Green Shift

πŸƒ Shift industrial designers' material selections greener

πŸ“… Year: 2021 Fall

⚑️ Contributions: User Research, Wireframes, Prototyping, Usability Testing

πŸ’» Software: Figma, Miro

Design a product that makes the world a more sustainable place? What's a better way to reduce environmental pollution than making consumer products greener? 🌱

01 | Here and Now, Sustainability!

Not to anyone's surprise, research has shown that consumers are more likely to buy products that are environmentally friendly. People's environmental awareness has influenced many business decisions.

02 | So How? - Ideation

Yes, I know, sustainability is such a broad topic. Our team brainstormed a lot of products that are centered around how consumers can purchase more environment-friendly products or recycle materials more efficiently.


Then we looked harder at the root of consumer waste and recognized that it's the industrial designers who can decide the total carbon footprint of a product. So, we believe that the best way to benefit the environment is to help industrial designers use more sustainable materials in their designs.

We aim to educate and encourage industrial design students to learn more about sustainable materials and how to utilize them.

03 | Know Your Users πŸ‘©πŸ»β€πŸ’»

So - industrial design students. Who are they? What user characteristics do they have? We did our first round of preliminary research and concluded that they are

  1. students pursuing a career path in industrial design

  2. intrinsically motivated to design more sustainable products

  3. people with a high technological affinity

  4. college or graduate students with possibly limited financial resources

04 | Existing products

We want to know how do industrial designers choose materials. What material properties do they consider, where do such products fit into their design process. We can also learn the interface our users are already used to.

We found five existing products that industrial designers use to choose materials.

  1. SOLIDWORKS

  2. OpenLCA

  3. Material ConneXion

  4. ARrchiCAD EcoDesigner STAR

  5. MatWeb Online Materials Database

All of those products have great features we can learn from - allowing users to import datasets to make the app extensible; displaying example products to inspire designers.

However, none of them address the immediate need to make it easy to switch to greener materials or discover new sustainable products. The most common flaws among them are low usability and the lack of comparison between materials.

05 | Find Out What They Want - User Research & Insights

Research Methods

  1. Expert Interview

We interviewed two professors from the school of industrial design and one graduate student who has worked for several years as an industrial designer.

Those experienced designers gave us an overview of industrial designers' working processes - what tools they use, their design thinking process, how they choose materials, and what problems they face when they want to switch materials.

  1. Novice User Interview

We interviewed three senior industrial design students. We learned how entry-level designers think differently than experienced, and what they take into account when choosing materials.

Key findings from the affinity map

3. Survey

We want to take advantage of the larger sample size from surveys to validate our findings from the interviews, as well as to cover topics not covered enough in previous interviews. Having a larger sample size helps to generalize our findings to the population of ID students. Using convenience sampling and posting it on places such as Reddit and GT slack channels, we gathered 25 responses.


🧐 Research Findings

πŸ’‘ Design Implications for Future Product

  1. Allows users to learn about materials

  2. Compares materials in different dimensions

  3. Recommends sustainable substitutes

  4. Inspires designers with new materials

  5. Easy to use, visually appealing, and calming

  6. Promotes a sustainable mindset

06 | Visual Design 🎨

07 | User Flow πŸ€“

  1. Finding materials

05 | User Flo

2. Adding materials to "My Materials" Library

3. Viewing sustainable substitutes for materials

4. Compare properties of one or more materials

5. Acquiring samples

08 | Interactive Prototype


09 | Design Evaluation


Moderated Usability Testing

Usability testing is essential to our iterative design process. It helps us identify any user flows that are confusing to new users, and expose any blind spots of designers.

Participants:

4 industrial design students

Procedures:

  1. Ask participants to think aloud when they explore the user flows

  2. Take notes of any user behavior that we did not expect.

  3. Ask follow-up questions based on participants' comments on the product

  4. Ask participants to rate or comment on their overall experience with the pro


Heuristic Evaluation

Participants:

We recruited 4 HCI experts (HCI professors at Georgia Tech) to give us feedback on the overall product design and user flow.


Procedure:

  1. A quick intro to our product's background, target users, and purpose.

  2. Participants explore the prototype.

  3. Ask participants to rate our products based on each of Nielen's 10 usability heuristics for user interface design.


10 | Takeaways

In this project, I learned how to do user research in a field outside of my comfort zone - industrial design. In hindsight, this unfamiliarity makes me completely open to users' data and feedback and flexible in my design. Teammates' perspectives also become rocks that I can bounce ideas. I enjoyed being open to every design possibility through each iteration process! πŸŽ‰