Design thinking through the plastic problem

Hawaii beach

Imagine you're on vacation with your family at the beach. You all decide to indulge in deep water fishing and manage to make a couple great catches--fewer than you'd hoped for, but still exciting. Thinking you'll have an exotic treat that evening, you begin to clean the fish only to realize plastic particles line the intestines and have become embedded in the meat of the fish, making it inedible.

Plastic has been seeing more press as of late, as studies of it's effects on our environment, animal well-being, and our water and food supply are published at an increasing rate. It's existence at each step from production to disposal carries an element of harm with the benefit of convenience; our culture has grown up around its existence making it truly, a wicked problem.

The design thinking process is one method well-suited for approaching such challenges, especially when it is a user change that is needed; it is a user-centric process. For my thesis in the Strategic Design & Management program at Parsons at The New School, a program focused on developing this tool set, I chose plastic use reduction. Specifically, plastic utensils used within the United States.

From August 2017 through May 2018, I am focused on how we might create, test, and launch an innovative solution to reduce this type of waste, based on a foundation of user-centered research. In addition to course requirements, I am documenting this process in a four booklet series: design research, ideation, concept testing, and solution launch plan.

Erin Tilley - SDM Thesis - Design Research

With the completion of the first semester, I have completed a brief summary booklet of the research compiled, available here as a free downloadable PDF. This is the foundation for the subsequent phases of my thesis and is intended as a documentation of key insights, as well as an overview to my research process.

Your feedback is welcome! If you'd like to discuss it in more detail or join me in my thesis as a focus group participant or expert advisor, please reach out–I'd love to hear from you!