Exploring Furniture Reuse

Process Documentation for Service Design

Lisa Otto
12 min readFeb 21, 2016

Team: Chris Feng, Saumya Kharbanda, Lisa Otto, & Hannah Rosenfeld

Project Brief: This is a 9(ish)-week project, in which you design and prototype your own service. The theme for the class is Fixing What’s Broken: service design for support.

This is written in reverse chronological order. The most top entry is the most recent.

Final Weeks (5/1/16)

Over the final couple of weeks we worked on putting together our service from all of our research findings. We decided to focus on supporting people who were transitioning life phases. Even though in the beginning our participants often strayed away from logistics as key pain points, once we became concrete with our features it became clear to us that removing logistical friction was going to be the biggest selling point for our market.

So we’d like to introduce Settle.

Week 9 (4/16/16)

This week we did 15 minute design prototyping sprints with Mark Jones of United Healthcare. We had classmates engage in a rapid prototype of the negotiation portion of the process to test our hypothesis around bulk buying. It quickly became clear that we needed a more nuanced understanding of bulk because immediately our ‘buyer’ focused in on one individual item rather than the set of items for sale.

Overall much of this week was spent prepping digital InVision prototypes of the web and mobile platform for testing with potential customers. We conducted sessions with two parents with children who had outgrown their baby furniture and clothes. And so they were both familiar with the buying and selling process involved with those items.

Digital Prototype Sessions with Potential Customers

Because the value proposition around bulk buying and selling is still in flux, we were using the prototypes not for usability as they are often used but to probe customers for responses on usefulness. We had a clickable browser wireframe of the listing search page and a mobile wireframe for the payment process. We received some useful feedback from our participants. Some highlights:

  • You don’t always have a clear idea of what you’ll need when you’re looking for baby items (“round ideas”) so it’s hard to put that into a listing that pulls up ‘relevant posts’. A search box you continually refine might be more useful.
  • While ‘bulk’ buying is useful for the seller, it might not be for the buyer. → is there a way for the seller to bulk upload and the buyer to easily select individual items to buy (‘annotated photo’)?
  • Is there a consistent piece that can be printed out for comparison between clothes or other items i.e. a measure?
  • Public Q & A keeps a seller from having to repeat answers.
  • No interest in using the tool to mediate or support negotiation.

Week 8 (4/5/16)

We’ve been working on drafts of our journey map/service blueprint and stakeholder maps this week. We blended the journey map with a service blueprint so that we could see how our two customer types’ journeys match up.

Digital draft of the journey map / service blueprint

We also worked through a stakeholder map (that blended in value flows) so we could understand our key players and competitors.

Digital draft of the stakeholder map
Whiteboard drafts of maps
Early flow sketches

After receiving feedback from the class, we started diving into wireframes for the platform. We know that a key component of the service will be allowing bulk item buying and selling and so we have been thinking through the designs that would best allow that. Mainly our discussion has centered around how much information is necessary for sellers to upload for the buyers to engage. It’s a huge burden for sellers to upload photos and prices for every item when they are selling in ‘bulk’ so we are exploring if we can encourage sellers to just give buyers a ‘taste’ and then push them both into conversation/negotiation.

We also know that the free transportation is a huge value to both parties and we are hoping we can use that to encourage people to pay in app in order to sustain our business model (fee based).

We’re prepping for a ‘user’ testing workshop next week where we run potential sellers through wireframe flows of the platform.

Week 7 (4/1/16)

We spent most of this week developing and conducting workshops to get feedback on our proposed service around trading life phases through things. We found two possible customer groups that we could access — college students who are soon moving to a new city and will need furniture to set up their new apartments (buyers) and parents whose children have out grown their baby things (sellers). While these two groups won’t sell or trade to each other, we thought we could test with both, get different prospectives and begin to see who the service would be appealing to.

Workshop participants interacting with the profiles.

We had both groups read through (and watch) fake profiles with varying levels of personal detail to get a sense of how important or valuable the social aspect of the service could be. We found was that too many personal details about the seller or buyer was a “time suck.” However, both parties found trust to be a very important issue.

Workshop participants completing the service scenarios.

We also had both groups complete a service scenario story. We had them pick three touchpoints from collection we provided in order to understand their biggest pain points and what particular services they found most desirable. Perhaps unsurprisingly nearly everyone, indicated that free transportation of the goods would alleviate a huge friction point in the current process. Also, people had little desire to spend time getting to know the buyer or seller, though many spoke positively about knowing that the goods went to a ‘good’ home rather than the black hole of good will.

Another aspect of the trading life phases concept that was revealed to us was that current tools do not support batch item sale and purchase. Several spoke about the difficulty of coordinating large quantity sales. This is also perhaps another are of focus for our service.

Going forward, we are going synthesize how these findings could concretely manifest in the service. We plan on mapping the service so we can get a better understanding of the end to end flow. Then, we hope to prototype wireframes of the platform with potential users to test how that aspect will work.

Week 6 (3/25/16)

This week we took the research and findings from earlier and tried to come up with concrete services that we could start testing with potential customers. Early in the week we thought we should pick one of our concepts to use as a jumping off point. Since we had very positive responsive in class on the ‘network things’ concept (the VP that objects could maintain their history in should way to ease the pain of getting rid of them), we brainstormed manifestations of that concept.

Mapping our concrete service ideas based off of the ‘network things’ concept

But we went back to one of our potential users who was in the process of downsizing, she had a very negative reaction to the concept; she brought up the issue that at her stage of life she did not want to hold onto objects. She wants to come to terms with loss. It became clear to us that particular mindsets during life stages was a key factor in considering who the service would appeal to.

Developing the scenarios to speed date with potential customers.

After a lecture from Simon King on prototyping, we thought the best way to proceed would to try out different scenarios to see what would be desirable to our potential customers and what would be pushing too far. This freed us up from worrying about coming up with the perfect service to test before we had brought ideas to our audience. Each scenario could test one idea or question we had rather than thinking through an entire service.

Speed dating scenario sessions
Organizing the notes from the scenario workshops to find patterns.

We went through the scenarios with 4 CMU professors or staff members who had currently ‘established homes’ and who had moved several times in their lives. After pinning the scenarios up and mapping the responses we started to see several patterns emerge. One in particular was that there was a definite interest in the ‘tracking’ scenario. But while the scenario depicted a location tracker, people were interested in understanding the context that the object was going to be used in. We started thinking about this in terms of life phases. People had used these objects during one life phase and they were interested in seeing them go to someone else who was currently in that life phase.

This led us to start conceptualizing a service around the idea of connecting people moving out of one life phase and needing to shed those items with people who were moving into that life phase and needed those items (i.e. a downsizing couple and a family moving into a home from a homeless shelter, a newlywed couple and a graduating college student looking for their first apartment).

Going forward, we plan on developing some lo-fi prototypes to test more of our assumptions about this service. While the service could probably service different groups transitioning from life phases, to begin prototyping, we think it’s important to pick the two constitutes that could serve as the core of the service.

Week 5 (3/18/16)

Before we left on spring break, the team decided to focus the project on the evaluation side of the process. Over spring break we worked on refining the journey map:

When we returned from spring break, we worked with a service model canvas to help us frame the service we might offer based on our conception of the existing process.

Although we felt that the service model canvas might have been a little more helpful further along in the ideation process, once we had isolated a service to focus on, it did help us identify two potential value-proposition-based services.

In the first model, called hoarders and sorters, we were working with a value proposition of helping people negotiate changing values as they get rid of ‘things.’ To do this, we planned on connecting hoarders (or downsizers, really) with sorters (people who wanted things). In the second model, called network of things, (which people seemed to respond to more strongly, so it’s probably the direction we’ll head in), we were working with a value proposition of maintaining the history of the ‘things’ people were getting rid of. To do this, we were looking at some way that the ‘thing’ might reach out from the future to let its previous owner know how it’s doing.

Week 3 (3/5/16)

This week we’ve been working on narrowing down our topic area. Though we began thinking about furniture reuse, we started hearing from interviews that the friction lay with smaller to mid-sized items that were often wrapped up in sentimentality or were just too much of a burden to sort through or dispose of sustainably. We created a map of the the values and issues that arise during this process:

How does the issue of item disposal during downsizing arise?

We also created a journey map that takes what we have heard in the interviews and maps it onto a timeline. Using this we’ve found and area where we believe our service would be useful — the period of emotion decision making. We’ve also realized that there are two components to that process that a service could entail — 1) helping a customer decide what items to keep or discard and 2) how to keep or discard items (depicted as two channels on the journey map). At this point we’re not certain which or if our service will cover both of the problem areas but we are leaning toward the first.

This img is a placeholder until chris uploads the higher res version

After one of the calls, we realized how many different categories your possessions can fall into when you’re trying to make the decision if they should come with you or not when you move. We mapped out the types of items (relating to the reason why they might keep or get rid of it) that our interviewees described :

Mapping out the types of items that people must deal with when they downsize

Later, once we had completed the journey map, we also brainstormed on the value propositions that were present in a potential service. What we determined is that while we could conceive of several potential values, we didn’t know if these would be desirable to our core audience (i.e. while this might be a positive potential outcome of the service, is this something that the audience is aware of and desiring?). We decided that these value propositions are definitely something we will need to trial and validate going forward.

Week 2 (2/27/16)

Secondary Research

Stuff it: Millennials nix their parents’ treasures

What to Do With Mother’s Stuff?

The Tyranny of the Heirloom


We did several Skype interviews this week with people who had downsized themselves or had helped grandparents downsize into retirement homes:

Judy Whalley | downsized from home in the suburbs to urban townhouse

Nathan Reimer | helped clear his grandmother’s apartment after she had moved into an assisted living facility

Susan Friedman | preparing her home to sell in order to downsize

Vicki Robinson | preparing her home to sell in order to downsize

Gazal Bawa | worked for a company that took broken furniture and rehab-ed it into contemporary-styled furniture

Margee Kerr | gen Xer that downsized from townhouse to a condo

Week 1 (2/21/2016)

This week we started defining our territory and started to brainstorm stakeholders in our particular territory. We visited Construction Junction and the Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse to get a sense of organizations and services already working in these space to see if there were areas not being addressed.

Construction Junction:

We talked with Michael P. who worked at Construction Junction for while. He seemed enthusiastic to help and suggestion a few contacts at the organization that could get us more info:

  • Terry Wiles, Community Outreach Coordinator — responsible for handling demolition and haul of building materials
  • Mike Gable, Executive Director

He also suggested a few other organization that were doing similar work:

  • Habitat for Humanity Re Store
  • Free Ride — BYOBike

Apparently, CMU architecture (maybe) is already working on a year-long project to offer intensive DIY repair and construction classes in the Construction Junction space (and it might be worth looking into the project to get more details).

Territory Ideas:

  • Upholstery and Upholstered goods
  • Delivery / Transport
  • Repair
  • Make it Yourself — Free Bike Inspired (provide tools and instruction, bring your thing to fix)

Places of Interest / Potential Interviewees:

  • Furnished rentals
  • Eviction
  • Storage Units
  • Estate Sales
  • Moving
  • Retirement Homes
  • Sample Sales
  • Damaged Goods — Delivered furniture
  • Furniture Repairpeople
  • Shoe Repair
  • Re-upholstery
  • IKEA
  • Antique Stores



Lisa Otto

MDes in Interaction Design Candidate at CMU. portfolio: lisaot.to