The goal

This design research project investigated the dynamics surrounding bulletin boards at Carnegie Mellon. Our final proposal was to increase the value of bulletin boards using crowd-sourced labor.

The users

Our primary users were the students who used bulletin boards for advertising and for informing themselves. Changing the generally apathetic attitude towards the value of bulletin boards was our main focus.

The users

I worked with Ji Tae Kim and Albert Yang, two design students, on this project. 


Research Process

Early Interviews & Observations

When first researching the problem space, our primary focus was understanding the behavior and motivations of relevant stakeholders. Through examining patterns we found in our preliminary research, we began to see a recurring cycle.

The Bulletin Board Cycle

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

People post over other posters, which are often outdated

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 approved. However, over 40% of posters were outdated (shown in black). This led to an insight about the bulletin board system: the university doesn't really care.

Graffiti Walls

We placed graffiti wall surveys on several popular bulletin boards, but they were actually covered up by other 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 are a low priority for CMU.

Flexible Modeling

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

First Test

We tested a similar concept to the Broken Windows Theory on a small scale bulletin board, removing outdated posters and creating categories. Our tests proved successful, so we decided to move ahead with a larger scale implementation.

Final Proposal

Our design proposal was to shift bulletin board culture with one social rule and three system rules. All the rules were intended to increase the sense of public ownership and 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  • Outdated posters or posters covering other posters should be removed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

  • Place a recycling bin nearby each board for easy disposal

  • Divide board with category system for easy organization

  • 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 significantly dropped after 2 months, the heavy usage of the recycling bin was a success. I do believe the construction wall covering up the bulletin board lowered the value of the board, in addition to decreasing overall real estate, leading to more disorganization.


Compiling our research and submitting our proposal to the school administration would likely be our next step. Ideally, we would be able to implement our proposal in at least one building, with clearly posted rules, an official recycling bin, and only one bulletin board for the whole building.