Design for Food Waste

Have you ever forgotten food on the back of the fridge?

2018

April - May

4 weeks




System Modeling

User Research

App Design

The Challenge

Globally, nearly 1/3 of food for human consumption is wasted. What is causing such a large amount of food waste? And how might we as designers alleviate this problem?

The Solution

We proposed a mobile service that will help raise people’s awareness about food waste and engage the community in share economy to reduce the waste together.

My Role

In this project, I worked with my teammate to investigate the food waste problem through research and system modeling. We brainstormed and designed an app to help reduce food waste.

Teammate

Jackie Ji

Starting Point

Affecting change in the complex and dynamic system is not easy. To begin with, we want to find a leverage point where designers can introduce an efficient solution.

Explorational or Didactic?

How do children learn? Do we tell them how things are? Or should we let them explore by themselves? To better understand what type of learning is more effective for children, we created two sets of paper prototypes that shape different learning experience.

Prototype Dora: "Make the color green for me, please."

Prototype Dora gives children a challenge: make correct colors for the fruits by combining the primary color blocks. It gives children the room to be exploratory.

Prototype Bot: "Blue + yellow is green."

Prototype Bot adopts a didactic teaching method. It instructs children to combine the color blocks and helps them memorize what new colors will be made.

Dora VS. Bot

To better evaluate Dora and Bot, we conducted two rounds of concept testing with preschool age children for each prototype.

Children are more engaged with Dora, but they learn faster with Bot.

Challenge is a crucial element in engaging children.

With Prototype Dora, children needed to repeatedly go through trial and errors to complete the challenge. But they were engaged in finding out the answer.
Also, some of the children are entertained by their "failures" (i.e. when they made a "purple orange").

Didactic method makes learning explicit.

With Prototype Bot, children were able to better memorize the color theory in a shorter amount of time. However, the prototype fails to keep children engaged in learning. Many of the children participants lost their interests after the first attempt.

We decided to further develop Dora because we value the learning process more than the learning outcome.

Iterating the Concept

When we are iterating the concept, Victoria and I had a disagreement about the research feedback we got.

"Wouldn't it limit children's imagination when they can only color the grape purple?

From a preschool teacher

Me VS. Victoria

Me: By defining the "right" colors for the objects, we are standardizing children’s view of the world.

I agree with the teacher's perspective. By defining children on how things should look like, it restrains their artistic talents.

Victoria: Success and failure define the challenge. Therefore there needs to be a "right" or "wrong" answer.

Victoria argues that asking children to give the fruit a specific color sets the challenge. The challenge engages children in learning.

Finding a middle ground:
Introducing a humorous voice

So what if we replace the fruits with popular cartoon characters? Instead of telling children they color the object wrong, the characters will express how they feel about their new color. Thus, we can indicate the success or failure through a more toned down, humorous voice.

Sketches

Mid Fidelity Prototype

Test + Learn

We realized that children were not aware of learning, they are simply playing it for fun.

Reflection is crucial to learning:
"What are the two colors you used to make this new color?"

Children had a great time with the game. But when we asked them simple questions about color mixing, most of them were not sure or got the answer wrong.
We realized that children were not aware of learning. They would randomly select two blocks just to see the color changes so the character looks funny.
Thus, we think it would be helpful to add a question at the end of the challenge to prompt children to reflect.

Using storytelling as a way to engage children in learning.

"Why did the Monster lose his color? Is he sick?"

from a 5-year old girl

This thoughtful question made us thinking: should we construct a narrative around the character?
Children are curious about the context. We think storytelling will better engage children in learning. Moreover, it can construct a cohesive flow for children to proceed to the next challenge.

Iterate based on what we learned

We added a quiz session at the end as a reminder for children to reflect. We also constructed narratives around the characters to set the context for children.

Let's Play

We invited children to play with the prototype, during which I remotely controlled the color of the blocks to make it interactive.

Final Design Explained

Starting Point

Affecting change in the complex and dynamic system is not easy. To begin with, we want to find a leverage point where designers can introduce an efficient solution.

Talking with College Students

During my initial research, I conducted interviews with 5 college students, asking what do they think about walking. Later, I also asked them how they are doing with exercising.

Walking is an exploratory and reflective experience.

"I like to wander around and get surprised by the places."
- C. Z

"Walking helps you find topic with your friends."
- A. H

"I like to think while I walk. My thoughts flow better."
- E. M

Walking is beneficial mentally and physically.

"Walking helps me adjust my mindset especially during busy days."
- C. Z

"Walking gives me freedom from work."
- A. H

"I used to walk 2 hours a day. You lose track of how much time and effort you spend on walking because it feels effortless."
- J. J

“Walking is an easy way to exercise.”
- X. L

Feel the need to exercise but are intimidated by the efforts they need to spend on it.

"You need to spend a lot of time to 'suffer', and then you feel good for a while. But overall, there is more suffering than rewards."
- A. H

More likely to stick to exercise when friends are motivating each other.

"My boyfriend and I would set a time period aside to do exercise together. We all have lazy days, but we just push each other to do it."
- J. J

"I'm more likely to go when I have a workout buddy."  
- C. Z

How Might We..?

Based on the interview insights, I tried to identify design opportunities with How Might We statements.

Brainstorming

How do I encourage people to walk more often? With that question in mind, I did two rounds of "CheatStorming" session to get as many diverse ideas as possible.

During CheatStorming, I sat down with two designers with idea cards. The goal is to come up interesting or even weird ideas by combining the concepts from different cards.

Then I consolidated the ideas and created 50+ concepts sheets and presented them to my teachers and classmates for dot-voting.

As I rearranging the concepts sheets to look for interesting combinations, this set gives me inspiration:

What if people can freely customize location-based content and have others to walk to check out the content?

Concept Storyboard

Walking is a reflective and exploratory experience. Can we connect our thoughts to the places?

Product Positioning

To better understand the market, I did competitive analysis that compare Mapssenger with other existing products.

Mapping the Experience

Designing with users in mind, I created an experience map to better examine user actions, potential questions and their emotional reactions with and without using the app.

Build + Test

I further created wireframes and conducted usability testing with 6 students.

user flow and wireframe sketches
Left: User viewing app walkthrough
Right: Wireframes

The takeaway?

They would love to explore other's route, but what about creating one their own?

The concept of exploring others' walking experience is well received. But there is mixed feedback about sharing their own experience. Some of them show great interests in the concept. Some of them said that they are more likely to check out others' than to create their own.

"I would like to use it as a way to record my daily experience. It feels like location-based Instagram feed."
- J J.

"This would be cool if users can custom the walking route and make it a weekly feed thing."
- G D.

"I was expecting that I can co-edit the trip with my friends."
- E M.

"I'm a shy person. I don't know if I want to send the recordings to others."
- J M.

"It would be fun if you can reply to others' feed like social media."
- A L.

Collaborate in creating the route

How can I better shape the experience to make people more comfortable about creating the content and sharing? I noticed that my interviewees can be roughly categorized as two types: one tends to the initiator, the other tends to be the respondent. Based on this observation, I further evolved the concept: people can collaboratively contribute their thoughts and discoveries to one route.

Design

Combining the most successful aspects, I finalized the design of the mobile app, pairing it with a wearable recording device. To highlight the user interaction, I prototyped the app using Principle.

The recording device can be worn as a collar pin.

To shape a natural walking experience, a single-tap gesture on the physical device allows users to quickly switch on and off recording.

To keep the distraction at a minimum, the device will use sound instead of visual feedback to indicate on/off recording states.

The home screen will suggest a nearby route. Simply tapping into one to start exploring. Users can also add content to others' route.

To begin, users will first be instructed to set up the recording device as well as enabling location access. Then a walkthrough will explain the concept.

To create content, simply tap the camera on the screen or the recording device. The content users created will show up on the map.

Visual System

Using a consistent visual language

Process Work

Logo Exploration

Mood Board

Moodboard

Packaging design

Physical Component

Video

Showcasing the out of box experience of Mapssenger

Video Storyboard

Starting Point

Affecting change in the complex and dynamic system is not easy. To begin with, we want to find a leverage point where designers can introduce an efficient solution.

Analyzing the food system

My teammate and I first made a concept map to gain an understanding of how food might be wasted in each stage along the production chain. We realized that nudging consumer behaviors could be an effective solution.

This concept map examines the people, how they interact with the food system and their needs during each stage.

Our takeaway?

1. The later the food is wasted (i.e. food consumption), the more costly it is.

That is because the food waste in the later stage is the sum of all the resources and energy being put in the previous stages.

2. Consumer behaviors determine the market, which further impact food distribution and production.

Minimizing the food waste at the consumption stage will allow the market and farmers to get a more realistic estimate of the needs for food.

Zooming in

What do consumers think about food waste? What are their reasons for throwing away the food? To find out about this, we sent out surveys to our college community and did intercept interviews on the street. We also made extensive secondary research by looking at scholarly articles, government, institution and news websites.

1. People lack awareness about the food waste problem.

A scholarly article named "A consumer behavioral approach to food waste" states, "The higher the lack of perceived behavioral control, the higher will be the food waste." (Emel Aktas et al., 2018)

One of our survey results indicated that people don't pay much attention to food waste.

"I have some idea about how much food I waste, but sometimes it's unavoidable because you might get other plans for food."
- J. Faccier

"If one fruit is bad, I'll throw away the whole bag."
- L. Eshete

"I only have some vague idea about how much I waste, but that might not be the real case."
- Z. Li

Opportunity: raise awareness, food waste report

2. Food waste can be explained by the failure of planning.

"I often stocked a lot of groceries during the weekend, but then I was too busy to cook during the weekday or I got other plans."  
- Z. Li

"Sometimes I don't have time to cook or I forget that I have the food in my fridge."
- J. Faccier

"I felt guilty when I throw it away, but I don't know how else I can do with the food."
- C. Watson

From our secondary research, we found that the failure to planning grocery shopping is associated with price. "Financial attitudes are positively associated with planning"(Emel Aktas et al., 2018). Moreover, grocery in the US is more affordable comparing to other countries.

Opportunity: food reminding system, grocery plan, food spending report

3. Over-react to the labels

Do you know that the "sell-by", "best-by" and "best-before dates" only indicate when food tastes best? They have nothing to do with food safety.
According to NPR News, many consumers don't know that, and that confusion leads Americans to toss out about $29 billion worth of perfectly good food each year.

Opportunity: provide accurate information about food

4. People tends to share food.

"Sometimes when I cannot finish my grocery, I will give it to my roommate if she wants it."  
- L. Eshete

"My friends and I like to order different food and share. So we all have a taste of different dishes."
- J. Chen

"Usually you get a cheaper deal with the bigger portion. So we'll buy together and split it later."
- Z. Li

Opportunity: food sharing, social influence

How Might We..?

Based on the opportunities we identified from the research, we proposed several How Might We statements.

Brainstorm

Using the How Might We statements, we had several rounds of brainstorming sessions to get as many diverse solutions as possible.

After the brainstorming session and presenting our concept to the target audience, we distilled our ideas to a grocery tracking and sharing app.

Persona

User Flow

Experience Map

Final Design

Learning

• Rapid prototype: In the concept development stage, I learned that it's important to build a minimal viable prototype. For one thing, it helps me avoid overcommitment to unvalidated concepts. For another, it brings users' attention to the core concept without the distraction from other additional features.

• Recruiting: Through this process, I gained valuable experiences in recruiting from reaching out to families and preschools to find children participants.

• User testing with children: Children get distracted and bored more easily. I learned that giving them motivation and a sense of accomplishment is helpful in engaging children. Some children are also more likely to get discouraged, I realized that it's also very crucial to acknowledge their small achievements, and to reassure that they are not doing anything wrong.

• Design for children: Text instructions for children in an app should be simple and straightforward. Black and white wireframes are not very suitable for user testing with children, as they tend to associate a negative feeling with greyscale.

Discussion

What's the best way for children to learn? This question is weaved into the process of developing Blok. It challenges us to refine and iterate the concept through learning from children. There will not be a definite answer. But I believed that curiosity is the best motivators for learning. Through the process, I learned that play and storytelling are successful aspects in arising their curiosity and keeping them engaged in exploring and learning.

Blok is an attempt to incorporate physical interactive objects into the digital learning experience. Living in a digital world where information is contained inside the flat screen, I think it's important to design with the tangible experience in mind.

However, the potential of the block components was not fully investigated in this project as the focus was more on teaching methodology. To continue the project, I would explore how children would interact with the blocks and put more weight on the physical interactive experience.

Learning

• Rapid prototype: In the concept development stage, I learned that it's important to build a minimal viable prototype. For one thing, it helps me avoid overcommitment to unvalidated concepts. For another, it brings users' attention to the core concept without the distraction from other additional features.

• Recruiting: Through this process, I gained valuable experiences in recruiting from reaching out to families and preschools to find children participants.

• User testing with children: Children get distracted and bored more easily. I learned that giving them motivation and a sense of accomplishment is helpful in engaging children. Some children are also more likely to get discouraged, I realized that it's also very crucial to acknowledge their small achievements, and to reassure that they are not doing anything wrong.

• Design for children: Text instructions for children in an app should be simple and straightforward. Black and white wireframes are not very suitable for user testing with children, as they tend to associate a negative feeling with greyscale.

Discussion

What's the best way for children to learn? This question is weaved into the process of developing Blok. It challenges us to refine and iterate the concept through learning from children. There will not be a definite answer. But I believed that curiosity is the best motivators for learning. Through the process, I learned that play and storytelling are successful aspects in arising their curiosity and keeping them engaged in exploring and learning.

Blok is an attempt to incorporate physical interactive objects into the digital learning experience. Living in a digital world where information is contained inside the flat screen, I think it's important to design with the tangible experience in mind.

However, the potential of the block components was not fully investigated in this project as the focus was more on teaching methodology. To continue the project, I would explore how children would interact with the blocks and put more weight on the physical interactive experience.

Learning

• Rapid prototype: In the concept development stage, I learned that it's important to build a minimal viable prototype. For one thing, it helps me avoid overcommitment to unvalidated concepts. For another, it brings users' attention to the core concept without the distraction from other additional features.

• Recruiting: Through this process, I gained valuable experiences in recruiting from reaching out to families and preschools to find children participants.

• User testing with children: Children get distracted and bored more easily. I learned that giving them motivation and a sense of accomplishment is helpful in engaging children. Some children are also more likely to get discouraged, I realized that it's also very crucial to acknowledge their small achievements, and to reassure that they are not doing anything wrong.

• Design for children: Text instructions for children in an app should be simple and straightforward. Black and white wireframes are not very suitable for user testing with children, as they tend to associate a negative feeling with greyscale.

Discussion

What's the best way for children to learn? This question is weaved into the process of developing Blok. It challenges us to refine and iterate the concept through learning from children. There will not be a definite answer. But I believed that curiosity is the best motivators for learning. Through the process, I learned that play and storytelling are successful aspects in arising their curiosity and keeping them engaged in exploring and learning.

Blok is an attempt to incorporate physical interactive objects into the digital learning experience. Living in a digital world where information is contained inside the flat screen, I think it's important to design with the tangible experience in mind.

However, the potential of the block components was not fully investigated in this project as the focus was more on teaching methodology. To continue the project, I would explore how children would interact with the blocks and put more weight on the physical interactive experience.