Date of Award

Spring 5-13-2013

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Design (MDes)




Peter Scupelli


Abstract. This thesis project analyzes how the principles and methods of service design, design thinking, and human-centered design research can be utilized to re-imagine a county-level parks department, specifically Allegheny County Parks. Allegheny County Parks is a system of nine parks that have suffered for 30+ years from deferred maintenance, funding cuts, and other shortages. Boyce Park, one of the nine County parks, includes a broad range of prototypical park activities. My previous employment and established relationships made Boyce Park an excellent service design case study. To begin the project, I employed exploratory research methods (e.g., literature reviews, observations, participation in services, surveys, and interviews) to understand the design space. Then, generative research methods (e.g., affinity diagrams, personas, stakeholder maps, and service blueprints) led to the identification of key service improvement areas: organizational structure, increase revenue, infrastructure, user-centered park policies and communications. The area of communications was chosen for further exploration, due to its potential as a first step in transforming the parks and affecting the other service improvement areas. Another round of communications-centered exploratory and generative research (e.g., benchmarking and speed dating) was completed, resulting in a new service ecology and communications system proposal for Allegheny County Parks. A portion of the new communications system, specifically a responsive website design for mobile, tablet and desktop platforms, was prototyped. The responsive design, which showcased an activity finder and reservation system, was evaluated through paper prototyping sessions. The feedback from these sessions was implemented within a final HTML prototype.