Design Challenge ―
Design a system that assists Intuit employees in recovering unused food around the campus, based on location, timing, and any other considerations. If given 6 weeks to deliver the final design, determine a process and timeline that you would use to approach the design problem.
Overview & Background
At Intuit, events and large meetings are often catered with an abundance of food. Afterwards, any employee who comes across the leftover food is free to take some before the cleaning staff comes to throw it out.
Brainstorming + Research
My initial thoughts beginning this project led me to think of my own part-time workplace and our catered events and meetings, how there's barely any leftover food left for too long. Context: I work for my school's student union, workplace full of students (free food + always hungry college students = rarely leftover food problems)
Though I wasn't able to fully relate to having an abundance of food leftover, I still began to consider the process my co-workers and I took whenever there was an opportunity to take food home, such as the following:
• Simple verbal communication after the meeting is given that food is available to take home as leftovers
• E-mail is sent out to the entire office that there are leftovers in X room
• Slack "@channel" message is sent out notifying everybody in the office that there are leftovers available in X room
• Leftover food is transported into the office kitchen and a sign that says "Leftovers! Take me!" is clearly positioned where the food is
• Food is open for any students (non-student employees to take) and this is communicated through Snapchat and Instagram live story feeds
• Outlier case where there were not as many people available to take food, food was donated to a local food bank
In addition to my personal experiences and small conversations, I began to browse the web and read up on whatever I could find about leftover food systems as well, doing some research on Intuit specifically if there were any ties to food bank organizations already they were associated with that could serve as a potential donation outlet for leftover food.
After my research process of reflecting on personal experiences, small conversations with friends and browsing the web, I scribbled some points down and began to come up with some assumptions of my own. Here is a look into my thought process and ideas:
Prior to my interview and this exercise, I actually connected with a couple previous Intuit design interns and full-time designers to get some insight on design at Intuit. Thought it wouldn't hurt to reach out to them to get some insight on their experiences specific to the Intuit campus of taking leftover food home after events and meetings and get a better understanding of how leftover food may have been communicated across the campus.
Due to the time constraint of this design exercise, I realized I may not be able to hear back from all of the Intuit designers and it was important to gain an understanding of other organizations and their processes so I opened up this survey on my personal Facebook and Twitter. I received a total of 13 responses and gained some valuable insight:
• Quite often leftover food is left and thrown away by the cleaning staff. 69.2% claimed this generally happens at their workplace.
• Most people were willing to communicate about the leftover food. 61.5% spread the word to other staff members or the general public about the leftover food that was available.
• Alternatively, food was sometimes moved to the communal work kitchen: for better storage depending on temperature constraints, ease of access and/or the original room needed to be cleared out immediately.
• 46.2% of people claimed it took roughly an hour for leftover food to be re-located or thrown away.
• None of the 13 people surveyed claimed leftover food was donated to a food bank: one individual commented, "Due to liabilities/law suits, food cooked on the day cannot be given away. Food banks and soup kitchens have very strict guidelines as to what they can/cannot receive and we must adhere to this for the health/safety of the public by the way food is handled."
• Majority of workplace communication about leftover food has been through word of mouth but additional forms were: Slack, E-mail
• Success of communication of leftover food: would prefer if there was a better system to find out about where food is and when it's available to package up, wants to be informed before shift about food availability to bring personal container, having containers with lids available
• One individual mentioned that a new company they'll be joining recently introduced a "free food" email list you could sign up for and whenever there's leftovers an email blast would go out
• In terms of packaging leftover food the main method was utilizing two paper plates together and containers
• General thoughts on whether or not to take home leftover food were evaluated by: whether or not it's healthy, if the container is annoying/bulky to carry, concern of spillage when placed in a bag, temperature and timing it's been left out for
• Common types of food that are leftover: salad, donuts, cookies, pizza, wings, dip, sandwiches, pasta, meat, fruits, vegetables
Survey Screenshots ―
Use Case Scenarios
Based on my findings, I created the following use cases: one for the main Intuit employee that has organized the meeting with an abundance of catered food, one for Intuit employees attending the meeting and one for all Intuit employees that are not in attendance.
I did consider other use cases (cleaning and kitchen staff, e-mail administrator for announcements, etc.) however I felt that these cases weren't as fitting as the other use cases as the chosen cases would ultimately influence the main decisions (e.g. when to come clean the room and curating announcements for additional food would be directed by the meeting organizer to decide).
Due to the limited amount of time for this exercise, I set a specific direction to go by based on my research findings and designed towards an effective communication method that would influence all use cases in the most efficient way. I aimed to solve towards any miscommunication, lack of any communication and address any hesitation to access the leftover food among Intuit employees.
If given more time, I would have definitely explored additional solutions and get more feedback but it was important for me to explore further into just three top solutions with the time consideration.
Here is my thought process on defining the design system:
Existing User Flow
As most of the research is done about the intended user, in this case, an Intuit employee — I decided to visually break down an Intuit employees journey to really understand and walkthrough their journey.
I wanted to understand what breaks there may be in their existing process and this is what I came up with:
Meeting Attendee POV
How do Intuit employees (in the meeting) react when there is an excessive amount of food leftover after a meeting? Sees excessive amount of food > might not be interested because they're not hungry, dieting > sees napkins and plates > don't want to carry home, concerned of spilling > decides to communicate with other employees > not sure how long the food is there for, forgets room location > communicates by word of mouth > or Slack, e-mail > may not receive notification on time
Revised User Flow
1. Meeting organizer must re-examine meeting and catering logistics
The meeting organizer should have a fairly accurate understanding of the number of attendees, timeline length of the meeting (timing of food distribution, breaks for food, clearing out food), type of catering being offered, length of time the meeting room is utilized for and kitchen/cleaning staff procedure.
This is a sketch of a standard checklist for Intuit employees organizing a meeting to consider:
2. Appropriate packaging resources for leftover food should be provided
Based off my research findings, employees were generally hesitant or discouraged to take leftover food home due to the concern of spillage and safe storage when being transported within their commute. Often times only paper plates and napkins were available. Being informed prior to meeting to bring your own container or providing reliable leftover packaging for staff would be a potential solution.
This is a sketch of a mock up poster for a "Bring Your Own Container" initiative as well a potential template for an e-mail the meeting organizer could send out to communicate to employees:
3. Communication of leftover food should be clearly articulated
Strong communication efforts are vital in order to communicate across the entire campus. Especially for new employees, there could potentially be a section added within an Intuit training handbook about the policies for leftover food after meetings being open to anyone. This would prevent any hesitation over pursuing the free food.
Communication of free food could be consistently set by leveraging existing communications forms such as e-mail or Slack. Employees would be alerted through an e-mail alert or Slack notification. A template that would follow the announcement of leftover food would clearly indicate: location, time left to claim, type of food and if there are leftover packing resources available or if it's simply a grab and go type of leftover.
This is a sketch of a potential solution for clear communication in the form of a developed visual language, a symbol that could be a reusable indication in front of the meeting room door, through e-mail messaging or Slack messaging that symbolizes "Our meeting is over - come and have some food with us!":
This portion of the exercise gave me really great exposure to understanding the importance of setting goals and how to handle time management. From previous hackathon experiences and design jam attendance I had some familiarity with sprint cycles and terms such as scrum and setting KPI goals but I wanted a better understanding of how to structure within a six-week timeline.
After spending some time browsing the web and remembering some insights from both designers and developers I've spoken and worked with in the past I began to understand that six-week cycles are generally about execution and more goal-oriented than excessive amounts of planning. It's important to provide structure to give your design team the right level of predictability and foresight.
Week 1: Planning Phase
- Goal in mind to plan a meeting
- Evaluate past experiences
- Forms of contact
- Aim for methods of improvement
Week 2: Research and Feedback
- Research existing strategies success from different departments, companies
- Seek feedback from staff
Week 3: Synthesize Insights
- Understand the feedback
- Conduct further analysis
Week 4: Brainstorm and Ideation > Solutions
- Developing solutions based on feedback
- Important to consider stakeholder, business needs, budget, etc.
Week 5: Collaborate and Communicate Proposal
- Proposing solution to staff
Week 6: Prototype and Testing
- Get it out to test in the real world
- Ask for feedback
- Further iterate!
Reflection + Future Steps
Overall, this was an interesting design exercise to work on. Given the limited amount of time, I wasn't able to explore the entirety of use cases and edge cases that exist. As well, the perception of wireframes seemed to initially limit my thinking of focusing on screens but this exercise seemed to gear more towards improving an initial planning strategy or communication process. It felt the more optimal solution was to leverage existing technology and design solutions around planning and organizing people, infrastructure, communication and material components opposed to developing an entire new app technology.
I enjoyed that there seemed to be product management aspects to this exercise which greatly sparks my interest for the future. Understanding a six week product cycle process, the importance of setting meaningful goals and establishing a solid structure towards shipping a product will be of great value for future projects.
Lastly, I enjoyed the rush of having to gather user insights quite immediately in order to further validate my design decisions with data-driven results. I was fortunate enough to receive so much support from my existing workplace in being able to conduct quick interviews and surveys. As well, re-connecting with existing Intuit employees online was quite successful in survey completion and understanding their insights.
Moving forward, I think it's so important to get my design solutions out in the world and see what people make of it. Conducting a usability study to test if my design is meeting the design system goal of successfully recovering unused, leftover food at the Intuit campus through better communication strategy. Or is it just a matter of ordering a more accurate amount of food for meetings?
In addition, prior to this exercise I had a strong interest in a thesis topic revolved around designing on the need for healthier food options. From all the great feedback I was able to receive from this exercise, as well potential to utilize some of this research towards my thesis, it's fully convinced me to pursue designing around this area for my final year thesis.
Pen, Paper, Whiteboard, Post It Notes, GoogleForms, Adobe Illustrator
6 Weeks: Why It's the Goldilocks of Product Timeframes / https://blog.intercom.com/6-week-cycle-for-product-teams/
Mint Design Team Research/Strategy Process / http://www.bettinayc.com/mint-at-intuit/