During the user testing session, all three of our testers questioned the connections between the monopoly board and West Oakland.
They left us finding answers for the below:
In a classroom session, we invited 3 people to try out our first prototype.
How can we make the aesthetic of the monopoly and actual map coherent?
Who are the audiences that are going to play the game?
What is the goal of the game?
How can we learn the property's information through the game?
The feedback was that the game lacked context and did not resonate with
what we wanted to interpret.
It was also critical to balance the anchor point between data and game.
Taking the game a step further, we are thinking of making the game actually playable. We want to set up future meetings with The Crucible to gather more information about West Oakland and develop more personas to make the game itself come alive.
And hopefully, our monopoly board can be used by The Crucible and Futures Committee for their future meetings.
Overall, the project tested our skills in understanding an important real-world issue of gentrification. Based on our varied individual backgrounds, we utilized our skillset to make a somber topic more relatable.
The gameplay is also helpful to the narrative where past, present, and future can be clearly communicated where key details are not lost in translation.
We kept in mind that the project is only an informational and educational tool. Hence it is not designed to follow any particular narrative and aims to dispense information as it is to the best of its abilities.
As a team, we pushed ourselves to go beyond simple visualizations and tested our creative abilities to navigate through the vast amount of data, the complexity of the topic, and the various lives affected.
It’s gratifying to know that our ideas and efforts were well appreciated with the execution.
Also, we want to make it a playable game to let audiences who are participating in the game to take a chance to see what different populations are living in the community.
Our solution: Representing all the changes through a board game, West Oakland Monopoly.
1. The Crucible is situated on the 7th street of West Oakland, a neighborhood seeing a mass gentrification drive.
2. Being a maker space, they are concerned about what their future may look like, so we were assigned to visualize the data of the demographic and real estate changes.
What did I do?
I worked in a team of 4 alongside a community partner to create design solutions for their specific problem.
The partner was The Crucible. A community partner and industrial art school based in West Oakland, CA
Our solution is
I worked with
Brainstorming and conceptualizing the idea and the execution.
UX Research and Data Visualization
Scoping through the data and writing the content, visualizing the flow of information, and executing the same.
Communication and collaboration
Served as a point of contact for the partner and ensuring transparency in communication channels.
Strategizing the presentation flow to speak about the project in an engaging and concise manner.
My direct contributions
The Crucible is an Industrial Arts school centered in the heart of West Oakland.
It is the largest non-profit industrial arts school in the United States, and a community partner for years, facing a massive gentrification drive.
Taking this into consideration, they tapped into our expertise, to visually represent the data of the accounted changes, which could be helpful in making strategic business decisions.
Additionally, they started a Futures Committee, which is a group of board members and advisors who can look both ways to the changes around the street.
We were required to design a set of graphics and other communication tools
around the real estate development and demographic shifts occurring in West Oakland over the next five years.
We initiated work on creating a data-informed narrative about the changing face of West Oakland working in tandem with the Crucible.
The Crucible’s crew consisted of Susan Mernit and Lillianna Torres, who were very helpful in providing relevant information and making timely decisions.
To start with, The Crucible shared with us several documents and other resources that provided data on the various activities undertaken.
As we developed a sense of the new developments, we began browsing through the various other resources and seeking out additional information that would give us more depth in representing the problem as well as understanding West Oakland as a whole.
Scope and stakeholder
Developments outside a 1-mile radius of the Crucible and scheduled to happen after 2025 aren’t considered.
Overall we scoped through a vast amount of data only to collate and bring it down to what is relevant in terms of impact and time.
Learnings and insights
As San Francisco and Silicon Valley have become unaffordable even for professionals earning six-figure salaries, capital has migrated to Oakland via new residents — over 40,000 since 2007 — as well as jobs and development.
The location and transportation will bring a sea of change for Oakland, a city that once suffered from catastrophic disinvestment is now plagued by a tidal wave of
Additionally, the fabric of West Oakland as a Center for the Arts, notably Jazz music is threatened. With the proposed developments underway, there are fewer spots for
affordable housing and increased possibilities of clashes between the haves and have nots.
On the downside, the proximity to San Francisco and mass transit, this part of Oakland can expect a shifting social structure, with the recent influx of new money
from more affluent arrivals.
There is a sense of apprehension stemming from the overall unpopularity of gentrification in the area. The long term implications for residents concerning housing, transit, retail, and demographics remain to be seen.
How might we help the Crucible understand their future neighborhood?
How might we make layered data about the upcoming developments, more digestible?
We then diverged into the second part of our double diamond to answer these questions.
We started with finding answers which fit into the design principle and then immersed ourselves in several brainstorming sessions to come up with ideas for representation.
In order for us to help The Crucible making their future decisions, we have to set some “rules” on designing our product.
After a lot of deliberation, we conceptualized three unique narratives that would do justice to the problem.
A three-dimensional map that would highlight the new developments and the expected changes.
A game that would highlight the changes in the neighborhood by engaging players in a fun manner
A storyboard in the lives of residents of Oakland which would depict, what life is like in Oakland 2025
Upon presenting to The Crucible, they were pleased with all three concepts. We then summarized what are the best strengths that each solution has:
We decided to integrate the elements and strengths of all three into a unique board game to create West Oakland Monopoly.
To address the flaws we found from the user testing, we set a meeting with Shawnee Keck, a data expert and a future committee member.
We consulted her about what could be done differently.
Meeting with Shawnee was fascinating. She gave us a clear picture of the happenings around the West Oakland neighborhood and what gentrification looks like.
In her opinion, most major world cities would be getting more vertical, and cities in the United States are playing catch-up. In many ways, the gentrification drive is inevitable.
In terms of calculating projections, Shawnee suggested simple guesstimations, where we could find out how many units each project had and the bedroom structure.
Based on the number of bedrooms, we could estimate how many people occupied each unit.
For instance, 1b1b (1 bedroom 1 bathroom) is usually occupied by 2 occupants.
It’s with these estimates in mind, did we calculate the numbers that would make a huge impact for West Oakland in the years to come.
With the board acting as a catalyst, we structured elements around it. We embedded the entire map of the 7th street into the center of the board and marked out directions from the building to the sections of the board. In order to make the map and the game board more coherent, we have recreated 7th street into a visual style that fits into the monopoly aesthetic.
We then created supporting elements such as monopoly money and property cards.
The property cards would provide all the details of the particular property, such as an address, expected completion date, number of units, bedroom specifications, etc.
Chance cards are replaced by impact cards giving a Macro level picture of the demographic changes to come, in a comparative manner.
We also came up with a set of personas representing the population who are initially inhabitants of West Oakland and the new populations that are yet to come. The personas are depicted as player tokens on the monopoly board.
To summarize all the data and information we used on the monopoly board, we have also created a Monopoly brochure.
The brochure includes a brief overview of the game, followed by the data points we used, persona explanations, and a map of 7th street.
More information such as the rules of the game and the history of Oakland can be viewed by scanning the QR code on the brochure.
Did you love the work that I did for the Crucible?
Do you also have a complicated design problem to tackle?
Please do reach out.
As always just an email firstname.lastname@example.org