As one of the major capstone projects of my studies in the Global Business and Digital Arts program, my team and I took on one of the challenges set by the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) in the UK. The brief, set by Unilever as a sponsor of the Student Design Competition, prompted us to find ways of incorporating fast moving consumer goods into the circular economy and make the hygiene product industry more sustainable.
In response to this brief, my team decided to target the issue of wasteful design in hygiene products and plastic packaging that contributes to landfill waste.
My team started exploring this problem space by first exploring things that bothered us in our own daily use of hygiene products. We did explore an idea of upcycling plastic materials in stores but had difficulty with the more practical elements of this idea.
My first major contribution to the team was proposing the idea of a dispenser with refillable containers. I was inspired after seeing soap dispensers at the local YMCA in Stratford, and considering how they could be tied into the circular economy. We decided to pivot with this new idea and see where we could take it.
In order to better understand our user base, which was mainly young families due to their high usage of hygiene products, Abbie (one of my teammates) and I conducted surveys. We went out and interviewed almost 30 parents in the community in person using our Google Survey and gathered information on their spending habits and how they feel about online shopping. This helped guide our design decisions early on in the process.
I decided to take the initiative on thinking through the interface our customers would use to manage their subscription. I began by creating a user flow diagram showing the different actions the user could take within our application and how the content would be linked together.
Then, I transitioned this flow chart into a series of initial sketches of potential UI layouts. Sylvie (our team’s visual designer) also created a set of sketches, and then we combined our ideas together into our first layout. I sketched out half of the screens for the paper prototype, while Sylvie did the other half.
When it was time for user testing, I wrote out the script for the app prototype test and conducted five user tests, taking notes for each. I gave the paper prototype to the participants and instructed them to use as they would a real iPad, then switched out the screeens as necessary. When the team reconvened, I went over our findings from user testing and provided suggestions on improvements to the group. The diagrams below outline some of the key issued with the UI that I discovered through testing.
Once we decided what changes to make, I created a set of wireframes using Balsamiq to establish the final layout of our app design. I completed 13 wireframes, and Galen completed the final one. The new designs incorporated solutions to each of the issues outlined above, as well as further design improvements (for example, a new grid view to browse products more quickly on the product selection screen). After this, I continued discussions with our team’s visual designer in order to clarify the designs and provide critique on the look of the final UI.
At this point, I switched over from working on the app to working on the dispenser for the high-fidelity prototype. Using OpenSCAD, I coded the 3D model of our dispenser based on Galen's sketches. Then, I split the model in three parts and printed them using a Makerbot. Having a physical 3D model really helped our group have a unified sense of what the dispenser would look like.
After being able to see the physical model, I made a few minor improvements to the OpenSCAD model, such as adding a screw mechanism to the container in the top, as it easily fell out in the old model. I was able to get the model printed using a higher resolution 3D printer. With these new models, I removed the suction cup from the model and instead attached a real suction cup to the back. I also added a spring beneath the push panel in order to simulate the feeling a real dispenser would have.
Finally, I collaborated with Abbie on the visual design of the RSA boards using Figma and InDesign. The results of this are visible below.
Nomo is a shower product dispenser that incorporates IoT technology to simplify the shower experience. The dispenser can sense when it is running low and automatically order new refills in biodegradable packaging, which arrive directly at the customer’s home. The dispenser can also be refurbished when damaged to prevent it from going to landfills.
We designed the dispenser itself, planned out the system of production and delivery, and designed an app prototype for customers to manage their product subscriptions.
Our product is targeted at parents in young families, due to the heavy use of toiletry products in families. The dispenser’s user base consists of anyone within that family, including adults and children. Based on primary research with our target demographic, we discovered that parents want to maintain eco-friendly habits but need them to be easily accessible and affordable.
Nomo is designed to help bring the circular economy into the home to make the shower experience not only more user friendly, but also better for the planet.
One of the most important things I learned through completing this project is the necessity of understanding how a product is used at every step of the process. Our designs were influenced by considering manufacturing, shipping, in-home set up, online management, etc. which are all important parts of the product system.
We also had to consider how everything looked from the user’s perspective and understand the different contexts in which they would be interacting with our system. Our goal was to make this easier than going out and buying individual bottles, so we needed to make the experience as easy and convenient as possible on both the physical and digital sides.
Another important thing I learned about is how business requirements can inform a design, beyond the technical needs. We had to do research to validate that this product made sense and consider the feasibility of this project.
Overall this project was a great way for me to begin thinking and learning about designing larger systems while still understanding the smaller interactions that the user faces day-to-day.