Seedspace | connecting people to gardens in a city
Co-led Interaction Design
Led Visual Language
There is a lack of access to garden space in a city.
Within a city, there are many people who have access to garden space, and many who don't. Oftentimes the people who have access to land don't always take full advantage of this opportunity, so there's this gap between those who want to garden but can’t, and those who could but don’t.
How might we reconnect urban dwellers back to the land and the food they consume?
Seedspace is a garden share application that connects city dwellers to green spaces to rent, host and search for gardens. It not only helps build community and agricultural awareness, but provides alternatives to food production — reducing carbon footprint and food waste.
Search for a garden.
Search for a plot nearby, explore and learn from other gardeners or send a request to a host to become a gardener.
Tend a garden.
A dashboard is available for gardeners to rate their experience, schedule their next visit, or communicate with others through the message function.
Host a garden.
A dashboard is available to allow the host to add or edit garden profiles. Hosts can include specific rules and requirements during the posting process and approve visiting hours throughout the season.
Our research goals were to understand behaviors around food. We looked into concepts such as sharing, food dignity, and participation. We also looked at case studies focused around food waste and distribution. This lead us to consider concepts of smart communities, where excess food or land is distributed to those in need.
View our Initial Research.
We researched food habits and sharing culture.
We observed urban behavior.
We studied how play influences behavior and participation.
City dwellers are disconnected from food production.
We looked into the role that food waste plays on our environment and gained a deeper understanding of behaviors around food consumption and waste. Our research findings made us more curious about how we can use technology to focus back to the land, to reconnect with nature, and to build a grassroots community around food.
A sense of play motivates some people to try new things.
Our big takeaways from observation studies were that people are more willing to take part in new activities when others are present or, more importantly, when there is an element of play involved.
Cities have a shortage of community gardens.
Many cities have come to recognize the benefits of creating community gardens, which allows a select group of neighbors access to a small plot within a shared garden. Despite the advantages of community gardens, such as building community and environmental awareness, they are few and far in between. For example, community gardens in Seattle generally have a long waiting list. Over 45% of the gardens have a wait time longer than 1 year. This keeps people without land of their own from an opportunity to garden in a city.
Using our insights gained from initial research, we explored 30 different concepts around food sharing; ranging from a neighborhood food share, renting a share in an automated farm, or a smart bowl that suggests meals based on content in a refrigerator. Our goal was to stay broad and consider as many ideas as possible — in order to think beyond the obvious. We eventually down-selected to solutions that were focused less on technology and more on bringing people together to build community around food. Below are a few of the ideas I came up with.
Humanizing the experience through storyboards
We crafted stories of six ideas in order to ground these ideas in context and flesh out the high level thinking. In doing so, we were able to humanize our ideas and consider the broader interactions that would need to be incorporated. Below is a storyboard I made that most closely aligns with our final design solution.
Prior to testing our prototypes, we conducted semi-structured interviews with our five participants. Our goal was to better understand how connected they feel to food and nature, their views around sharing cultures, and whether or not a gardening community fits into their current lifestyle.
We then tested three concepts with the same five participants using paper prototypes and Think Aloud protocol. We tested three different ideas:
Seedspace: a garden share application
Toy Pot: a voice activated gardening pot to teach people how to garden
FruitXchange: a smart food exchange system to avoid food waste
After analyzing and synthesizing the experiences engaged through our paper prototype testing, we were able to better define user needs and goals. Based on the feedback we received, we moved forward and began our more in depth user flows of a gardening based application.
Insights from Participants
The concept of renting gardens makes sense in an urban environment
Starting a system from scratch poses trust issues
Detailed control over the search function is desired
An awareness of who else is involved in a garden and their visiting schedule is important
We created click-through wireframes to flesh out potential barriers to task completion, mismatched interactions, and to help decipher what screens were critical to the overall experience and which ones were unessential. View our three click-through flows: (1) First Time User, (2) Tending a Garden, and (3) Hosting a Garden.
Illustrations and Visual Design
Crafting an enchanting language
I created the identity and language to add a playful element, which I thought to be an important aspect of encouraging positive behavioral change and bringing a sense of comfort.
Refining the details
We created a design specification that includes hero flows that demonstrate some of the overarching interactions for three typical use cases. We also developed an application map, wireflows for all 75+ screens, and a visual style guide.
Creating a product from scratch within 10 weeks taught us how to work well within constraints, prioritize tasks and manage expectations. Rapid research, constant ideation and careful decision making helped us balance between a broad scope and a tight timeframe. We communicated really well as a team, always open to considering one another's unique perspectives, making each task much more enjoyable to undertake and infusing a sense of flow into the design process. Even though this is not a product that can be launched tomorrow, it was a valuable experience to conceptualize how technology can be used in a grassroots approach to building community. One of the challenges we faced was in how to build trust within a new system. We incorporated a rating system and addressed privacy and safety concerns through an in app scheduler.
Conduct more user testing.
By further testing out our final prototype, we could gain insight and fill voids in our logic that we were unable to address due to time and the limitations of our own experience.
Interview people who work for the city.
We hope to discuss this concept with stakeholders in different cities to understand how a system like Seedspace might best integrate into current regulations and future planning.
Consider further developing these features:
Seeds of Knowledge: Further develop our vision of an educational component for people who might not participate in gardening to still to learn about gardening, food and the environment.
Offer Food Experience: Allow users to host food experiences, such as cooking lessons, tasting, or community dinners to reach a wider audience.
Garden for Pay: Address the scenario of someone wanting local produce, but not wanting to garden themselves by opening up the possibility of paying for gardening services.