Date of Graduation
College of Creative Arts
Wicked problems are often vast, complex, and difficult to navigate. Often used in dealing with social design issues, the term "wicked" is intended to connote a problem that is difficult to define and solve rather than its moral implications.1 These problems, like watershed maintenance and pollution mitigation, involve an entwined community of diverse players, intricate systems, and ever-changing terrain. Because of their pluralistic nature, these problems can seem impossible to solve and even impossible to understand. This requires a collective approach and new ways of thinking to create better understanding and solutions. Important changes occur when citizens are knowledgeable, see their connection to the whole, and feel empowered to take action.;As the problems facing society grow more complex, designers have evolved to find applications for the design process across a variety of disciplines. A transdisciplinary approach allows for a community-based model that creates solutions to complex problems based on strategic outcomes rather than product development. This approach uses a system of solutions working together to address problems that are multi-dimensional. Historically, graphic designers are often tasked with creating a call to action. The failure in this approach is that it leaves the responsibility of that action with the audience. As designers, we should not only ask for action but facilitate action in ways that empower our audience. It is critical that we provide a context to educate our audience so they better understand the issue and develop a better attitude to take effective action.;My thesis focuses on the complex pollution issues that threaten the health of the Deckers Creek Watershed. Deckers Creek is a tributary of the Monongahela River. It flows west towards Morgantown from Arthurdale, West Virginia. Deckers Creek is a scenic waterway that has suffered a long history of abuse and environmental degradation. It presents a complex set of problems that requires the collaborative approach involving a community of diverse professional disciplines, public agencies, and concerned citizens. By drawing on multiple influences and past experiences, I created a transdisciplinary and a community-centered design approach that was relevant to the issues surrounding watershed pollution.;This project used design methods and products to ask visitors to understand how their personal attitudes and actions are connected to the health of their environment. The goal was to create an educational exhibition surrounding the challenges to improve the watershed, stimulate a call to action, and raise peoples' interest in community intervention and action. The cornerstone of the project is "CreekDog", an interactive responsive web site that allows citizens to report and track pollution issues throughout the watershed. CreekDog was created to educate and empower citizens to take an active role in improving their communities by protecting their environment. In addition, the exhibition also included environmental interpretive signage, a portable interactive kiosk, and educational information graphics. Designed in collaboration with local non-profit, Friends of Deckers Creek (FODC), these pieces became tools that continued to educate the public through public outreach efforts after the exhibition. 1 "Understanding Wicked Problems," ac4d: Austin Center for Design, http://www.ac4d.com/home/philosophy/understanding-wicked-problems, (accessed May 13, 2004).
Conroy, Forrest Thomas, "Watershed - A Transdisciplinary Social Design Process Applied to an Environmental Issue" (2014). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 297.