Wellbeing Project- Santa Monica

The Santa Monica’s Office of Civic Wellbeing is eager to improve the health of the 90,000 residents, to help create a healthier city and local design students recently finished a project designed to help build community.

In 2013, the City received $1 million in seed money to develop the Wellbeing Project, leading to a collection of data about city and the citizens to create a multidimensional Wellbeing Index.

For nearly two years, the City partnered with RAND Corporation, the New Economic Foundation and a team of international experts in the field of wellbeing science to research factors that make a city thrive.

In order to promote their efforts, the City wanted to create a creative and innovative campaign. They turned to the ArtCenter College of Design students to work alongside Santa Monica civic leaders, and residents.

The assignment was to incorporate the data collected from the Wellbeing Index and create a media campaign allowing residents to understand the data. Organizers said if residents can visualize and understand the data and then the information could encourage them to create a healthier lifestyle.

“This is a way for us, the City, to communicate with the public in an intimate way. To provide them with insightful information using creativity and innovation,” said Julie Rusk, Project Lead for the Wellbeing Project and Assistant Director of Community and Cultural Services.

Data was gathered from multiple sources in various categories, such as crime/disease rates, parks, education levels, and use of transit services.

From the data the City defined wellbeing into six dimensions including city demographics, outlook which describes how residents are doing, community engagement, health, economic opportunity, and learning; do people have the opportunity to enrich their knowledge and skill sets. These dimensions helped the ArtsCenter design students form different ideas and concepts on creating the best campaign.

The students began the project 13 months ago and began by interacting with the community. Visiting various parts of the city they used public transit and interviewing residents from different areas of the city to bring their perspective to the data. The students narrowed down their ideas and designed a prototype around the city.

Final ideas were presented to Rusk, the Wellbeing Index along with other representatives from the City on April 13, at Virginia Ave Park in the Thelma Terry Building.

The first concept presented was a community art installation game. The team designed a board game, similar to the classic Monopoly and used tidbits of data to either give consequences or rewards to players.

The team expanded on their idea and decided to turn their board game into an environmental human intervention. The city had become the board game, particularly parts of the sidewalk, as it was colored with chalk and data.

The goal was to have local residents and citizens read the sidewalk square that would now look like a monopoly block filled with data corresponding to the design. Making everyday walkers into players and could share the experience via social media and see how the data fits into their life.

Team members said the project is meant to encourage residents to discover new ways on improving Santa Monica’s wellbeing and to create dialogue.

The second team decided to create a photographic connection experience within Santa Monica.

They set up a temporary photo studio at a local park and local Farmers Market. They encouraged complete strangers to take family portraits together, making everyone’s first encounter awkward but ending in a positive response. Graphics were incorporated into many of the portraits representing the six Santa Monica data results, showing that statistics reflect not just numbers but real humans.

The feedback was positive, with some suggestions from the audience.

Officials will review the two proposal and are now discussing when these projects will be displayed throughout Santa Monica.