GreenShift Case Study

Problem Statement

Help industrial design students choose more sustainable materials in the process of designing physical products to promote less waste and promote sustainability.

At a Glance

As large-scale ecological issues, such as global warming and overpollution, continue to ravage the world around us, there is a need for industrial designers to utilize more sustainable and environmentally-friendly materials in their designs. While this problem is very difficult to solve within the industry, educating and encouraging young designers and design students to utilize sustainable materials in their designs may help push for a more sustainability-focused industry. Our semester-long project, backed by substantial user research, tackles this problem state head-on, intending to facilitate the process of discovering new and more sustainable alternatives to unsustainable materials.

My Role
Lead UX Researcher
Sheliza Jivani
Xiangyi Yang
Han Wang
14 Weeks
(Aug. - Dec., 2021)
Methods & Tools
Background research, competitive analysis, task analysis, semi-structured interviews, online survey, concept feedback sessions, discount evaluation, Qualtrics, Miro, Figma, Microsoft Teams

There are a plethora of factors that a designer must consider when choosing a material, which can ultimately confuse the designer and complicate the process. We determined that while industrial designers certainly want to consider sustainability while designing a product, it is just one of the many factors that must be considered. In practice, industrial design students often do not prioritize sustainability simply because the final products for their classes will not be manufactured.  However, if industrial design students do not practice using sustainable materials in school projects, how will they be capable of promoting the use of sustainable designs in a work environment?

Over the shoulder picture of a man working on a cad model of a speaker.

Target Users: Industrial Design Students

Based on our preliminary research, we determined that there are four main characteristics our users have. Our target users will be students pursuing a career path in industrial design who have an intrinsic motivation to design more sustainable products. These students will have a high technological affinity and may have limited financial resources.

Preliminary Research

Competitive Analysis

Five systems exist that directly or indirectly compete within a similar problem space and user base. Strengths and weaknesses of each system were determined to inform our design and research decisions:

Screenshot of SOLIDWORKS sustainability module
SOLIDWORKS sustainability module
Screenshot of ArchiCAD EcoDesigner STAR
ArchiCAD EcoDesigner STAR
Screenshot of OpenLCA
Screenshot of Material ConneXion
Material ConneXion
Screenshot of MatWeb Online Materials Database
MatWeb Online Materials Database
User Needs Research
Interview graphic: Shows two overlapping dialogue boxes

Semi-Structured Interview (ID Experts and Students)

Method Details
Screenshot of the affinity diagram created to analyze our semi-structured interviews

Findings & Insights

1. Industrial design students tend to choose materials in two distinct sections depending on the project: in the research phase or the prototype phase of the design process.
2. ID students are most familiar with two material selection tools, OpenLCA and Material ConneXion, but do not often use them.
3. Many students expressed their concerns about not having enough knowledge about sustainable materials.
4. Many factors are considered when choosing a material, but the cost of the material is often given the highest priority.
5. Many young ID students do not differentiate between the many aspects of sustainability when they are looking for sustainable materials.
Survey graphic: Shows a clipboard with a page that has checks and boxes.

Online Survey

Method Justification
Method Details

Findings & Insights

1. Most users indeed did not use any tools at all when selecting materials.
2. Ease of use and a visual representation of the material were the most important features in a materials selection tool, according to users.
3. Most users believe sustainability is an important factor in material selection, yet find it difficult to justify the use of sustainable materials in their projects.
4. Availability of materials, cost, and limited knowledge of materials are the main barriers faced by most users when selecting sustainable materials
Design Evaluation
Survey graphic: Shows a clipboard with a page that has checks and boxes.

Expert Feedback / Heuristic Evaluation

Method Details

Findings & Insights

1. The Eco-Indicator score, which indicates the sustainability of a material, should be properly labeled for the users to improve comprehension.
2. The application section should include many more examples for users so that they can get a more complete understanding of a material’s use case.
3. The varying colors on the sustainability tags should be kept consistent, as to reduce confusion.
4. No material is going to be a perfect substitute for any other material. The name of the substitute category should be changed to ‘More Sustainable Alternatives’ to reflect this.
5. More information is required on the ‘My Materials’ page than just the material name and company name. This is because users may not know a material just by its name.
6. The user expects to see a footer section at the bottom section of each of the pages.
Final Prototype
Gif showcasing the user flow of searching for a material in Greenshift

Home Screen and Search Results

Gif showcasing the user flow of looking through the material properties page on Greenshift

Material Properties Menu

Gif showcasing the user flow of comparing multiple materials on Greenshift

Material Comparison Tool

Key Takeaways

The challenges presented throughout this project helped me grow a great deal as a researcher. Here are some key lessons that I learned:

Check Out My Other Projects:

Fiserv Case Study. Goal: Integrate cryptocurrency alongside individuals’ traditional banking services
Veritone Internship. Goal: Facilitate the transcription of court cases in navy courtrooms
MyUCLA Case Study. Goal: Improve the discoverability of student resources for UCLA undergrad and grad students
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