HPW project- Photolog+processbook

How would we repurpose unwanted items for CMU students?

Jenny L
Jenny L
Oct 9, 2019 · 15 min read

Starting the project

The ‘how might we’ questions

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initial how might we questions

Among these, we think the ID card one and repurposing unwanted items have the most potential since we have past experiences regarding these two topics, hence feel more connected to them. Yet we have to choose one from the two ↓

ID card: this is not necessarily an issue, but it is something that could be improved. And not all group members strongly feel the ID card is a burden to them. Plus, the ID card (and its usages) is embedded in a much larger and complex digital student information system. We are uncertain if we can explore this in-depth in the time span allocated to the project.

Repurposing: We all experienced moving into and out of CMU dorms. And we all remembered how much stuff we have to discard due to the one-year limit campus housing and our carfree consumption habit. In fact, getting and discarding items is still an issue for upper-class students. There should be a couple of drives/ programs that organize 2nd hand trade and donations at CMU, but we only have obscure impressions of them. (roughly know they belong to the office of residential education and CMU housing) Yet this knowledge gives us an entry point and some existing mental models. We feel we can get a more solid stat if we pick this topic.

draft- proposal poster

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notes taken during a group meeting

As a group, we mainly discussed what made the topic interesting and what is the core problem:

Despite the great need for a designed system dedicated to exchanging/repurposing unwanted items, current good exchange activities are mostly self-organized. Such a form of exchange leads to safety and quality concerns. From the human perspective, there are people in need of these almost new objects. Having unwanted belongings donated could dramatically improve other people’s living conditions. Another issue is from an environmental perspective. The object’s production has cost so many resources. If the object is discarded after a short life span, according to the linear consumption model, the earth’s resources will be depleted.
Finally, although not a problem, having such a system would help build a shared, campus-wide mental model of sustainability. The design would shape CMU students’ worldview on disposal and consumption.

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different versions of poster layout
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re-wording the text + fixing grammar

Final poster

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This is the final proposal poster. We decided to place the graphic up-side-down since we wanted to convey the feeling of ‘ almost-new stuff overflowing’.
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The project canvas ↑

Mapping the core stakeholder: how to categorize students?

Writing up the text of the poster helped us to identify some stakeholders other than CMU students. And we realized, the ‘CMU student’ group can be further subdivided, (in many ways!).

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roughly illustrating three kinds of classifications that we can use to map out different kinds of students — A. by needs, B. by location, C by year.

Firstly students can be divided according to their needs. So we’ll have two groups: students want stuff, and students have too much stuff. But who are these students in each group? Based on our current mental model, Freshman would be classified in both depends on what time of the year it is. But graduating seniors students may only want to reduce their personal belongings.

Such thoughts led us to the 2nd classification: by year. As mentioned, freshmen and seniors have drastically different needs, but both are in large quantities. For sophomores and juniors, good traveling in and out may happen more spontaneously, at a small scale each time. Adopting this categorization method also leads us to look at ‘time’ — when do these exchanges happen? (will talk more about this later in the post)

And the final way is divided by location: is the students international, in the US, in PS or in Pittsburgh. We think students from further locations might face more diffculties in both acquiring and discarding belongings.

The time factor?

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Our current mental model on time vs. the quantity of personal belonging. For freshmen, there would be huge growth and drop at the beginning and end of the year. For upper-class students, the pattern is more spontaneous. Seniors probably won’t increase their belonging size throughout their final year at CMU, and they probably have the need to abandon some college-use stuff around mid-May.

Stakeholder maps

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In class stakeholder mapping activity
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roughly digitized stakeholder map. ←external stakeholders included; →stakeholders that are internal to cmu only

The first round of research

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meeting notes: ←the content of the presentation ↑speaking order →a rough goal-orientated map

Today’s meeting we discussed the contents and speaking order of the presentation. We also all agreed upon a timeline, but the time of later stages might depend on the result of earlier steps. For instance, the time for ‘making low-fi prototype’ would highly vary depends on what kind of solution our users prefer, which we can only know after we do the previous voting step.

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Our Calendar for the project ↑

The proposal presentation

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feedbacks from instructors and peers

Overall the presentation went well we’d like to incorporate valuable feedback we got today. Especially the bit from Sofia. She mentioned we shall consider the stigma of 2nd hand things. Maybe this is an area for more 2ndary research. However, we wonder are there any currently successful designs regarding this? Francis mentioned the ‘reuse conference at Phipps. We’ll include this as part of our research.

Research — Time-elapsed camera

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raw data gathering — observation

Something we instantly noticed is that most users of the giving wall are CMU staff working at UC. Their actions suggested that they are quite acquainted with space (used it quite often). People are not quite comfortable for us to observe them taking things from the wall. They look around before approaching the space and then search/ examine/take quickly before walk away, hiding the item they just took. For us, this suggested people feel ashamed by having to take stuff from the wall. No students used the wall when we were there. We wonder what will the camera tell us.

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An example of raw data of Oct.29th

After retrieving the footage, we looked through them, recording each and every interacting with the wall. one limitation of this method is that sometimes people the item they took, hence we are not sure what exactly do they took from the wall. Taking this limitation into consideration, we complemented this method with onsite observation.

So here are a couple of findings/insights:

  • One reason that the wall is not organized is due to a lack of item catalog. Users have to look through everything to see there are these things. And they often do not bother to put things back. A ‘menu’ that hangs beside the wall for users to read would solve the problem. But the issue is: who is in charge of log items on the catalogs and cross them off?
  • A possible reason students are not willing to use the wall is the un-inviting appearance. Students who used the wall only checked the upper levels of the wall, which happen to be the tidier part. Simply give the wall a new look, and keep it organized would encourage sustainable living culture.
  • Students and teaching staff are interested in books, not clothing. Suggesting a weaker stigma against 2nd hand things. (research about 2nd hand textbook systems at universities ?)
  • We see a clear time patten. The wall is used more frequently at lunchtime and after dinner time. More of this will be demonstrated in data visualizations later in this post.

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Research — Observation

Check Yoo jin’s medium!

Research — Interviews

Emily’s interviews with RAs & students & housing!

Research — Secondary

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Yufei’s research on existing solutions

We had an extend group meeting onNov2nd. All group members shared their research methods, results, and insights. We are able to compare and contrast our data. We can see some strong relationships even before we visualized the data. We alos ran in some issues during the meeting: there are too many possible correlations that we can talk about in our visualizations. If we only focus on the strong relationships, are we ignoring the minority users of the giving wall (overgeneralization issue )? And correlation doesn’t equate to causation? how can we justify some of our assumptions?

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Some of my meeting notes ↑

The meeting some of the issues mentioned above. After discussion, we decided to focus on time, kind of item and perceptual information since we are abundant with these data (thus the result is likely to be accurate).

Regarding the assumptions, we decided those shall be sorted out in the 2nd round of research. Before that, we would like to narrow the kind of item we are dealing with one specific category since our research suggests the same person’s stigma of 2nd hand items often depends on what item it is. For instance, old books have extra values since they have been owned, have a previous story attached to them. However, not many people consider 2nd hand cloths as more valuable since hygiene and trend issues. The 2nd hand exchange system for these toe items shall be very different due people’s mental model of the world. Considering this, we’d like to focus on a specific category to do further researches.

Translating raw data into Data Vis

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The change usage rate of the giving wall throughout 24 hours (based on camera and observation)
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A group pf data vis: Distribution of items vs. cleanness of each area vs. interaction level

We tried to overlap the three visualizations of the giving wall. Two kinds of items jump out at us instantly. One is book. They gain the most attention and interaction on the giving wall. And the stationaries are also the most organized among all areas on the giving wall (best hygiene). We think the reason is, firstly, books shapes and material made them easy to organize. Secondly, books are organized in a manner that they are easy to browse. When one walk passes by the shelf, with little attention, they can notice (probably read) the title of the books there to themselves (since we are too used to reading words, it become an automatic reflex). On the other hand, other items are hard to browse. One has to spend longer time to search through the pile of items there in order to see what is actually there. Such searching behavior often causes the unorganized, hard-to-browse pile of stuff even harder to access and less attractive (vicious positive feedback loop).

Clothing items receive the least amount of attention from students and occupies the messiest area on the giving wall. And according to the interviewers, Issues regarding excessive cloth seems really serious. The housing community has no effective current solutions for clothes other than the whatever-drive (and they are not associated with the giving wall). The drive is only activated at the end of the school year and requires large physical space and labor. The items collected travel out of the CMU community too. Overall clothing seems to suffer the most 2nd hand stuff stigma.

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Overlapping the three visualizations- identified books and clothes as two possible research directions

Meeting with Francis & Eugenia

Here are a couple of feedbacks:

  • Try Affinity mapping for stakeholders, and identify a niche of target stakeholders for the final product.
  • Regarding the 2ndary research, make them into fact-cards/ case study cards is a neat and convincing way of presenting this information.
  • Provide context information for quantitive data. (How did we gain this data? If from the interview, who is the provider? Why is he/she reliable in this context? …)

The 2nd round of research

Deciding a direction?

We decided to take the harder route and try to topple cloth recycling issues. Books already have a couple of existing-working models, plus the issue isn’t as urgent/serious as the clothes. Instead of following the old calendar and send out surveys, we decided to brainstorm some possible ways to deal with the excessive clothing issue. After we reconvened and talked about these potential solutions, we’ll also make a newer plan (calendar).

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My ideas: ← an educational approach & → monthly pop-up thrift cloth sale
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Yufei’s notes
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Yoojin’s notes — hybrid Whatever Drive
  • Emily’s notes: Here

2nd Round of mapping

The group meets again on Nov.9th to discuss the various solutions each of us designed for 2nd hand cloth issues. I commented these solutions feel like ‘playdough’, meaning many of them can be combined together. So instead of discrete small ‘giving walls’, we have a ‘thrift cloth system’ embedded on campus that can long termly foster a more sustainable consumption habit. We think it would be more helpful if we each do one mass map of the thrift cloth system according to our current mental model, but in greater detail compared to the last round. And the system map shall cover multiple locations, stages or approaches regarding the issue. We agreed on keeping them hand-drawn maps since, based on experience, we know digitize system maps and mass maps can be extemtly time-consuming.

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part of our 2nd round maps ↑

The Voting posters

The meetings also helped us to finalize the questions we wanted to ask on the voting posters (Empty posters with questions and choices: here). Students walking pass by these posters can pick a sticker and easily vote with it. Yufei and I will check these posters daily to see if the stickers are used up/ if the space on the posters are full, and do replacement accordingly.

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Stickers & Freshly printed posters
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Collecting data from various on-campus locations ↑
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2nd round of voting poster ↑

Raw data & bar charts

We scattered voting posters with five different questions across various on-campus and off-campus CMU owned locations (e.g. UC, Residence on fifth) and let students passing by voting by putting up stickers. This method of gathering data is very efficient, the way we phrase the questions can significantly impact the voting results.

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Our raw data from the posters, mostly consistent with our assumption other than the ‘selling-by-self question’ ↑

Research summary poster

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the research summary we presented on Nov 18th.

The upper part of the poster covered the research methodologies (how we did the research), the research and the limitations of the methods. We synthesized information gained from multiple research methods and visualized the data to highlight the relationships among them. The lower half of the poster is the direction we are moving in the future. The timeline graph is largely built on Yoo Jin’s 2nd round thrift system map.

Overall this poster is quite text-heavy. We prefer the final poster to be more graphical, which can the information easier to access. However, graphics need more space to communicate the same amount of information. We originally signed up for a poster session for the final poster. Now I am thinking of switching to a presentation session since the process (background) info can be covered in the presentation. Hence the poster space can be fully used to communicate the final solution.

Eugenia‘s feedback

  • The system idea has more space for development compared to the educational approach. However, there could be some educational component added to the thrift system.
  • There are many components to our system idea. For the final poster, cover the whole store arch and dive in one stage of the system and do some detailed design. The pop-up-sell and the permanent store are two sections that we can dive deeper.
  • The current thrift system is still concentrating on buying and selling of cloth, rather than repurposing clothes. Eugenia asked if there are other ways to ‘give cloth 2nd life’. These could be lectures at pop-up sells or workshop sessions held at the physical thrift store before the pop-up sells. (Consider: do we really need both the pop-up and the physical store?)
  • Make the audiences more specific. Maybe build 2–3 personas we are targeting and focusing on their experience.

Next steps toward the final…

We decided to rethink the thrift system and brain-storm some cloth repurposing ideas. Here are some of my ideas:

  • Turn old clothes into rugs/carpets
    (video: DIY rug, DIY ideas for old t-shirts)
  • (Yufei’s idea) make prints on plain/pure color t-shirts, coats
  • Customize 2nd hand cloth workshop at the thrift store
  • Turn old clothes into pets clothes, mats…
  • Old clothes into aprons, oversleeves or wiping cloths
  • Lectures teaching classification of clothes
  • Recycle Button, zip differently (repack and sell at the art store)
    + (disassembled cloth have other uses )

Movie Forward, Yufei and I will work on figuring out a place for the 2nd hand thrift shop and the floor plan for it. Based on the floorplan we will be starting to build the physical model and sketch up model. Yoo Jin and Emily Will focus on brainstorm easy events it will happen in the workshop section in the thrift shop. For the final presentation, we plan to have a Poster, The keynote slides, a physical model and a digital model(the visualizations). There are many little components to the current solution that we chose. The Bright side is, since there are many group members, as long as we collaborate well and keep communicate with One another, we will be able to finish all these components before the final deadline (。ì _ í。)!

Dive in the Physical Thrift Shop part…

Building a physical model

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rough sketches & measurements: trying to figure out a floor plan

The location we decided to put our thrift store is adjacent to the package pick-up. This is the place that the traffic is the heaviest at UC. So is the people are so tense they have more tests to go into the thrift store and see what’s happening in there.

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final floor plan, labeled

The thrift store is divided into three zones. The working zone is for employees to handle the 2nd clothes gathered from collection bins around campus. Then these cleaned and folded secondhand clothes are sorted into categories and send them to the shopping area which is the second zone. The third zone is a workshop(studio) area where students can learn useful skills such as how to use a sewing machine, and attend various other events.

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some process photos: ←cutting the stool surfaces, ↑ installing a glass wall, → assembling the mini stools
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photos of the physical model

The digital model

I tried to used 3ds instead of SketchUp this time since 3dsMax will give a more realistic texture when it comes to rendering the visualizations. Hopefully, the camera angles I choose for the rendering will be useful when telling stories/processes during the presentation.

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building 3ds model- screenshots, no texture
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rendered 1 — cloth handling area
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rendered 2— washing machines & driers
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rendered 3— workshop(studio) space
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rendered 4— fitting room1
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rendered 5— fitting room2

The final poster

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draft 1
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the final version of the poster - thanks for reading ;-)

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