As part of the Collaborative Design course at Olin, I collaborated with 4 other students on a semester long project to create a futuristic design solution for a key challenge that park rangers face. We completed a full discovery and engaged with the design process through user research, co-design, and ideating phases in a studio environment guided by our course instructors.
We completed the project with a presentation of our solution, Spore Spray. Spore spray uses mushrooms to biologically degrade trash and provides a quick and easy way for rangers to eliminate litter, relieving the need for park rangers to personally deal with the trash. This was presented with a visual poster and model at our final event.
User research, Co-design methods, Information synthesis and analysis, Communication
The course was divided into 3 phases: Explore, Conceptualize, and Develop. At the end of each phase, my team presented our learning in a design review and received critique from our course instructors.
Reach out to and engage with park maintenance workers
Debrief conversations and create people portraits
Plot people portraits on attribute/personality spectrums and other frameworks (2x2's, venn diagrams)
Synthesize information into 3 distinct customer personas
Ideate 100+ raw ideas including ambitious and unexpected ideas
Identify customer and designer values
Lead 4+ co-design meetings using card sorts and other methods
Create a set of ~9 bold solutions with gallery sketches that have real potential
Converge on a final direction to develop into a thorough solution
Establish the form, scale, and interfaces of the design through a detailed requirements table with metrics
Diagram the interaction with the design through a broad interaction map
Develop the interfaces of the product through a visual sketch models
Phase 1: Explore
Initial engagements with Stakeholders
In this first phase, we reached out to and interviewed 10 different park maintenance workers and park rangers. We split into teams of 2 and conducted engagements over Zoom, went to parks in-person, and over the phone. After each engagement, we debriefed with the entire team and created a people portrait for each park worker we met with. To protect the privacy of our stakeholders, all names and locations are pseudonymized.
For each engagement, we wrote down customer goals, some meaningful and memorable quotes, some challenges they faced, what they did in their daily life, and some gear and tools they used. These customer portraits were used to debrief each engagement and make sure all team members were aware of information collected during the engagement.
Once we had debriefed all of the workers we had engaged with, we created frameworks to help generalize information for our stakeholder group as a whole. We plotted our customers on an OCEAN attribute spectrum and several 2x2 Matrices to identify similarities in personality traits and motivations. These frameworks were helpful in creating our 3 customer personas that represent our stakeholder group: Scholar Sam, Dutiful Dakota, and Pioneer Peyton.
Ocean Attribute Spectrum
2x2 Matrices and Customer Personas
The 2x2 matrices had the following axis labels:
Seeking Good or Avoiding Bad vs Serve Public Directly or Serve Organization
Ego Syntonic (consistent with ones self image) or Ego Dystonic (conflicts with ones self image) vs Reactive or Proactive work
High or Low Openness to Experience vs Same Daily Routine or Everyday is Different
My team created 3 personas from the customer group we engaged with:
Just received their PHD in environmental studies. Seeks to make information accessible and to educate others
Introverted, frustrated with the lack of caring from some park users, wants to educate over punish and penalize
Wants to continue their studies and gain information about the land and also do the things they enjoy doing
Monitors the land and collects data for organization
"I feel sad when people don't listen to my advice for safety"
"I ended up talking about black bears for an hour and I loved how excited [the park users] were"
In their late 30's with prior experience in management and business.
Parts of their job are definitely mundane- but they get through it each day knowing that they're part of a bigger mission
Wants to serve the greater good and finish the job right. Is a follower and fits in the system
Facilities, maintenance, reporting, is almost always on-call
"If there's a toilet that's clogged, they call me before a contractor- it's part of the job"
"Being part of a much grander thing is inspiring"
Has been working as a ranger for a few year, but just early accepted a management position so they can do more to act
Wants to improve others' quality of life and institute direct change
Risk taking, embraces change, will go above and beyond at their own self-expense
Works as authority, outreach, and carries lots of responsibility
"Everyday is different and I love it"
"I'm going out there engaging with people and having a positive impact"
Phase 2: Conceptualize
In this phase, we started by identifying areas of opportunity that we could explore for our design solutions. These areas were pulled directly from themes of challenges our customers face in their daily work that we identified in our findings during the previous phase. My team then challenged ourselves to generate 100 broad ideas that we plotted using the Fanciful Horizon method to easily see what ideas are bold to push our thinking in lateral and impactful ways. We then created gallery sketches for several ideas that we wanted to test with our customer group.
Areas of Opportunity
100 Ideas Challenge
We conducted 5 different co-design sessions with our customers. The goals of these meetings were to receive feedback on preliminary ideas that we ideated as a team and to provide opportunities for our stakeholders to be part of the design process. The methods that we used were Card Sorting and Props to gain a deeper understanding on values that our stakeholders have and to allow them to try out and engage with some of our design ideas. Our co-designs took place in person or over Zoom and on Miro.
We debriefed our co-design sessions as a team and incorporated the feedback to continue refining and generating idea. By the end of the phase, we had 9 bold ideas represented as a gallery sketch that was build upon our personas, values, areas of opportunity, and co-design sessions. These 9 ideas are categorized into 3 broader convergent directions: Documentation and Accessibility of Information, Park User Safety, and Waste Management.
Co-design Debrief and Materials
Design Review Presentation
Phase 3: Develop
Choose a Design Idea
The focus of the final phase was to choose a conceptual idea and to further develop it into a detailed design proposal. My team first started by choosing one of the 3 directions we had identified in the previous phase. We chose to develop an idea in the Waste Management direction because one of our designer values was to push our creativity in designing a bold idea and to work on something physical and tangible, as opposed to an app.
Once we narrowed down the direction to pursue, we spent several meetings diverging our ideas once again and holding several discussions to choose the design we wanted to develop. Our final design idea was a waste management device that utilizes mushroom spores that biodegrade trash.
Waste Management Ideation
Establish Design Details
The next step was to establish the form, scale, and interfaces of our design. We created a Requirements Table that outlined several requirements of all our customers that our product would need to meet with a focus on the Function, Character, and Interaction of the design. The Requirements Table included needs of the 3 main stakeholders affected by this product: Park workers, Park users, and the ecosystem where the product is used.
To further assist the development of design details, we created a broad interaction map and journey map, created sketch models of the product interface, and connected back to our customer personas.
User Journey Map and Broad Interaction Map
Product Sketch Model