{post 10} the road to homelessness.

design response. generative system. refined proposal. judith tan.

(Tan 2016) The title for the project is derived from the common phrase ‘all roads lead to Rome’, meaning that whatever road you take, it will eventually lead you to the same destination. While this is not necessarily true in life, I wanted to create an inevitability in the design response to highlight the ease at which one can become homeless, and how hard it is to escape from it.

When creating a design proposition, is it crucial to seek the critique of colleagues in order to identify potential issues, vagueness, other avenues to explore and how the response can be pushed further. For this proposition, I received invaluable feedback from my tutor and peers. I will write my reflection on this feedback in two parts – critique received after presenting the draft proposition, and then critique received on the refined proposition. In between the two sections of critique will be the refined proposition.

{reflection on feedback 01}

In response to my draft proposal, I received some feedback. The main point was that I should consider how the design response affects gestural change, as opposed to merely personal reflection. The second point of consideration was the content for the stories, in regards to where I would obtain the data. A third point was that while the concept was simple, the execution could potentially be very complex, and to ensure I had a clear framework in order for the design to work.

The third point I will not be able to work on until I actually start designing, however the first two points I will be able to incorporate into my written proposal in order to enhance it and make it more effective.

{refined proposition}

Project title: All roads can lead to homelessness

Practice type: Generative system


When majority of the public think of homeless people, they falsely assume it is always the fault of the latter that they are homeless, because of poor choices and not being bothered to make a change. These false assumptions result in superiority towards the homeless and hesitance and/or unwillingness to help them. People are unaware or indifferent to the difficult situations homeless people are often in, and are ignorant of how easy it is to become homeless. Humans have the power to build up or tear down with their attitudes and how they treat each other. Undoubtedly homeless people, who are just as human as the ‘un-homeless’, are affected by the attitudes and feelings consciously, subconsciously and unconsciously communicated by members of the public.


The aim of the design response is to highlight how easy it is to become homeless and how hard it is to get out of homelessness, and shift the public’s perception of the homeless. This will in turn alter attitudes towards the homeless, benefitting them as well as the organisations who help them.

Resultant change:

Specifically, the change will be a shift in the attitudes of members of the public when they pass by homeless people, when they talk about the homeless, and when opportunities arise to help.

Design action to activate the change:

The generative system is a book inspired by the concept of Packard’s Choose Your Own Adventure books, where the reader makes decisions for the character and slowly uncovers the consequences of his/her choices. It is a sobering, contemplative take on the children’s series, exploring the various pathways which lead to homelessness.

The book begins with offering the reader a choice of several personas, some likely and others unlikely to become homeless, such as a white-collar worker or an unemployed individual. Life circumstances, avoidable and unavoidable, and choices, rational and irrational, all eventually lead to some form of homelessness. The fragments to create the stories will be based on data gathered from news sources containing primary research with homeless people and those closely associated with them.

The book’s visual style will be clean and minimal with a text-only layout. Text will be in short, simple but thought-provoking phrases laid out on each page. The residual white space will give the reader room to personally think and envision the story.

{reflection on feedback 02}

In response to the above refined proposition, I received several points of feedback. I thought it was quite a good proposal, but after receiving the feedback, I realised there is quite a lot it needs to improve in, and areas which need to be pushed in order for it to fulfill the brief as well as being effective in the world, aside from being an assignment.

The critique I received centred around two issues – form and context. In terms of form, I was questioned if it had to be a book. A full-blown book might be too overwhelming, and it would soon become too obvious that all the stories end in some state of homelessness. I was encouraged to consider the form of the book and hybrid publishing – what kind of book is it? Books come in many forms. Perhaps a smaller booklet? A magazine? Something else?

The other issue was context. A book would be useless if the audience does not find it. How would people find the book? In what context would it be situated? How would it be activated? I realised I need to think deeply, far beyond an opportunity to develop a piece of publication design for my portfolio. I need to start grounding the project in context, in terms of its situatedness.

All the feedback is very helpful, but also challenging. It will not be simple nor easy to work on pushing the proposal. I currently cannot think of any ways I could change it, but am looking forward to digging deeper and further, and seeing where it will go before the final proposal.


Tan, J. 2016, All roads can lead to homelessness.