Eco-Explorers

An after school program designed to foster a love for nature and a passion for stewardship.

Project Overview

 
EcoExplorers_Computer.png

CHALLENGE

Explore a personal interest and how it will be affected by climate change. Create a multi-touchpoint design solution addressing it.

TOOLS

SKILLS

COURSE

TIMELINE

Adobe XD, Photoshop, Illustrator

Sketching, interviewing, concept testing, visual design, personas, journey maps, photo editing, photocollage, graphic design, UI design, wireframing, iterative design, storyboarding

Climate Designers, Marc O'Brien

7 weeks, Fall 2020

This is a presentation I gave of my Eco-Explorers project.

 

Problem Statement

MOTIVATION

The direction of this project was influenced by one of my own personal interests. As someone who loves hiking, I first considered this for my topic. I started to research the effects that climate change would have on hiking, and I realized that this activity can mean many different things.

I read a lot about mountainous regions and changing levels of snowfall, but that doesn't really relate to my own experience hiking in Southern California. Most of my time was spent hiking through the chaparral ecosystems around me (literally, there's a nature reserve right next to my family's home!).

I zeroed in on the climate change effects on chaparral ecosystems.

RESEARCH

I began researching what effect are currently being seen and what we can expect for the future. These were some key findings:

1. Chaparral (a type of plant community found all over California and parts of Mexico) biomes are being threatened by the effects of climate change and direct human activity.

2. Extreme wildfires, prolonged droughts, and hotter, drier weather patterns can lead to species loss in both flora and fauna.

3. Humans remove plants from the chaparral to lower wildfire risk near housing developments. This destroys animal habitats and creates voids that are filled with non-native and invasive species of plants!

4. Human activity like littering or campfires increases the risks to wildlife like fires and pollution.

HMW . . . ?

This led me to generate a short list of "How Might We..." questions to guide my thinking for the next stage of the project. I asked:

How might we preserve and restore animal habitats?

How might we minimize the risks to wildlife posed by human activities?

How might we teach and encourage environmentally-friendly behavior in local communities?

How might we instill a love for nature in more community members?

 

IDEATION

PERSONA & JOURNEY

My first task was to create a persona based on my research. I interviewed local people around the nature reserve that inspired my project topic to inform the development of the persona.

The initial persona for someone who cares about chaparral ecosystems.

Next, I needed to create a journey map. The stages shown in the journey would be before my persona, Beth, learns about the problem my design is addressing, during (i.e. how she eventually learns about), and after she has learned about it (and how it changes her behavior).

At first, the order in which I was prompted to work on this assignment felt a bit strange – making a journey map when I had not yet chosen a concept for the experience that I would design. However, I found that it gave me a good framework to make decisions later, since I knew exactly what kind of thoughts and feelings that I wanted my solution to elicit at each moment.

JourneyMap-V1.png

Journey map forbefore, during, and after becoming aware of the problem.

CONCEPTS

The next step was to sketch out ideas for several concepts. I thought about the ways that I could respond to the HMW questions I posed, and I started drawing storyboards and wireframes to illustrate my concepts.

Here's a short explanation for each concept:

1. A "Green HOA" that teaches and enforces environmentally-friendly habits.

2. An educational after school program for kids to teach stewardship skills.

3. Solar-powered educational, digital displays at trailheads to teach good habits.

4. An AR educational app to promote understanding and gamify education.

5. An app that promotes local events to take action against climate change.

6. A superhero character who uses his powers to protect the chaparral from harm.

 

Concept

SELECTING A CONCEPT

From my list of concepts, I got feedback from my classmates and instructor. I felt that the after school program concept had the most potential for a big impact. Not only does it actively help the environment (as opposed to simply raising awareness), it also has the benefit of connecting young people to nature, when not everyone has equal access to it.

 

The research I found online revealed that time outdoors has beneficial effects on one's health (physical and mental), yet many people, specifically people of color, do not live in areas with access to green spaces. This program could offer children to chance to take field trips outside of their city to learn and have new experiences that will also influence their views on climate later in life – making a new generation of climate activists.

Version 1 of the concept.

BRANDING

In the first iteration of this concept, the program had been called "Eco-Stewards." I designed a line of t-shirts to promote it. The designs are all a play on words. I took a plant or animal that is important to chaparral ecosystems, and I mashed it up with an existing, well-known brand. The goal was to capture attention with a seemingly recognizable logo, but then throw people off and elicit curiosity upon seeing that the shirts are not what they seem to be at a glance.

USER TESTING

TAKEAWAYS

To gauge whether or not this concept seemed interesting, appealing, and realistic, I interviewed 3 parents from Southern California. I presented them with a scenario: you're the parent of an elementary school aged child in California. You want to sign them up for an after school activity so they can learn, meet people, and have fun.

I then asked them questions relating to my concept and the work that I had already done for it:

1. What are your initial thoughts or impressions about this concept?

2. Do you have any concerns, and is it something you’d be interested in signing your child up for?

3. What do you think an elementary school aged child would think about this?

4. How do you feel about the name “Eco-Stewards”?

5. What skills and activities would you want to be taught in this program?

6. If you could change anything about the program, what changes would you make?

7. What’s your first impression of these t-shirts? Would you or your kids want to wear something like this? What would you do or think if you saw someone wearing one of these?

I learned a lot from this session. First, parents were interested, but had a lot of concerns around safety. Who are the program leaders? What training do they have? How strenuous are the hikes? How far into the chaparral do they go? All completely understandable concerns that I would need to address.

Additionally, while there was enthusiasm around the concept, there was not any excitement about the name. "Steward" makes sense to adults, but means nothing to kids. Lastly, the t-shirt designs were perceived as clever, but parents felt that there needed to be a way to be directed somewhere to learn more.

 

Process

VERSION TWO

I received a lot of actionable feedback from my testing sessions, so I got right to work making changes. Since my concept had grown and developed significantly since I first started the project, I went back to work on more personas. Since there are so many actors involved in this system – parents, kids, and program leaders – I needed a way for all of them to be represented in my design process.

A new set of provisional personas.

For each persona, I also created a new journey map to illustrate the different perspectives each actor has on the solution I was designing. This also helped me get a list of all of the assets I would need to create to present this solution.

Journey maps for each of the personas.

The last big change from this version of the design was the name and logo of the program. "Eco-Stewards" was clearly not cutting it. During my first interview when I asked about the name, the interviewee suggested "Eco-Explorers." I ended up asking for other interviewees' thoughts about this one, as well, and they all loved it!

New logo design.

VERSION THREE

A lot of changes took place at this stage in the process. I made image collage mock-ups of kids taking part in outdoor activities, I made modifications to earlier t-shirt designs, and I started to create merchandise with the new Eco-Explorers logo on it.

Photo collage mock-ups of activities, t-shirt designs, and website designs.

FEEDBACK

I got a lot of useful feedback from my professor. One thing he suggested was creating some type of uniform so that everyone is recognizable. He pointed out that to any random person on the trails, these are just a bunch of kids. It made me wonder how I could actively advertise the program as they are out working.

Another thing that I found to be helpful was a really interesting idea from my professor: we see "adopt a highway" stuff all over the place; what if you could adopt a trail? This inspired an idea where Eco-Explorers signage is put on the trail to show which student is taking care of it and promote the organization's work to a wider audience.

 

The Final Deliverable

BRANDING

I applied the Eco-Explorers logo to merchandise that markets the program to the public at large when students and their parents wear it.

Eco-Explorers branded merchandise.

WEBSITE

Of course, Eco-Explorers needed a website to be discoverable to parents and potential volunteers. I designed a landing page and a blog page. The blog page allows volunteers to write posts about the activities that they did in the program that day so parents can be informed of what goes on, and people who are interested in joining the program can see what it's all about.

Eco-Explorers website landing page.

Eco-Explorers website mock-ups.

STORY COLLAGES

I edited images together to create scenes that tell the story of Eco-Explorers. I added green vests to the group members to make them easily identifiable – both for safety reasons for keeping track of the children and to market the group to passerby who are unfamiliar with it.

Photo collages to tell the story of an Eco-Explorers expedition.

MERIT BADGES

To gamify the experience and incentivize participation, I designed a system of buttons that are awarded to students when they reach certain achievements and take part in specific activities. They can add these buttons to their vests to show off their accomplishments and have something tangible to represent their experience.