For this project, we were tasked with exploring a city center in Los Angeles and discovering potential issues for visitors and residents of the city. Our goal is to design an interactive experience to address the issue uncovered and change how people engage with that space.
Downtown Culver City was historically a haven for residents seeking affordable housing and a vibrant community. As tech giants and studios flocked to the city, the welcoming third space for people of all socioeconomic backgrounds is disappearing with the rising rents and cost-of-living.
An interactive app that creates an engaging and affordable experience to visitors and locals of Downtown Culver City. This app would be partnered with Snapchat and local businesses, offering weekly missions highlighting historical landmarks with discount rewards and a free-to-play digital scavenger hunt that can be played by walking around the city center.
The first step was visiting the location and observing how people navigate the space. We documented photos of our exploration and took note of space that was available for leisure or businesses and how people are able to navigate to this location.
Open green space at Culver Steps in Downtown Culver City
Pedestrian-friendly street design
Easily accessible public transportation
Research & Interviews
While at the site, we interviewed several visitors and asked about their experiences in Downtown Culver City, and we found a common theme with difficulty keeping up with rising cost-of-living in Culver City. After the field research and interviews, we did some secondary research to uncover how the cost-of-living has increased drastically and navigation systems in the city center.
Since the implementation of protected bike & bus lanes in Culver City in 2021, micro-mobility increased 70% and cycling increased 57% from the previous year. The city also incorporated Dutch intersections for pedestrian and biker safety.
We looked into related hashtags on social media and found a divide between those that praised the economic growth of Culver City and those that criticized how it pushed out residents due to rising costs.
Downtown Culver City has a cost of living 65% higher than the national average since the influx of tech companies in the past 10 years.
John & Evelyn
60's, Long-time Residents
"We've lived here for more than 12 years. The bungalows here used to be affordable when they built them for Hollywood workers but now the city lets anyone buy it and convert them into tall, modern condos. The city officials didn't do their homework."
20's, UCLA Graduate
"I usually take the bus or metro from Boyle Heights to Downtown Culver. I like being around people so I come here to work sometimes or hang out. There's community events like the farmer's market that happen every week. I think there could be more diversity in this city and it's difficult to find affordable rent."
“I’ve lived in Culver City since I was a toddler. I loved going to Downtown as a kid but as I’ve gotten older it’s harder to go because of how expensive it’s gotten. There are a couple places still affordable, like the thrift store, but there’s so little now.”
We began ideating sketches for the journey through the app focusing on navigation and how users would engage with physical space alongside the app.
Scavenger Hunt Map & Mission Flow
Augmented Reality Wayfinding Flow
We built a mid-fidelity physical prototype to test out how a single mission would play out and if users can intuitively walk through the mission challenges, use the map for hints, and claim their reward. After collecting the initial feedback, we created a digital prototype and conducted another round of user testing to find pain points.
User Testing Insights
Users didn't know how to start a mission
We found that several users that tested the prototype had difficulty figuring out how to start a mission after going to the missions tab and looking at the hints. We realized we needed to create a "start mission" button that clearly led them to the map feature and showed that they started the mission.
Users were confused by the location markers
We noted that many users did not know how to use the map indicator circles to find the location and wanted a navigation feature to show how far they were from the locations. There would need to be clearer icons and text indicating what is in each location marker and utilizing the GPS function to show users their distance from the locations.
Users were unsure how to access the app
Users both familiar and unfamiliar with Snapchat's platform had some difficulty in knowing how to find our integrated app within Snapchat. We decided that adding an onboarding experience would allow users to understand where to find different features and walk them through how to play the game.
Snapchat users will receive a notification once they are in Culver City to try the app. First-time players will get a tutorial that introduces the main features of the app and how to start their first mission.
By introducing weekly missions, users can continue to play and explore new locations in Culver City with rotating challenges and unique Snapchat stickers to collect.
Using Snapchat’s GPS tracking, the player is able to navigate around the city and see how far they are from the challenge locations and if friends are also playing the game.
Augmented Reality Lens
Explore Culver City with the augmented reality mascot, Culvie. Learn fun facts about the history of key locations in your challenges through Culvie.
By playing the game and completing weekly missions, users can obtain QR code rewards that they can redeem at participating local businesses.
Share your Story
Players can share their experiences through Snapchat stories and view other player’s stories to engage with their local community. Collect unique Snapchat stickers to save to your albums and use on your stories.
Augmented Reality Integration
We were grateful to present to an AR developer at Snapchat who gave us detailed feedback on our project. We designed elements of the app to function with the augmented reality lens function on Snapchat as a method to highlight community and landmarks, but we could potentially find a more natural integration of the augmented reality element into our app such as utilizing it for way-finding.
We designed Snap Pass x Culver City to launch in Culver City as the walkability and hidden features of the city made for a great test site for the app, however, we received feedback that we could have began building the app with other locations in mind early to consider how it may work if scaled to more locations.
In order to keep the app fresh and continue adding weekly content, we could utilize user-generated content such as user stories, custom-user generated missions or stickers, and more. We didn't consider how to keep up with having new locations every week especially if we were to highlight landmarks, it would be difficult to come up with new locations in one city every week so user-generated content could help to add additional content for users to engage with.