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Parsons the New School for Design: R&D Advanced Methods Final Group Project Spring 2014


Globally, nearly 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted each year1. With a significant portion being generated at the consumer level, how can we combat this systemic problem by starting in the home?


• Applying behavioral science to design thinking.

The assignment asked us to apply research and design frameworks explored in class to address a pressing social problem of our choice. We elected to focus on a topic that’s not only a global issue, but impacts our own daily lives: food waste.


Find information/ inspiration. INQUIRE.

Real World

Observe, interview. INVESTIGATE.


Make connections, find patterns. INTERPRET.


Filter, narrow options. INTEGRATE.


Design and prototype. INITIATE.


Test it out, consider revisions. IMPROVE.

Going in with goals... Address the problem from the bottom up. Let micro-level changes breed macro ones. Empower the consumer to join the battle. Spread awareness, modify behavior by harnessing what they’re familiar with: technology (an App).

This was NOT a linear process.

It required backtracking and continual referral to previous stages. Constant reiteration of solution, frequent rejection of assumptions.

Research was broken down into two overarching phases: (1) Preliminary, and (2) Real World. We had already begun the project with the idea of an App-based solution in mind and were eager to see if our research findings would support this concept.

As it’s easy to lose focus once out in the field, we dedicated the first few weeks of the project to gaining full familiarity with all things related to our topic. The goal of Preliminary Research was to investigate (a) shopper demographics / psychographics; (b) consequences of global food waste; and (c) current solutions to the problem.

User Personas

Creating theoretical profiles of our target customer.

Frequently Disposed

Size shows frequency of use Frequently bought

Infrequently bought

mid point- 2 months

Fruit, Vegetables Deli Meats & Cheese Eggs

Raw Meat


Doesn’t Expire



Expires Quickly Flour


Icecream Potato chips, Nuts Sugar, Vinegar, Cornstarch, Salt, Vanilla extract, Honey




Uncooked rice Frozen dinners Soda

Coffee beans

Infrequently Disposed

Position Map

Defining what products we should focus on.

BRIDGING THE GAP Expectations vs. Reality

Separating fact from fiction - what hypotheses actually ring true?

Though useful in laying a project’s groundwork, secondary research has its shortcomings: it’s not customized to a project’s particular needs and often induces researchers to make false assumptions. The goal of Real World Research was to fill in the gaps and give us a more accurate, inside view of our topic.

• What are the typical behaviors of grocery shoppers? • What characteristics of the store affect these behaviors? • What characteristics of the shopper affect these behaviors?

• What pre-shopping behaviors do people engage in? • How do people handle groceries after a shopping trip? • How does a housewife prepare a meal from limited ingredients?


Where we visited, what we looked out for.

A suburban housewife... a student living in the city... a young filmmaker with two roommates... • Discuss your food purchasing patterns. How often do you buy groceries, how much do you typically spend? What are your go-to stores? • Discuss how you deal with cooking, storing, and discarding food. How often do you cook for yourself, versus going out to eat? What factors influence your decision? • Discuss how you handle purchased groceries. Do you closely keep track of expiration dates? Do you use an organizational system to help you manage food? • Discuss how familiar you are with the food waste crisis. What consequence concerns you the most? What would motivate you to be less wasteful?


Who we talked to, what we asked.

We made many fascinating discoveries during our research phases, so it was critical to Extract the useful from the irrelevant after a Review of all Findings.

With over ten hours of observation conducted and six different people interviewed between team members, open discussion was vital during this phase. The goal of the Review was to share raw findings and chief takeaways, then to begin synthesizing individual ideas such that we had a clearer definition of the problem


The products, design elements, and behaviors that stood out.


The emotions, biases, and mindsets that were revealed.

New Questions Grocery Shopping Hypothesis Question: Do behaviors during actual food purchasing impact food wastefulness? Solution Question: How can grocery retailers be included in our solution? Eating Out Hypothesis Question: Is there a relationship between eating out behaviors and food wastefulness? Solution Question: What role can utilizing leftovers play in addressing the problem? Cooking Hypothesis Question: Do behaviors in the kitchen influence wastefulness Solution Question: Can building culinary knowledge be part of the solution? Storage / Management Hypothesis Question: Does better overall kitchen organization result in food waste reductions? Solution Question: Will there be a need to introduce / redesign products to compliment our App? Diet / Health Hypothesis Question: Are more health-conscious individuals less wasteful? Solution Question: Will our App require features for diet / lifestyle maintenance? Food Waste Knowledge Hypothesis Question: Does awareness of the crisis actually result in less wasteful behaviors? Solution Question: Will including an educational component help moviate people to be less wasteful?

A Problem-Specific Solution

Adjusting initial questions to better target the issue.

Team member feedback served as a fantastic filter - it allowed us to Extract the most useful insights from all other findings. Armed with a stronger definition of the problem, we were now better prepared to develop our answer to it.

• PRE-TRIP: Shopping lists, budgeting. • KITCHEN: Organization, saving leftovers. • APPS: Tracking, price comparison, recipes. • PRODUCT: Appearance, brand, origins, health benefits, price Proximity, format, assortment, coupons.

• • • • • • • • •

Diets Culture Gender Income Awareness Generation Cooking proficienc Lifestyle / schedules Household size / composition

Categorizing Patterns

Chief takeaways from observations and interviews.

Summarizing Insights

Main reasons behind household food waste.

Findings supported our initial concept of an App-based Solution, and also unveiled the specifc features it should include. Of course, it was important to Reflect and evaluate our product prototype post-Create, in order to see if further iterations should be explored.

From awareness-building Love Food, Hate Waste, to food-sharing LeftOverSwap, there are plenty of waste-combatting Apps currently out there. The goal of the Create phase was to merge the capabilities of all such mobile solutions into one seamless, easy to understand platform.

The App

Easy navigation, visually engaging, profile customization.

The Support

Scannable label modifications that inform and empower the user.

A Consumer-Centric Answer

Must-have App components based on research findings.

Listed above are our App’s prominent features. Now that we’re ready to “deliver” our product, the next step was to explore how to actually introduce it to the marketplace and gauge its usefulness to the real consumer. These were the goals of the Reflect phase.


Simple logo, pleasing color scheme. “At a Glance”, savings calculator. Sense of community, tracking, finding recipes


Unclear home page, weak overall responsiveness. Partnerhips with retailers and restaurants.

User Probe

Feedback from a friend, Ethan.

Campaign Poster

Communicating value to the consumer.

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The Global Food Waste Epidemic  

"The Global Food Waste Epidemic." Process. Date completed: Spring 2014. Brief: R&D Advanced Methods - Final Group Project. Summary of the pr...

The Global Food Waste Epidemic  

"The Global Food Waste Epidemic." Process. Date completed: Spring 2014. Brief: R&D Advanced Methods - Final Group Project. Summary of the pr...

Profile for chena230