This year, I entered the RSA Student Design Awards, where I had to make a product or service that enhanced the quality of life for those living in rural areas.
I picked the brief out of a selection of twelve due to the fact that I grew up in a relatively rural area, and took the project on in retaliation to the pre-conceptions from city-dwellers that rural areas are “uncool”.
On the surface, I discovered that the two major problems facing rural areas and their growth in the future is transport infrastructure and access to technology and broadband. Whilst I realised that these were major problems needing resolved, I decided to keep my options open and discover other complexities found within rural life.
In my discovery stage, I sent out a questionnaire meant for those living in rural areas so I could develop an idea of what others thought of their local areas which gained over 30 responses. I found it important to consider the impact of my project in both urban and rural areas, so I also asked them questions relating to their ideas about urban life, in order to try and explore the interplay between the two areas.
I began to compare both rural and urban areas, examining what rural areas could possibly offer that urban areas do not. I began to focus upon sport and recreation, due to the authenticity of the outdoors and it’s varied selection of activities compared to the growing popularity of gyms. I conducted interviews to gather first hand experiences of how life could flourish in both rural and urban areas. First, I interviewed my friend, and outdoor activities instructor who is qualified to teach Mountain Biking, Canoeing and Archery amongst other sports. He believed that partaking in sports in rural areas provided people with an authentic experience and that thrill of “being alive” that completing a work-out in the gym could simply not match. After this meeting I was curious to learn about the opposite point of view, and why people rely on facilities such as gyms.
I interviewed the Assistant Director of the Institute of Sports and Exercise to learn more about the habits and requirements of his clients at the gym. Whilst he agreed with my friend with his points on the authenticity of the outdoors, he argued that sport and fitness is such a vital part of a healthy routine that the efficiency of a gym is a must, especially in such a fast-paced, congested place such as a city.
Throughout both of my interviews, there was an emphasis placed upon cycling, and how it is both an efficient way to exercise, but also an enjoyable, and even sometimes relaxing one. I was curious to learn how cycling could be incorporated into a service or product, and with further research was surprised to learn that cycling is actually a neglected mode of transport in rural areas. The reasons for this is that it is both dangerous in rural areas, yet also youths who wish to use their bikes would simply prefer to get a lift from their parents.
With these insights, I decided to create a service to encourage people to use their bikes more. I discovered that for local youths, public transport is very expensive, especially when used in excess. As an incentive to reduced fares on public transport therefore, I developed a service in the form of an app that would track the amount of miles covered by somebody on their bike, and lower their fare on their next bus ride. The app, inspired by popular cycling applications like Strava, will only calculate miles covered between walking and driving speeds, and can even clock miles offline – for those struggling with broadband access. The maximum users could claim from their transport fares would be 50%, and would include a monthly membership to ensure that the companies running these services would not lose out. If the service became popular, the discounts would spread towards train fares and even high street brands to incite more people to cycle.
I created the graphics for my entry using my graphics tablet on Illustrator, and used the colour green to emphasise the branding of the project as well as the green travel made possible through the service.