Global warming is the result of historically high amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) and pollutants known as “greenhouse gases” (GHG) accumulating in earth’s atmosphere. Global warming is a direct threat to the viability of entire ecosystems, with wide effects ranging from species extinction to financial catastrophe caused by natural disasters. Reductions in activities that emit GHG are necessary to mitigate threats to global ecosystems.
In 2010, the EPA ascribed 10% of the USA’s GHG emissions, and 24% of global GHG emissions to a sector categorized as ‘Agriculture, Forestry, Land Use’. The global demand for animal meat is the primary factor driving agricultural emissions. While animal protein and products provide significant benefits to the human diet, the production of non-vegetable protein sources must adapt in ways that reduce their environmental footprint.
Our Service Design course was given a 10-week assignment to “envision a service design solution to address the climate crisis”. With the effects of COVID-induced supply chain disruptions still evident in our communities and economies, our team wanted to explore the connections between global supply chains and food ecosystems. Combining the potentially catastrophic effects of food shortages with data on GHG emissions from livestock production, we synthesized a solution space involving the production, distribution, and consumption of edible insects. Our team proposal is called ‘BugBox’ - a service design concept for meal delivery kits that focus on entomophagy: the practice of eating insects.
BugBox champions user fulfillment of four human values - resilience, sustainability, community, and trust - in the design of services that promote novel forms of human nourishment.
“Resilience” describes an ideal quality of a successful supply chain, robust and flexible to absorb systemic shocks. Valuing “sustainability” means making efforts to increase nourishment with less resources, and employing solutions that don’t increase GHG. “Community” leverages the vibrant dynamic of local farm producers and food enthusiasts as a way to make new kinds of protein accessible. “Trust” informs the design principles and voice of BugBox, conveying our message in an authentic manner to move people from apprehension to advocacy.
BugBox proposes an incremental introduction to entomophagy for people who are curious about the topic and passionate about climate change. Similar to brands like Beyond, Tesla, and Mylo that are addressing problems in modern consumption, BugBox targets early adopters that have the means and inclination to experiment. BugBox subscribers first encounter the brand in authentic and familiar spots like farmers markets, health-food groceries, and local restaurants. New users receive on-boarding through the BugBox app, where they can calibrate their nutrition and dietary history to build an eater profile. Meal selections can be tailored for quantity and type of insects, cuisines, and cooking proficiency. In addition to the meal kit and ingredient delivery, users are invited to join the BugBox community to discover local restaurant events, connect with insect producers, and learn how their actions benefit the planet.
The discipline of Service Design connects user needs with a human-centered approach to business strategy. Over the ten weeks of the quarter, we progressively refined our design goals and deliverables by following a HCD process that was both fun and rigorous. The building of the BugBox system included design exercises in service ecosystem mapping, co-design, narrative prototyping, service blueprinting, visual and UX design, and brand development. We began this process by exploring and defining values that we hoped users would experience and associate with BugBox.
After identifying our values, we then sketched an exhaustive ecosystem map to catalog interdependencies that might be involved when connecting insect producers to eaters. Our map was arranged in time-based phases: Discovery, Purchase, Cook & Consume, Practice & Evangelize. The map centers on the primary core need for Nourishment, and places user needs, interactions, and touchpoints in their respective phases. This exercise allowed us to place micro-interactions into a flexible framework that scaffolded later service blueprinting.
The team's research activities included in-depth interviews with subject matter experts, a consumer attitude survey, conducting several co-design workshops, and role-playing a narrative prototype to guide our service design directions.
During our discovery phase, we interviewed a supply chain expert and a professor specializing in sustainable design. We learned that companies face increasing pressure to be more environmentally conscious and address climate threats, and that food resiliency presents complex local and global challenges.
Following these in-depth interviews, our team further refined our project focus and narrowed it down to food resiliency and novel proteins. Secondary research revealed that entomophagy was a culinary tradition celebrated across many cultures throughout history and that normalizing insect eating could help our local communities move towards more healthy, sustainable, and scalable food practices.
An online survey of 25 participants (sourced from friends and classmates) produced a set of interesting findings.
- Word-of-mouth recommendations are crucial in changing food consumption behavior.
- Unfamiliarity results in fear or apprehension about insect texture and taste.
- Participants wanted more transparency about insect food safety and handling.
We then led an online co-design workshop with five participants consisting of various activities including a food image web search, value discussion, and a create-our-own communal-insect-meal activity. Findings included:
Product education and reflection enabled participants to overcome strong initial aversion.
Most participants preferred not to see or know that they were eating bugs and didn’t want to see bugs in product packaging
Climate catastrophe concerns were powerful determinants in participants’ attitudes. When presented with facts on meat production, participants were more receptive to novel insect proteins (despite other preferences).
Nutritional facts and health benefits were compelling factors in influencing participants to consider insects as regular protein sources.
In order to evaluate solutions, we sketched and conducted narrative prototyping exercises to explore how different consumers might react to our products.
This activity included role-playing a salesperson, a skeptical consumer, and an interested soon-to-be bug eater! For added realism, we used actual edible insect products in the scenarios.
In this activity, we found that people felt more persuaded by having a salesperson explain and demonstrate the value of our product. “The salesperson has to not only ‘sell’ the product, but the concept of eating bugs too” (fellow design student).
We also rethought how customers might discover our product. Initially, we envisioned customers finding our product through the sampling counter of Costco. However, we realized this approach was not viable and identified alternative avenues such as local farmers markets and social media platforms. “I could see this interaction happening more at a Whole Foods or PCC instead of a Costco though, maybe because Costco always seems very frenzied and cold to me because of the warehouse-y vibes” (fellow design student).
Through our research exercises and competitive analysis we distilled our design approach into two principles:
Naturally abundant - “We are biophilic. We abide by the bounty of ecosystems. Our design choices proceed from nature, not from technology or ego. Visually wholesome and earnest. Abundance and richness, not scarcity, not doom or guilt.”
Change and growth - “We will meet you where you are in this new food adventure. You are part of this movement with deep affinities for helping the planet, and we’ll be together in this exploration. You can do this!”
To express how BugBox might connect backstage processes with user interactions, we envisioned a fictitious composite user named ‘Stephanie’ encountering the service at a local Farmers Market. The Journey Map and Blueprint for the evolving BugBox experience plots Stephanie discovering the world of edible insects and becoming an advocate.
A mobile-first app UI was seen as the most familiar method for our target users to discover, order, and learn to cook edible insect dishes. Through the app, users can calibrate their tolerances for venturing into entomophagy, with selections ranging from processed insect flours to complete meal kits and whole insects. We prototyped the delivery materials with renderings of the meal kits, individual packaged ingredients, and recipe cards.
Opportunities for worthwhile change are rarely easy. BugBox challenged us as designers and consumers to step back and assess our own comfort levels when considering the types and extents of lifestyle changes needed to enact better stewardship of our planet. As a sketch for a speculative near-term future service, BugBox provokes questions about the supply chains linking our civilization with the food it consumes, our corporeal and emotional relationship with dietary norms, and how cultural differences can be leveraged when introducing novel sources of food. Further work could include co-design sessions with target demographics using mid-fidelity food and packaging prototypes, and gaining more insight into international regulatory guidelines intended to promote entomophagy in order to find synergies between producers and eaters.
“I think the entire jury felt it was provocative, it was compelling, it led to amazing conversations about how we individually were convinced and moved by the work. Every detail was considered, every possible context: the diagrams, the service blueprints - it was exceptionally executed, extremely thoughtful, and just a really fun idea.”
Kirsten Southwell, C77DA Juror
Quilla Valdez Graves: Content Strategy
Honson Ling: UX Research
Brayan Zavala: UX and Visual Design
Sean Horita: Industrial Design
Tyler Fox, Associate Teaching Professor, for a well-run and satisfying course
UW HCDE, instructors, mentors, and participants