Philadelphia Family Court

Co-designers: Nicki Dlugash and Diego Rodriguez. The request seemed simple at first: design a sign to clarify the juvenile delinquency and dependency court processes. The family court attorneys who brought us the project had been using messy flow charts to explain the order and processes of court dates to their clients, which was not making it any easier to navigate a situation no one wants to be in to begin with. As our group conducted interviews with social workers, parents, and graduates of court processes, however, it became clear that explaining court dates was tangled up in a a host of other design problems. Various stakeholders wanted a number of different things from the project, including words of reassurance and beautification of waiting areas.

The resulting proposal, then, offered a two-part solution. First, we offered a sign that clarified the court's previously mind-boggling flow chart, capable of being produced as a stand-alone piece for inexpensive printing or fabrication. We wrote new copy for the sign, which was reviewed by the local Children's Hospital as for appropriate for a broad range of reading levels, with simple definitions called out for terms the court had to include for legal reasons.

In addition, our proposal suggested including the new sign as part of a larger, stand-up display. This was both to avoid damaging the walls of the historic building, and to offer additional content requested by the people we interviewed. This content included photos and personal testimonials from parents and children who had lived through court processes, with words of empathy, reassurance, and reflection. Our hope was that the expanded version of the signage would make the project feel more personal than blankly instructional, as well as serving the simple purpose of giving people something to look at and read when milling around the waiting room.

I took over production duties for the end of the project, determining a plan for fabrication making use of sustainable and easily maintained materials. Unfortunately, due to unforeseeable logistical issues in the final phase of the process, the proposal remains unrealized.