Obesity in Western PA


Timeline: Spring 2020, 4 Weeks (remote due to COVID-19)
︎︎︎ Featured in the 2020 RSD9 Symposium

As a team, we were to design a systems map visualizing the wicked problem of the obesity epidemic, specifically in Western Pennsylvania. Using systems thinking and design research, this multi-faceted problem was mapped out using categorical labels and four types of lenses to develop a more holistic understanding of the overall issue. Intervention points are also proposed at certain points of the map using the understanding of leverage points by Donella Meadows.



Alison Hu, Gary Tang, Emily Wu
Figma, Adobe Illustrator, Miro Board
User Research, Systems Thinking, Visual/Composition Development

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Problem Space

In researching into obesity, it is evident of how urgent the issue is on both a national scale and in specific states. As shown statistically, a substantial percent of youth + adults in Pennsylvania suffer from obesity. This not only poses severe health risks for these people in the future, but also applies indirect pressure to areas such as the economy in terms of healthcare.

Research  ︎ Brainstorming and mess mapping.

We began our research by coming together to create a mess map on a Miro board. Using what we learned about the STEEP method, this allowed us to have a better understanding of the general scope of the problem through different categorical lenses. In addition to this, we sorted our research into separate categories to view our information through a macro to micro point of view. We also listed out the different factors, effects, and direct/indirect stakeholders related to the topic.

Futures Wheel + Three Horizons

After conducting our research, we then funneled what we learned into our (shown below) Futures Wheel—which helped us understand the cause and effects related to what we think would be an ideal future. That ideal future is then put into writing through a short exercise with the Three Horizons questions. With the Three Horizons, it helped us realize the gap between the current and future state of the wicked problem.

Design Development  ︎ How do we organize the content in a visually digestable way?

As there were many categorical lenses/labels we had to consider, we started by sketching out different potential compositions to incorporate all the information. Between the two versions below, we went with the vertical format as we agreed that it fit the information we wanted well without losing readability and legibility.
After deciding on the format, we then fleshed out all the information according to the structure we wanted to follow on Figma. This step allowed us to freely synthesize all the research we’ve done without worrying how it’ll fit on the final poster.

Visual Considerations  ︎ Style and Assets

Final Poster

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