How might bulletin boards’ reputation of clutter and dispensability be reversed?

This design research project investigated the actors and dynamics within the bulletin board system at Carnegie Mellon. Our proposal was to improve the overall system by focusing on boosting the value of bulletin boards, using crowd-sourced labor. I worked with Ji Tae Kim and Albert Yang on this project. 

Final Proposal

Our design proposal was to facilitate a shift in bulletin board culture through one social rule and three system rules. All the rules were intended to increase the sense of public ownership and lead to a perceived increase in the value of bulletin boards. We also wanted to avoid proposing a digital solution as a digital system would compromise the accessibility of bulletin boards themselves.

1 social rule

  • Outdated posters or posters covering other posters should be removed

3 system rules

  • Divide board with category system for easy organization

  • Place a recycling bin nearby each board for easy disposal

  • Only have one centralized bulletin board per building

Proposal Implementation

Carnegie Mellon's main bulletin board BEFORE implementation of rules


Carnegie Mellon's main bulletin board AFTER implementation of rules

UC bulletin board.jpg

We received positive feedback from CMU’s School of Computer Science. Unfortunately our plan to implement more bulletin boards fell through.


Impact over time

While the organization of the board has significantly dropped in 2 months, the heavy usage of the recycling bin is telling of its success. As a test of this proposal, I am proud of its result. I believe the construction wall covering up the bulletin board lowered the value of the board itself in, addition to decreasing overall real estate, leading to more disorganization.


Early Interviews & Observations

When first researching the problem space, our primary focus was understanding the behavior and motivations of stakeholders through interviews and observations. Through examining patterns we found in our preliminary research, we uncovered this cycle.

The Bulletin Board Cycle

  1. People post on as many boards as possible and don't take down their posters after

  2. People post over other posters, which are often outdated

  3. Bullet boards overflow, losing value in the eyes of students

The CMU Administration

This is an "official board" which requires posters to be submitted and stamped in order to be posted. However, over 40% of the posters were outdated (shown in black). This led to an insight about the system itself: the university doesn't really care about bulletin boards.

Graffiti Walls

We placed a graffiti wall survey on several popular bulletin boards, but our poster survey was actually covered up by more posters. We also submitted surveys to be posted by the administration, but they were never put up. This supported our earlier hypothesis that bulletin boards were a low priority for the school.

Flexible Modeling

"What would be your dream bulletin board?"

We wanted to find out what peoples' ideal bulletin board would look like by using a flexible modeling toolkit. With the toolkits, we were able to collect interesting ideas as well as further our understanding of peoples' priorities in relation to bulletin boards.

Bulletin Board Test

We tested our design intervention proposal on a small scale bulletin board, removing old posters and creating categories. Our tests proved successful, so we decided to move ahead with a larger scale implementation.