The UX of Soil (1/2) — UX Studio Practices

Sebastian Ervi
Blog — MA User Experience Design
3 min readDec 11, 2020


Soil is probably the least valued resource in Western society. Because of over-exploitation, it is estimated that agricultural soil will only last 60 years (United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, 2014). Soil can also be considered as a cultural, religious, social or even political resource.

Designers: Maria Shuttleworth, Zhaolu Song, Yitong (Giada) Han, Sebastian Ervi


In 2 weeks, our team was asked to design an experience that explores planetary soil dependence, using two research methods: AEIOU and Speed Dating.

Photo taken in Stave Hill Ecological Park (29.11.2020)


After a quick initial research, we decided to immediately start using the AEIOU (Activities, Environments, Interactions, Objects, Users) method. In fact, we wanted to quickly collect a rich variety of information while being immersed in soil’s natural environment. With Maria, we decided to go to the Stave Hill Ecological Park in London because of its natural reserve with diverse small environments (pond, forest, park). We noted down what we observed and arranged the information in the following format:

Users: Human, Dog, Bird, Insect (Stave Hill Ecological Park, 29.11.2020, 11:00)
Users: Mushroom, Earthworm, Squirrel, Fish (Stave Hill Ecological Park, 29.11.2020, 11:00)

We noticed that human junk was present in most users’ interactions. As something that is generated by humans and imposed on the rest of the ecosystem, we commonly wanted to focus on the impact and consequence of human activity on soil.

Rubbish found in the pond of Stave Hill Ecological Park (29.11.2020)

First storyboards

The second research method we were required to use is Speed Dating, which consists in identifying design opportunities by showing storyboards of design ideas to potential users. After sharing directions we wanted to follow within the group, we drew storyboards of the three ideas we had:

  • Experiencing daily (future) life without soil
  • Experiencing the importance of the soil-ecosystem cycle through a game
  • Experiencing the soil by sensing what it might feel
Imaginative storyboards shared with our classmates.

After presenting the storyboards to gather feedback, we learnt that our direction wasn’t precise enough for the speed dating. We needed to choose one of the three we showed and draw storyboards of design ideas within the chosen direction. After a discussion with our classmates and our teacher Mor Bakal, we decided to proceed with designing an experience of a fictive future life without soil.

Next week’s post will show you new storyboards that we speed dated, and our realised prototype!

Mushrooms are users too! — Stave Hill Ecological Park (29.11.2020)



Sebastian Ervi
Blog — MA User Experience Design

MA User Experience Design - University of the Arts London