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Branding: EcoEat

MY ROLE: Main Designer and participated in research

TIMEFRAME: May 2023 - July 2023

CLASS: Brand and Value Creation

TOOLS USED: Interviews, Persona, Journey Maps, Wireframing, User Testing, Figma, and Photoshop


Student centers at U.S. colleges offer a range of food choices to both students and faculty, enhancing the convenience of dining on campus. However, a notable issue is that some food vendors in these centers use non-decomposable food containers, leading to an increase in plastic waste. The primary objective is to minimize the use of plastic food packaging in student centers, thereby promoting a more sustainable and environmentally friendly campus environment.

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Problem Statement

How might we provide more sustainable food packaging, encourage students to properly recycle plastic food packaging, and build an eco-friendly campus?


We designed the solution as EcoEat, a kiosk machine placed adjacent to recycling bins at student centers. Its function is twofold: to guide students through the correct steps of recycling plastic food packaging and to motivate them to patronize food vendors who predominantly use sustainable packaging. This initiative not only educates students about responsible recycling practices but also fosters a culture of sustainability within campus food services.

Support Eco-friendly vendors

Students can discover sustainable food vendors via the kiosk's ranking system, which highlights those committed to eco-friendly practices. By choosing to support these vendors, students are rewarded with dining bonuses, encouraging a culture of sustainability within their food choices.

Learn about plastic recycling

At the kiosk, students can scan their food containers and receive step-by-step instructions on how to appropriately recycle them using the adjacent trash cans. This process not only facilitates proper recycling practices but also educates students on sustainable waste management. 

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Let me introduce the process of research and design that led us to our solution. To gain a comprehensive understanding of current market solutions for plastic food packaging and to delve into stakeholders' expectations, concerns, and needs, a multifaceted research strategy was adopted. This included conducting user interviews, creating empathy maps, developing an ecosystem map, crafting personas, utilizing a business model canvas, and mapping out both 'as-is' and 'to-be' journey maps.


The research plan involved interviewing six key figures (a school administrator, a custodial staff member, a student, a dining center supervisor, a student organization leader, and a food provider) to represent diverse viewpoints in the plastic recycling process. Tailored interview guides were prepared, with sections corresponding to different topics of interest. Each section included a comprehensive set of questions addressing areas of curiosity.

These six interviews were conducted through both in-person and online meetings. Questions were posed according to the interview guides, with additional inquiries made as relevant to the flow of the conversation. The guides served as a useful tool to ensure all critical topics were addressed during the interviews.

Empathy Maps

After conducting the interviews, the gathered data was systematically organized into empathy maps to create a comprehensive overview of the users and stakeholders, focusing on aspects like their thoughts, actions, feelings, and statements, as well as their pains and gains. This method offered deeper insights into three key groups: students, school administration, and food vendors.

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Ecosystem Map

Following the preliminary research, the next step was to meticulously identify and chart the key roles influencing the user, the organization, and the service environment. To achieve this, an ecosystem map was crafted, aimed at mapping out the various stakeholders and the types of value exchanges between them. This tool was essential in uncovering existing gaps in the system and in pinpointing areas where collaborative efforts could be enhanced or established.

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To ensure our designs were user-centric and informed by real-life contexts and challenges, we developed personas representing three specific user types: students, school administrators, and food vendors. These personas were crafted to encapsulate the distinct behaviors and characteristics of each group. By creating these detailed models, we aimed to forge reliable and realistic representations of our primary customer segments.

As-Is Journey Map

To thoroughly understand the current experience of our three chosen personas – students, school administrators, and food vendors – we documented their existing journey, meticulously analyzing the underlying pain points and potential gains. This 'as-is' journey map was instrumental in creating a deep insight into the customer experience, highlighting areas ripe for improvement.

To-Be Journey Map

In addition to the 'as-is' journey map, a 'to-be' journey map was also developed. This map projected an ideal future state, focusing on the improvements and changes necessary to enhance each persona's overall experience. Comparing the 'as-is' with the 'to-be' journey maps facilitated a clear understanding of both the current customer experience and the envisioned improvements.

This approach was key in pinpointing specific intervention areas to effectively address pain points while optimizing potential gains. It guided strategic planning and development to ensure alignment with the needs and expectations of users in the context of plastic packaging and recycling.



Based on the insights from the journey map, key actions in the plastic food packaging lifecycle were pinpointed. I created a storyboard to illustrate the key actions in the plastic food packaging lifecycle, as identified from the journey map. This storyboard depicts a student engaging with a campus recycling service, specifically showing the student scanning an empty coffee cup at a machine. The machine then evaluates and displays the sustainability level of the container, highlighting the student's role in the recycling process. This visual narrative demonstrates how students can actively participate in and contribute to recycling efforts on campus.

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The complex actions involved in plastic recycling were simplified and translated into user-friendly interfaces, designed as low-fidelity prototypes on Figma. This approach allowed for the creation of a basic layout suitable for user testing, enabling the gathering of feedback on the initial design concept. This step was crucial in ensuring that the interfaces were both intuitive and effective, laying a solid foundation for further refinement based on user input.

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Iterative Testing

To validate the prototype, a usability testing session was arranged, involving two target users who are students at Georgia Tech. The session was conducted via Zoom, with the prototype shared on-screen for the participants to review.


Initially, two questions were asked to gauge the participants' background in recycling. Following this, the prototype was presented, allowing the students to cognitively walk through the wireframe and express their thoughts and reactions. Subsequently, seven targeted follow-up questions were posed to elicit specific feedback on certain features of the prototype that were of particular interest or concern.

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Key Findings

The user feedback from the testing sessions was distilled into five principal insights, encompassing both positive aspects and areas needing enhancement. These insights are summarized as follows:

1. Empowerment

The machine boosted users' confidence in correctly recycling food containers.

2. Motivation

The scanning feature was highly effective in motivating users to recycle their food containers.

3. Interface Design

While the user interface was praised for its cleanliness, intuitiveness, and eco-friendliness, there is room for minor improvements through iteration.

4. Process Efficiency

Although users appreciated the workflow's straightforwardness, further streamlining could enhance the user experience.

5. Rating System Perception

The current rating system was perceived as subjective, leading to skepticism among users about its accuracy.


Revision Plan

In light of the key findings from our research, the following points have been identified for product iteration. These will serve as a roadmap for refining the design in the next phase:

1. Uniform Visuals

Improving visual appeal and readability by ensuring uniformity in font use throughout the design.

2. Product Naming

Choosing a product name that is both memorable and descriptive, clearly reflecting the design's functionality.

3. Leaderboard Design

Redesigning the leaderboard to achieve visual consistency and improve user readability.

4. Enhanced Rewards

Refining the reward system to safeguard user account information and offering customizable incentives to encourage user participation.

5. Simplified Instructions

Ensuring that recycling instructions are concise and straightforward, facilitating easy comprehension and adherence by users.

6. Educational Integration

Incorporating educational elements about plastic recycling more effectively, possibly by adding relevant information at the conclusion of the process.


To align with the specified requirements, a comprehensive branding guide was developed, detailing key elements such as color schemes, typography, and messaging to ensure consistency and clarity in the product's identity and communication.

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Final 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.

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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.

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