Revitalizing tourism, economic opportunity, and history in the Fillmore district of San Francisco through an audio tour experience
To support and strengthen small businesses in their role as community gathering places.
As part of a year long thesis project, we were encouraged to apply design thinking to help implement a project that would build community resilience in the Fillmore District of San Francisco.
The Fillmore is a historic neighborhood in San Francisco that was once known as the Harlem of the West. It has witnessed the upheavals of the 1906 Earthquake, World War II, Urban Renewal in the 1970s, and the current tech boom in Silicon Valley.
Our project aimed at preserving the Fillmore's history through the small businesses in the neighborhood. We ultimately developed a website, physical collateral, and an audio walking tour.
Design Research, UX Design, Audio Engineering, Prototyping, Print Design, Photography, Branding, Print Design
Alexander Baumgardt (Social Lab)
Sida Li (Product Design & Outreach)
Matt Mitchell (Web & Front-End Engineer)
Alagu Chockalingam (Branding & Web Design)
Lisa Baird (Media Outreach & Copywriting)
Team Lead and Product Lead
Photoshop, Illustrator, Garage Band, Keynote
We created a set of products that would bring economic opportunity to small businesses, highlight the importance of gathering places in the Fillmore, and build community empathy between new and old residents.
Discover Fillmore is a community intervention designed in three parts: an audio walking tour, physical collateral, and an interactive website. Each piece works in tandem with the others to form a cohesive, self-reinforcing system that is built to grow and built to last.
Audio Walking Tour
The audio tour covers 19 different stops in the Fillmore and is a mixture between narration and community member's personal accounts and stories of a specific location.
To help residents and visitors know about the audio tour, we created brochures and plaques for the small business owners.
The website would host the audio tour but also inform users about the stops on the tour. We also wanted to have an opportunity for community members to share their stories with us.
Community members wanted to celebrate the Fillmore's history and art.
Many months of deep field research preceded the initiative’s production-ready form. Our response is intentionally designed to serve three distinct groups within the Fillmore: old residents, newcomers and visitors, and merchants. We spoke with all three groups of people to discuss their needs and wants.
To understand the community we were serving, we conducted outreach with the community through workshops, performed participatory research activities, and interviewed several community members. We learned that the Fillmore is filled with unique stories due to its historic past. Community members new and old wanted to learn more about the Fillmore.
To successfully implement our project, we had to enlist the help from community organizations and small businesses to partner with us.
Discover Fillmore is nothing without its community partners. We began with the invaluable assistance of Fillmore Merchants Association but quickly expanded to include seven fully-committed community partners in total. We learned that the community is very interconnected and had a lot of valuable insights.
We learned that stories are the most impactful way of sharing the local history and that physical platforms to share the stories existed within small businesses.
We went through several iterations of prototyping to explore what the best solution would be. We explored building a pop-up gallery space to allow artists and aspiring business owners to sell merchandise. From there, we played with a different form by making a smaller birdhouse like gallery to allow people an opportunity to look in and see a miniature exhibit about the Fillmore. We also explored doing a podcast that featured stories of artists who were affiliated with the neighborhood.
Ultimately, we decided to do a walking tour which would combine elements of story and physical spaces. We started by hosting 4 in-person walking tours to collect feedback from community members and visitors about our tour content. We received positive reviews and had about 100 visitors join our tour.
These prototypes helped us learn that stories were the most important aspect of the local history that people wanted to hear. Physical spaces did not need to be created, as small businesses in the Fillmore provided that medium to share stories.
Collectively, we spent over 250 hours in the Fillmore gathering stories and assets that would contribute to our final products.
Over 2 months, we went into full production mode. For example, we participated in 3 community festivals and interviewed 19 different business owners and residents. As a team, we contributed different assets to ensure the successful implementation of Discover Fillmore.
To gauge our success, we measured the total impact on the community and discovered that the tours were working.
In less than 1 month, businesses reported increased foot traffic and seen positive reviews springing up on Yelp. The demand for our walking tours grew from 15 people in our first tour to 40 people in our 4th tour. We also made around $120 in donations that contributed to the making of the project.
The initiative got a stand-alone article published in The New Fillmore, rated Top Ten Best Events on SF Fun & Cheap, coverage in local news outlet Hoodline, mentions on social media, and increased DiscoverFillmore.com traffic per Google Analytics.
Lastly, after interviewing the owners of Statebird Provisions (a Michelin starred and James Beard award winning restaurant), we were asked to conduct a private tour for their staff.