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An interactive kiosk that incorporates object recognition and gamification elements to encourage recycling activities among young apartment residents.


Completed as part of a graduate course in User Centered Design


UX Designer

Product Designer

Visual Designer


Teresa Cummings

Sherry Chen

Al Jose


8 weeks (Oct - Dec 2019)



I designed a recycling program that consists of a kiosk and a smart scanner to track recycling activities within an apartment building, and translates them into visual displays of a virtual forest.


I completed the project in collaboration with three other students who contributed to the product management, research, and UX writing components of the project.

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Record your recycling activity 

Grow a tree by recycling more

Collect rewards or support a cause

Build a community forest with your neighbors

The Problem

Americans receive 608 million packages each year.

Only 25 percent of those cardboard packages are recycled.

The cardboard box and plastic airbags live in the American landfill.

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Under the prompt of designing an environmental action, our team 

started out focusing our project on an everyday frustration that each of the team members had experienced: receiving packages

and having to sort and properly dispose of the materials. 

This led us to our initial design question:


How might we simplify the cardboard recycling process for young households?



Secondary Research

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We conducted competitive analysis and looked into organizations that help people reduce, reuse, or recycle packaging waste. We found out that current programs were less successful for our target audience because of the extra necessary steps and high cost. 

User Research


I led the design of the survey which was sent to 76 local residents in the UW area. We learned more about their behaviors, values, and attitudes surrounding recycling.

Interview and Contextual Inquiry 

We conducted semi-structured interviews with 6 participants who lived in dorms and off-campus. We also conducted contextual inquiry to observe and probe users as they received packages, sorted trash, and described their recycling habits.

Screenshot of Survey Results, pie chart
Contextual Inquiry, people following a research participant
Affinity Board of Interview Findings

There needs to be WAY more incentives to recycle. I'm sorry, but helping the environment isn't quite enough.

I try to recycle because it’s good for the environment, but mostly, if I don’t recycle and all my friends do it makes me feel like I’m doing something wrong.

Key Insights

Many residents are new to the local recycling process and have to navigate it on their own.

Recycling can be intimidating and confusing.

Many participants recycle only when storage space runs out - "the boxes are piling too high".

Recycling is not part of the routine.

Those who live with others who recycle are more likely to develop recycling habits.

The users are socially influenced to recycle.

Despite recognizing environmental benefits, many consider recycling a low priority. 

The users lack direct motivation towards recycling.

 Design Requirements

Drawing from the insights, I set the 5 following design requirements:

​The solution should work with cardboard box packaging.

The solution should help people become aware of what is recyclable.

​The solution should be low effort and reduce the end to end recycling time.

The solution should hold users socially accountable to their recycling efforts.

​The solution should

create incremental positive incentive.

...and refined our design question:


How might we promote habitual recycling for students receiving packaging materials?


Synthesizing research insights, I created three user personas to embody the people our team's designing for and guide the design direction.




With our design requirements in mind, our team generated multiple ideas through brainstorming and crazy-8 sketching.

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Each of the four us generated 8 sketches. We then invited our classmates to dot-vote them.


We prototyped some of our ideas in low-fidelity, and tested them out.

The activities helped us converged on three potential solutions:

  • GreenZone: Community Cardboard Recycling Program

  • Reusable Plastic Box Membership

  • Scannable QR Code Incentive

Design Solution

Following our ideation sessions, our team decided to move forward with the GreenZone concept. The idea fulfilled many of the design requirements, but most importantly it centered itself on community and accountability.


Compared to the other ideas, GreenZone has the best effort-impact tradeoff based on our team's skill set, available resource, and project timeline.

We made a storyboard to map out the features we wanted the solution to have and how we envisioned users to encounter it:
Copy of GreenZone Overview User Interact
Copy of GreenZone Overview User Interact
Copy of GreenZone Overview User Interact
Copy of GreenZone Overview User Interact
Copy of GreenZone Overview User Interact
Copy of GreenZone Overview User Interact
Copy of GreenZone Overview User Interact
Copy of GreenZone Overview User Interact
Next, we visualized the information flow and how we’d like the features to be arranged on the prototype interface.
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prototype & evaluation

Mid-fidelity Prototype

We created the mid-fidelity prototype with the persona in mind, focused on demonstrating 5 key features:
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Usability Testing #1

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We invited 5 potential users to test out the mid-fidelity prototype. Participants completed tasks such as scanning recycles and redeeming rewards while sharing  through the thinking-out-loud approach. After task completion, detailed feedback was gather through a brief semi-structured interview.

I rotated between test moderator and note-taker roles throughout the process. 

Research questions
  • Can users easily grasp the purpose of GreenZone

  • Can users locate the key features including apartment activity log, the scanner, the virtual tree grove, and reward redemption?

  • Is GreenZone's main interaction flow able to successfully engage users with the features?


What we learned ​

Design decisions I made

The function of the apartment activity log is not clear.

Create a more dynamic and collective display and removed the individual resident thumbnails.

Users found the placement of the camera window unusual and the camera interface hard to work with.

Make scanner camera full screen with larger clicking areas.

Showing multiples stages of the virtual tree at once is confusing

Create visuals of tree growth in different stages, display current stage only.

Having to login before seeing the rest of the functionality felt discouraging to users

Adjust the work flow by prompting login after scanning and add a guest option

Revised Mid-fidelity Prototype

I quickly revised the prototype and user flow to address the key findings from the usability testing session.
Revised Mid-fidelity Prototype
greenzone user flow
After the revision, I started building high-fidelity interface prototypes and a physical kiosk model to create a better context for users.

High-Fidelity Prototype

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Physical Prototype: building a kiosk

In addition to the digital prototype, we built a kiosk model that can display a touch screen. By prototyping the physical dimension of our design solution, we hoped to provide users with a better context and make the experience as immersive as possible when they interact with our prototype.

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Design Feedback and Iterations

We brought the prototype back to potential users, invited them to interact with our prototype and provide further feedback. 

 An extreme scenario was brought to our attention.


What if someone scans one item repeatedly, just to collect more rewards?

I iterated the design based on the feedback.
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Asset 11_2x.png

Interactive Prototype

Below is an interactive prototype of the latest iteration of GreenZone.


What's Next?

To work with the project timeline, our team focused the design scope mostly on the digital interface. I would love to conduct further research regarding kiosk design and arrangement, as well as the business model of the rewards system.

Some ideas for the future...

AR Implementation


The apartment forest could be modeled virtually within the apartment lobby environment and viewable by residents via Augmented Reality headset. This could generate an added sense of excitement and positive feedback around the activity of recycling with GreenZone.


Growing real trees


Future iterations of this product could see partnerships established with entities such as Tree Sisters which would correlate recycling activity to planting real trees for regions in need.


Concept Testing vs Usability Testing


We were unsure about how do implement certain features and we asked users directly for thoughts during usability testing. Looking back, we were mixing up concept testing and usability testing activities. It would have been more effective for us to separate them, concept test first, make adjustments, and then usability test.


Consider the full experience


I'm glad that I decided to build a physical prototype of the kiosk. It helped our team demonstrate our designs in a more immersive matter. Users were able to provide more constructive feedback.


Animation is worth a thousand words


Adding a simple animation after the scanning step really helped us show users how points are collected without having to add more text. I would love to brush up my animation / video prototyping skills more in the future!

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