Idea which is a general statement and principle that represents what students are expected to understand or take away, 2) Curricular Competencies which describe what students should be able to do with the knowledge they gained, 3) a detailed description of a class activity, which includes 4) a set of guiding questions for teachers to ask students and prompt deeper thinking, and 5) suggested materials and supplies for the activity, and the expected duration.
In the first iteration of the activity cards, the teachers we interviewed identified the tone of the cards as very prescriptive, especially when describing the activities.
"Pair students up and get them to create a portrait that portrays who they think their partner is as a person."
"In pairs, students will be creating a portrait of their partner that reflects their impressions of each other."
The intent of the passport is to encourage engagement with art outside of the classroom by giving students a guide on where to visit VMF murals in their community. Each passport contains several entries which include 1) a photo of the mural, 2) the artist and mural's name, 3) a link to the artist's social media or portfolio page to establish connections between artist's and residents outside of just this experience, 4) a brief introduction of the mural and/or its artist, 5) reflective questions about the artwork for students to complete on their own or for an assignment, 6) a stamp area for marking your progress, and 7) the murals location.
Each year, a different Mural in the city would be featured on not only the mural passport, but on all promotional materials used for that year. In this way, VMF could put a spotlight one artist's work and add more value to those participating, in addition to the already enticing monetary value and permits that allow artists to work in public spaces.
During user testing, teachers appreciated the inclusion of a photo of the mural as not all students might be able to physically visit the mural. Similar to the guiding questions done in the activity cards in classrooms, several teachers suggested we include reflective questions here as well to prompt students to think about, reflect, and explore their own thoughts and perceptions of each artwork on their own time.
In each entry of the passport, more complex words are underlined and can be found with definitions in the glossary located in the back. This was done to be supportive of varying educational levels as well as students who are English Language Learners (ELL).
This was one of the most in-depth research projects I have ever conducted. It was fascinating to dive deep into design tools for 12 weeks, when I had previously used many of them in only fast and loose environments. To put our work into perspective: we made 2 in-depth journey maps detailing 60 touchpoints total, interviewed 12+ stakeholders from 3 different domains, produced 3 distinct personas to represent those domains, designed 4 possible solutions ranging from apps to physical installations, and followed through on 1 to create our final design.
We also wanted to ensure that our analogue solution was scalable into a digital domain following further testing and could live on VMF's existing website for a more general audience — if the solution was usable and clear for students grade 6-7, we expect older audiences to be able to use it without difficulty as well, although that would require further testing. Overall, this was a valuable experience designing for a real client, and working with real constraints and feasibilities.