Revitalizing community engagement

Transforming City of Asylum with innovative communication design solutions

UI/UX Design
User Research
Design System
1 month
(Nov 2023 - Dec 2023)
Alex Potter - Tangible Deliverables
Jean Chu - AR Journey


Our project aimed to address business or organizational issues through communication design within a one-month timeframe. Collaborating with teammates Jean Chu and Alex Potter, we chose to focus on City of Asylum, a multifaceted organization offering rich user experiences.


Potential organizations

Out of 19 potential organizations, City of Asylum, along with The Government Center and Google Pittsburgh office, emerged as leading candidates for our design intervention. We opted to delve deeper into City of Asylum and The Government Center, visiting their sites to understand their environments, user interactions, and challenges.

Our final three

Early insight

Through surveys and interviews with visitors and stakeholders, we gathered insights into user demographics, goals, pain points, and overall satisfaction. Similarly, interviews with stakeholders helped us grasp their concerns, goals, and missions.

Interview questions

City of Asylum, with its meaningful mission and clear challenges, particularly captivated us. Co-founder Diane Samuels provided an in-depth understanding of their organization, mission, and community.

Identifying Problems

Our research revealed that while City of Asylum offers diverse programs, public interaction was often limited to visiting their bookstore and restaurant. Another issue was the community’s lack of engagement with the neighborhood’s intricacies.

Different levels of engagement

Problem Statement

Our design challenge crystallized into two key questions:

"How might we use communication design to raise awareness about City of Asylum for first-time visitors?"

"How might we encourage exploration of the surrounding community through communication design?"

Design Outcome

Initially, we explored conservative solutions like brochures and minor website revisions. Feedback, however, urged us to adopt a more radical, creative approach.

We developed several creative solutions:

Poem Cabinet

A wooden cabinet adorned with letters and textures from artists’ native languages. Helping users to grasp the values and missions of City of Asylum.

Poem Cards

Unique cards featuring poems by artists in their original language, helping users connect with City of Asylum’s values and initiate the AR journey.

AR Adventure

An interactive AR experience guiding users through the neighborhood, complete with a collection system and building introductions. We also used gamification to blend virtual and physical exploration of the community.

Digital Library

A redesigned website featuring an immersive 3D map of the area and stories behind the community and a comprehensive library. It provides remote access to the community, writers’ publications, and building stories.

Landing page

Buildings, publications and introductions

Interactive map

We also crafted a journey map and a video demonstrating the user journey and detailed user interaction stages.

Additionally, I developed a design library to ensure consistency in our digital deliverables’ visual language.


Our final presentation to City of Asylum co-founders Diane Samuels and Henry Reese was met with enthusiasm and praise. They expressed interest in implementing our designs, acknowledging the effectiveness and creativity of our solutions. We were subsequently invited to staff meetings to discuss the potential realization of our design concepts.

What was gained?

This project, by harnessing the collaborative efforts of our team within a tight one-month deadline, demonstrated the power of efficient teamwork in addressing complex design challenges. We successfully tackled a longstanding issue faced by City of Asylum, creating innovative solutions that resonated deeply with the organization. The process underscored the value of combining diverse skills and perspectives to produce creative, impactful results.

Our approach, blending artistic innovation with a clear understanding of the organization's mission, led to tangible design products that could potentially transform the way City of Asylum interacts with its community. The experience was a testament to the effectiveness of collaborative design in solving real-world problems and creating meaningful change.


Reflecting on the project, a key learning was the need to balance radical creativity with practical applicability. Initially, we leaned towards conservative solutions, but feedback prompted us to push the boundaries of our creative thinking. In future projects, I would advocate for a more balanced approach from the outset, ensuring that while our solutions are imaginative and bold, they also remain feasible and grounded in the practical needs of the client.

This balance is crucial in transforming innovative ideas into implementable solutions that not only inspire but also meet the real-world requirements of the organizations we aim to serve. Exploring this intersection of creativity and practicality more deeply would be my focus in similar future endeavors.