Humans by nature are social beings. We depend on one another to have meaning in the world. As naturally social as humans may be, we are currently living in an unnatural social environment. We go about our own individual lives without realizing the value living around us.
To leverage current and emerging technologies to optimize people's living spaces by localizing critical attributes such as work, play, and health.
During my thesis year, I had the opportunity to choose a topic I would be passionate about to find an opportunity and design a product for it.
Google Neighbours is a project that challenges the living spaces we live in today and showcases the neighbourhood's value we can use tomorrow. By positioning the brand as if Google is releasing the project, it leverages the Google ecosystem to create a new digital engagement platform. Users will engage through the app that has other integrated Google platforms such as maps, translate and assistant.
The platform connects the neighbourhood personally, creating a better sense of belonging.
This mind map helps visualize my research journey that led to my final experience design.
Following the double diamond process, I started with a broad lens and researched everything around health and wellness. Here I would define my research into six sectors of health; mental, physical, social, environmental, spiritual, and financial. These six sectors were too broad for the project's scope, so I honed in on physical and social health.
Further defining my project, I decided to concentrate my thesis on social health, specifically within the community.
What would the world be like if we knew what each other were going through in our personal lives? Maybe if we could not only understand each other more but also help each other out.
Maybe you wouldn’t be so angry at the person driving slowly in front of you because you understand that nurse just got back from a 27-hour shift at the hospital and is heading back home now.
Maybe the person on the train in front of you is also really into rock climbing, and you guys talk about your similar interests.
Maybe you’re in the mall shopping and notice someone at your dream job is shopping in the same store as you, and this is your chance to make a first impression.
After understanding Ubuntu and how the public has more value to our lives than we give them credit for, I focused on the community itself. Our living spaces.
Exactly like my findings in public, there is new value in living in our communities. We go about our own individual lives without usually knowing or understanding our neighbours.
Tools for Conviviality is a book by Ivan Illich, where he talks about what a convivial society would look and feel. The word convivial refers to someone who is festive and good company. To have a convivial community, we can imagine everyone around us being good company.
To help me prepare for scenario development in the define phase of the project, I conducted a quantitative survey on good and bad experiences with your neighbours. Here, I found three overlapping core themes about play, work, and safety.
We have multiple platforms connecting us with millions of people, yet we can still feel lonely. Maybe no one is free to play basketball with you today, or perhaps you can’t leave your house right now.
We can understand and connect with like-minded people nearby to feel a little less lonely and have a better sense of belonging.
As kids, we can remember times when we wanted to play, but some reason was holding us back. As we can see in this journey map of 13-year-old Zhang Weili, she has downtime to play after school before her parents come home but end up staying home instead.
The opportunity here allows Zhang to safely connect with like-minded individuals around her and play her favourite sport, badminton.
We usually go out of our way to work and get work done for us, contributing to more traffic congestion and pollution.
We can understand each other’s competencies so that these unnecessary tasks do not happen.
Long commutes to work are tasks that most of us will have to go through at some point in our lives. Driving to and from work every day can be draining for one’s mental health and add up to quite a lot of carbon emissions a year. As we can see in Gary’s journey map, he averages an hour a day just driving to and from work.
The opportunity here is localizing Gary’s profession to save time commuting to work and providing his neighbourhood with a local mechanic.
If there is an emergency at home, we call 911 for help—the average time to arrive is 8 minutes and 59 seconds. In a life-threatening event, even seconds could impact saving one’s life.
We can have medical doctors strategically placed around neighbourhoods or even condo complexes. This strategy will cut time drastically and save more lives.
The elderly are influential, wise individuals, but we still need a hand sometimes like the rest of us. In Ethel’s journey map, she can go about her day with only a handful of minor struggles.
The opportunity here is to prepare for the worst. If something happens to Ethel, strategic role placement will have a professional doctor available within proximity.
For the thesis project, we choose to design something for a specific brand or create our own. I decided to design my project as if Google had made it.
Google Neighbours will seamlessly integrate with Google Assistant and other features such as maps, translate, and search.
Google’s different platforms are very straightforward when it comes to brand naming. Platforms like Google Home, Translate, Recorder, and Docs are names people immediately understand before using them. Following the same Brand Language, I choose Google Neighbours.
Because Google Neighbours connects users based on their living spaces and personal data profiles, the inspiration originates from the current Google Home logo. The final logo consists of interlocked homes, symbolizing the interconnected community.
The internal prism is Google’s current brand identity prism, while the external octagon is Google Neighbours. The two prisms are different, but Google Neighbours works off of the original to follow the general identity of Google Itself.
The demographic perceptual map defines the type of users Google Neighbours is designing for. As we can see, Google Neighbours sits in the top right corner of the map and resides near Airbnb, Facebook, and LinkedIn users. Google Neighbours is somewhat extroverted as users connect with those around them that they don't yet know. It is also more feeling that thinking as Google Neighbours allows users to feel a stronger sense of belonging.
The Performance perceptual map compares how Google Neighbours is seen compared to other brands in terms of image and value. Google Neighbours sits as one of the highest value brands, as it gears towards helping society become more optimized. The platform also has a higher image than most for its capabilities for the community.
Google Neighbours is a digital engagement platform that localizes critical attributes of life such as work, play, and health. Our living spaces become a more natural way of living and belonging in doing so.
Here at Google, we work very hard to ensure users get the most tailored experience while using our products. Each Google user has their own unique personal data profile that curates itself from the user's interactions with Google products.
Partnering with Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram, your profile will be premade for you.
This map directs to both Google product users and clients. Google will not sell data for revenue but rather collect new data streams to create more customized and advanced products for their users.
Looking back at Google Neighbours and the journey I took, I would definitely change a few things. In terms of research, I would of liked to explore user testing and even more qualitative interviews to dig deeper. Looking at my time constraint at the end of the project, I give myself enough time to push the UI of the app itself. Bringing these two core improvements would bring the project even further. I intend to explore the UI more in the near future but nonetheless, this project made me grow as a designer.
I am looking for co-op opportunities in UX design and research. If your company aligns with my values and work, I would love to chat!