Design Process

The process of putting together a design for any park is just as important as the final design itself. The overarching theme in the literature related to design process is the need and importance for community involvement in order to have an outcome which is supported by the community and continues to thrive once the design stages and early implementation has been completed. This means that all age groups and stakeholders must be consulted including children, youth and young adults, parents, and the elderly.


The way in which we incorporated the children into the design process of the park was through a method called the Participatory Design Process found in “Playground Design: Outdoor Environments for Learning and Development” by Aase Eriksen.  This process can be outlined in a series of steps or activities which can be seen below. (Eriksen, 1985)


Step 1: Environmental Awareness

–     Bring about a different view of the space.

–     Children bring designers through the space while both designers and children point out different features.

–     Children can begin to see the possibilities of the space

–     Designers have a better understanding of how the children view the park.


Step 2: Design Fantasy Play-scape

–     Children draw out their dream playground with no restrictions to size, materials, or feasibility.

–     Children will express what they really want to see in their park.

–     Designers must see out patterns in the drawings to gain a sense of what the majority wants.


Step 3: Activity Analysis

–     Guide the children in the process of identifying the difference between an activity and the setting in which the activity takes place.

–     Children map out activities on a map of the park.

–     Compare the drawn map to the actual space by walking through the space.

–     Children should list activities they engage in, arrange them in order of preference, and then make a list of activities they wish to have in the space.


Step 4: Design Play-scape

–     Create a two-dimensional model of the park.

–     Create two-dimensional, scale drawings of the equipment that can be put in the park.

–     Allow children to move the scale equipment drawings around the park layout to see how they would arrange the structures.


Step 5: Design Play-scape Model

–     Create three-dimensional models of the park equipment OR

–     Have the children create they own models using clay, paper, etc.

–     Using the more concrete models of the park equipment once again allow the children to play with the arrangement of the elements with a less conceptual idea of it.


Step 6: Discuss Issues with Parents and other Concerned Stakeholders

–     Hold a meeting with stakeholders specifically addressing issues related to safety or concerns already present with the park as it stands currently.

–     Prepare possible solutions to safety concerns or use the meeting to brainstorm ways of alleviating the problem.


With a focus on Early Childhood Development in the design process it is good at many of these steps to look at how SPICE can be applied. Using SPICE as a guide we can extract the essential benefit of each activity and look for ways to combine activities. We could also add aspects of SPICE to features the children wished to have in the park. A climbing structure with at least one solid wall would be a good place to put an interactive puzzle game or stimulating painting. This would also be the place where safety considerations must come into play. Certain activities have direct safety concerns, such as climbing structures needing soft material below, but others will have less direct risks. Open, green space is important and the games played on this space are encouraged, but what if a ball rolls into the street? We not only have to consider whether the activity is safe and the structures are safe but also how the activity might extend and impact the space around the park.


The development process requires attention to all the stakeholder’s needs without taking away from the park to satisfy one particular group. Involving the community throughout the process helps provide an understanding of the needs of each group to the other groups. Different points of view are seen and instead of ideas clashing they can bring to complement each other to create a unique space which grants as many opportunities as possible.