A research study that uncovers the safety and security needs of the transgender community.



The research study explores the unknown, unheard stories about safety and security within the transgender community in the SF Bay Area. By utilizing generative design research methods, the study takes the audience on a narrative journey into the community’s needs and perspectives.

My Role

I was responsible for leading the interviews and synthesizing research to generate insights. Also, I contributed in communicating the human stories to evoke inspiration and empathy for the transgender community.

Project Details

Project Skills Design Research, Synthesis & Storytelling
Project Advisor
Catherine Howard Lovazzano
Alexandra Michaelides
Duration 5 weeks (November 2017)
Team Members Fangia Tian, Manasi Saraswate, Vishwajeet Sawant


Secondary Research

According to Human Rights Campaign, 2017 has been the deadliest year for transgender women of color. Transgender people come from all walks of life. They are dads and moms, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. They are your coworkers, and your neighbors. They are 7-year-old children and 70-year-old grandparents. The transgender community is diverse, representing all racial, ethnic as well as faith backgrounds.



User Interviews

To gain a deeper understanding of the community, we set out to have conversations around safety and security with the community members. Being at the heart of San Francisco, we were certain that we would meet a lot of individuals who would be willing to share their stories since San Francisco has a lot of organizations working for the community. But it was a challenge to find individuals who would be willing to speak with us. Little did we know how the year 2017 had a huge impact on the whole community’s physical safety.


We went for a field observation to the Castro neighborhood where we observed and spoke to a few people.


We spent most of our time in Wicked Grounds talking to the community. Wicked Grounds promotes the concept of a ‘safespace’ and we sensed that people felt ‘safe’ speaking about their issues.


Also, we approached the SF LGBTQ Center to speak to organizations catering to the community’s needs, but unfortunately we didn’t receive any response.



Our approach was rooted in framing right questions and being conscious of the language. We conducted five interviews at Wicked Grounds and Mission Neighborhood Resource Center (MNRC) where people agreed to share their experiences with us.



One-sheeters for all participants: Creating a one-sheet for each participant interviewee helped us understand our participant type and the theme we’ve explored in our research. It includes data from the interviews as well as research methods (Card sorting) conducted with the participants.



Generative Research Method: Card Sorting

To better understand the community’s needs and behaviors, we conducted Hybrid Card Sorting with the participants. We wanted to discover how individuals think and make sense of the words that we presented before them.

Participants were given 50 cards each and 2 categories: SAFE & UNSAFE. The participants were asked to sort cards into these categories and they could create their own categories as well if needed.


Uncovering Themes

With the data gathered from the interviews and generative research method, we synthesized information using affinity diagramming. The common content was clustered in different bucket categories so that it would lead us to an understanding about the community’s overarching notable themes



Identifying Patterns

To understand the participant’s personality, behaviors, and motivations, a set of continuums were mapped to identify patterns and derive key insights.





By taking the audience on a journey through the lens of our participants’ lives, we evoked inspiration and empathy for the transgender community. We enacted their stories by stepping into their shoes, telling their stories in their voice.



Key Learnings

From recruiting to getting our participants to open up—it was a challenge. Some of the most noteworthy elements of the process of our project were the hurdles and how we overcame them, or at least what we learned from them. 

We took away lessons for the future about language usage, tone as well as a deeper respect for the work of interviewing participants about such sensitive, personal information. There were many pivots that we took when things didn’t go as planned, where we had to start over, and what we realized we would do differently. Our project was an example of a “teachable moment” which we taught ourselves.