A 15-week design project with a focus on user service and branding aims to find an innovative solution to reduce plastic food packaging and build a sustainable campus. The EcoEat kiosk machine is designed to educate students about plastic recycling while incentivizing food vendors to provide sustainable food packaging.
Role: UX Researcher
Team: 1 UX Researcher 1 UX Designer
Methods: Contextual inquiry Prototyping Market Analysis User Testing
Tools: Figma Figjam Midjourney TheyDo
Student centers in U.S. colleges provide a variety of food options to students and faculties, making eating more convenient on campus. However, some food vendors at student centers fail to provide decomposable food containers, which creates more plastic waste. The goal is to reduce plastic food packaging at student centers and build a sustainable campus.
"How might we provide more sustainable food packaging, encourage students to properly recycle plastic food packaging, and build an eco-friendly campus?"
We designed a kiosk machine, named EcoEat, and it places next to the recycling trash cans at student centers to instruct students how to recycle plastic food packaging properly step by step and to incentivize them to support food vendors that are more likely to serve sustainable food packaging.
Learn about plastic recycling
Students can scan their food containers at the kiosk and follow instructions to recycle them in the adjacent trash cans properly.
Find sustainable food vendors
Students can learn about sustainable food vendors through the ranking system and receive dining bonuses from supporting those providers.
We wanted to understand what the current solution to plastic food packaging on the market and gain insights into stakeholders’ expectations, concerns, and needs. Therefore, we decided to conduct 2 types of research methods, competitive analysis and user interviews, to understand different perspectives on a subject.
Compare and contrast 4 competitors to learn about users' expectations
I wanted to begin our research by learning what competitors are doing, because it gives me insights into customers’ expectations and helps identify what makes our potential design solution unique. I found 4 competitors who are promoting sustainable food packaging on the market.
Bring Your Own Cup at Starbucks
Reusable Takeout Containers at college
Nestle Food-grade Recycled Plastics
Interview 6 users and stakeholders to delve into the problem space
After the initial research, we wanted to capture all the key roles that have an influence on the user, organization, and service environment and connect all the entities based on the type of value they exchange. Therefore, we made an ecosystem map to uncover existing gaps and identify opportunities for synergies.
Then, we made personas to keep in mind who we design for and get inspired by their specific life and challenges. We created 3 model representatives of specific types of users: student, school administrative, and food vendor and captured their behaviors. Personas help create reliable and realistic representations of our key customer segments and gain understanding and empathy for the customers.
AS-IS Journey Map
We documented the current state of the journey that involves 3 chosen personas with an analysis of the underlying pain and gain points. The journey map helps create deep insight into our customer experience and quickly capture how the journey can be improved.
Based on the journey map, we were able to identify key actions during the plastic food packaging lifecycle, so we experimented with Midjourney to portray how students might interact with the product to participate in the plastic recycling service on campus. The storyboard illustrates how a student scans an empty coffee cup on the machine and ranks the sustainability level of this drink container.
We distilled down the complex plastic recycling actions into usable interfaces in low-fidelity on Figma. The prototype can provide a basic layout for user testing and get feedback on the initial design.
Based on the usability testing plan(click the right image to check the details), we invited 2 target users who are GT students to review our prototype. We conducted the testing session on Zoom, where we shared our screen with them, so they could see the prototype.
We asked them two questions in the beginning to better understand their recycling background, showed them the prototype, and allowed them to cognitively walk through the wireframe and then share any thoughts that they might have. Then, we asked them 7 follow-up questions to get feedback on specific features that we are concerned about and hope to get feedback on. After collecting all the testing data, we organized them into a Word document and compared the feedback between these two users to uncover some hidden design problems.
Based on the feedback that we received from users during the testing sessions, we synthesized 5 key testing findings, including what users like and areas of improvement, and they are listed below.
Users feel more confident in how to recycle food containers properly after using the machine.
Users find the scanning feature most helpful in incentivizing them to recycle food containers.
03. UI Design
Overall, the UI is clean, intuitive, and eco-friendly, but there are minor UI problems that can be iterated.
Users find the overall workflow straightforward and intuitive but it can be streamlined to optimize user experiences.
Users find the rating system unconvincing because the current evaluation process is subjective rather than objective.
Based on the key research findings that we synthesized above. We summarized the following points for product iteration. It provides a guideline of how we can iterate the design in the next step.
01. Visual Consistency
To enhance aesthetics and readability, visual consistency should be maintained in the design by unifying the font.
02. Brand Name
The name of the product should keep it straightforward and easy to remember and clarify the functionality of the design.
03. Ranking System
The leaderboard should be redesigned to maintain visual consistency and enhance readability for users.
04. Reward System
The reward system should protect user account information and provide customization to incentivize users to participate.
05. Recycling Instruction
Recycling instruction text should keep it short and straightforward, allowing users to easily understand and follow.
The design should facilitate plastic recycling education by placing addiction recycling knowledge at the end.
After validating my prototype, we created a brand design sketch to communicate the service design. It also allows my validation findings to influence the branding of my proposed service design.
Scan & Earn
There are two main features of this machine. First, users can simply scan the food packaging on the machine, and the system will identify the recycling materials and provide step-by-step instructions to students on how to properly recycle the item. Once students follow the instructions and finish the recycling process, they will be awarded with dining credits.
Recycle & Rank
The second feature is that EcoEat can help keep track of whether food vendors follow the sustainability contract to provide decomposable food containers. Sustainability ranking competitions are held periodically to motivate food vendors to provide more eco-friendly packaging and ultimately to build an eco-friendly campus. Users could also report vendors if they notice violations against green contracts.