pattern observations: Discovering Workspaces

Environments | User Research | Collaboration


Along with partner Heeseo Chun, we looked into a problem that students on our very own campus encountered. Carnegie Mellon University offers students a myriad of study spaces, from libraries to eateries, however, some students are unaware of their workspace options. In addition, each workspace is dedicated to a different type of working environment, which unless the student experiences the space, is unknown. We decided to tackle this problem after an initial survey sent out through social media. From there, we narrowed down to see what factors students considered when choosing where to study through various research methods. 

As a possible solution, we propose an app that can help a student decide where to go when searching for the optimal workspace.

On the left is our final poster with the User Interface for the app. 



We first started with a brain dump of possible ideas. From on campus issues to off, we each created a list of problems that affected our experiences at CMU. From a compiled list, we narrowed down to three areas of concern: Housing, Working, and Knowing. 

Proposal 1

Housing and course scheduling depends on luck. A student is given a random time to register for courses or sign up for housing. This is unfair to some individuals who are given a later time every time. 

proposal 2

Students at Carnegie Mellon are unaware of the available study spaces around campus. 

proposal 3

A college campus is a busy place. Event are happening at all times, but how can students have a collected location for all information about events on campus.

Unable to decide, we approached our classmates for help. We pinned up all options and asked people to indicate which proposal they would do. In the end, our 2nd proposal won the vote.


Research Method 1: Online Survey

In order to determine how to approach our topic, we first started with an online survey. It was an anonymous survey sent out through social media outlets such as Facebook in group pages relevant to Carnegie Mellon. From this research, we concluded that we wanted to design something that will help students be aware of what workspaces are available on campus. 


  • Most people study individually at home in comfort.
  • Students are somewhat aware of their options in terms of study/ work spaces.
  • Collaborative spaces are generally described as more open with white board spaces.
  • The University Center and the CS building are popular choices for group work.



Research Method 2: Visualized Map

Next we created a map representation of the campus academic building on black foam core. Along with the map, we provided four different colours of sticky dots. Each dot represented a different category. Pink dots represent individual study, yellow was group work, orange was individuals working in a group separately, and green was preferred study space. The map was placed on the second floor of our university center from 5pm to 9pm the next day. 


  • The most popular location for studying individually is Hunt Library.
  • However, people usually prefer a different location to work.
  • The University Center, the CS building, Hunt Library, and the Engineering library are the most used spaces on campus. 
Participant Observation

Participant Observation

Research Method 3: Sticky Factors

For the next step, we went around campus and asked people to write down two factors they consider the most when deciding where to work . In order to keep it as random as possible, we went to every academic building and approached random groups of people. The pink post it represented the primary factor and orange represented their secondary factor. We then categorized the sticky- notes by topic in order develop a set of major factors. These key terms were then used in the next research strategy.


  • Convenience is a factor when deciding where to study.
  • Depending on the major, their factors varied.

Research Method 4: Narrowing Down

From the previous list, we narrowed down to a final seven: quiet, loud, private (isolated), open (active), food/drink, resources (e.g. printers, scanners, whiteboard space, etc.), and furniture (type of desks, chairs, etc.). We created a survey and asked people to list the first three academic buildings/ workspaces that came to mind when they thought of the keyword. We each took fifteen surveys and spread it throughout the university center, the main library, the computer science building, and a library for engineers. 


  • It took some time for people to think of three spaces for each category.


Research Poster

We created a poster that showed our work thus far. From the idea proposal, to the graphical representation of the data collected. From the feedback we received, we altered the context for our final poster.


Our final was featured on the CMU School of Design Facebook!