feeding america

 
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Experience Prototyping

 

Winter 2018
service design studio

skills utilized:
+ low-fi prototyping
+ user research
+ persona generation
+ service blueprinting
+ visual storytelling
+ Adobe suite
+ sketching
+ video editing
 

We were tasked by Feeding America to develop revolutionary methods for getting rescued, non-perishable food from retailers directly to end users with food insecurities. Our team set out to find ways to meet the user along their daily path with food, rather than ask them to conform to the set schedules and locations of the current food rescue model. I took point position on prototyping experiences to test for usability, sensitivity, and appeal for end users. I also led the development of visual storytelling materials illustrate our solution to the client. We are excited to say we developed a unique solution that will soon be presented to executives at Feeding America!

 

 

Empathizing and brainstorming

Throughout my work I make sure to establish a vivid and grounded sense of empathy with the users of whatever I may be building. Decisions, especially in dealing with issues as sensitive as food insecurity, must be handled with care and utmost respect for the true needs of the people using this service, which is why I made sure to conduct multiple visits and interviews in investigating stakeholder needs. I connected with individuals rescuing food from grocery stores, those managing the stores, people organizing food agencies, and those experiencing food insecurity. 

In our brainstorming process, our team identified one common issue held by many of our interviewees - accessing food from agencies can be inconvenient, especially if one is limited by time, transportation, resources, health, housing or any other reason. We thought of the daily path many people described to us, and wondered: How might we utilize these existing routines to make receiving food more convenient? It was this insight-turned-question that launched us into developing our first prototypes.

 
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Building Life-sized experiences

How might we welcome deviations in your routine?
Food packs distributed through health clinics, SNAP offices, post offices, etc. could provide people with food in a discrete and convenient way.

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How might we bring food to where you are?
A food truck comprised of lockers filled with non-perishable, ready-to-eat meals and a small cooking station could give people a hot meal where one would normally be inaccessible due to time or resource constraints.

How might we create a grab-and-go food experience?
Integrating food distribution into current infrastructure, like the mailbox shown below,  could allow people to easily find food on their daily commute.

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How might we integrate solutions into a larger support system?
A paper or digital map could be included with any of these solutions to point out nearby locations of other food, health, and family services, as well as locations significant to the users of that area's daily commute.

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Specifying and testing

The above solutions were presented as an interactive walk-through to Feeding America and Greater Chicago Food Depository, garnering enthusiasm for the potential our progress holds. Through collecting feedback from our clients, the team steered towards further development of the truck model, with particular emphasis on how lockers may include elements of choice and dignity to the process of receiving food. 

I led the construction of a unit of lockers that can be easily transported and filled with food. It can also contain an iPad that will step potential users through using them, which were tested against a human companion to the lockers, to gauge user comfort with the inclusion of human contact or contact with technology.

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We took the lockers to several public places including CTA stations and libraries to test their potential success. Surveys were distributed with each piece of food to gauge overall attitude, and collect feedback. By allowing time for the lockers to sit by themselves, and be attended by team members (see picture),  we were able to study customers' reactions to both methods of interaction.

Overall, our testing revealed that choice, both in type of interaction and type of food, played an immense role in the satisfaction customers felt in using our concepts. However, we found these interactions must also be built on trust - a new element that re-framed our problem.

 
 
 

Delivering and Storytelling

After completing our field research, we were able to synthesize our results into actionable goals for the realization of a complete service. The culmination of our findings gave rise to enRoute, a food locker truck-based service that envisions a future where people need a meal can find one along their daily route. This new service will allow Feeding America to serve a greater percentage of their target population by meeting people with food insecurity where they are, rather than the other way around.

In developing the final deliverables for our client, I illustrated a storyboard and created an animated short to concisely guide the clients through key features of our service. (check out the video below!) Throughout the creation of these materials, I was able to coordinate a unified vision and aesthetic for my team, and help focus our enthusiasm towards telling our story in the most compelling way possible. The design was praised for its empathy,  close attention to user needs, and flexibility, and will be presented to Feeding America executives in the coming months.

During user testing, a neighbor left an anonymous survey response, saying that the meal they received from our lockers gave them hope. This struck our team with the harsh realities of food insecurity, but also made us all the more determined to give Feeding America and Greater Chicago Food Depository a service that could give hope to many more people.

 
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