In 2020, Starbucks formalized its 2030 environmental goals to cut its carbon footprint by 50% by deciding to focus on 5 areas:
In this semester-long project, our goal was to help Starbucks in this mission by encouraging its customers to consume sustainably.
Although our goal was to focus on sustainability, the problem space was very broad. We weren't asked to focus on a particular platform (eg. mobile app or website) or build something purely educational or commercial. We were free to explore out-of-the-box ideas but ensure we had high-fidelity deliverables to present at the end of our 3.5-month timeline. We started by exploring the internet to find existing literature on sustainable coffee consumption and initiatives taken by companies like Starbucks to promote sustainability, documented our findings on a mind-map using Xmind
We found that the Starbucks research and development team had already identified that the most dominant shift in consumer behavior was a shift towards plant-based items. They had started testing vegan menus and 100% plant-based stores in Seattle.
The other major finding was the waste generated by plastic and paper cups. While Starbucks contributed to 1% of the 600 billion paper and plastic cups distributed globally, it was still a significant amount, and they had already launched the borrow-a-cup program, which encouraged customers t use reusable coffee cups.
We divided the ownership of the two problem statements. I was more interested in exploring plant-based menu innovation and I led the background research, interviews, and design in the domain. Therefore, this article will focus on Problem Statement 1.
After the completing the background research, we decided to conduct semi-structured interviews as we believed we could get more data by having a casual conversation with our users but also ensuring we get all our key research questions answered. We drafted an interview script on Notion and revised the questions and their order based on feedback from our advisors. Each semi-structured interview was approximately 20 minutes long. We recorded these sessions with the user’s consent and used them to make notes in Google Sheets.
We used Otter.ai to transcribe the interview recordings. After combining these transcriptions with the notes taken during the interview, we transferred them to stickies on and creating an Affinity Map to organize the data and gain insights.
After creating the affinity map, we conducted a virtual "walking the wall" activity by marking important findings on the map with a heart. We shared and discussed these with the Starbucks team before moving forward with concept sketches:
To translate the above findings in a visual form, I first made sketches in Adobe Fresco. As users felt they would be curious to try out a new product if Starbucks handpicked it , we introduced a “Drink of the Day,” which would also address the Health finding by telling them how many calories a plant-based drink could help save. It would also provide them an incentive to earn extra reward points. Inspired by a toggle feature in food ordering apps like Zomato and Swiggy in India - where many people consume a vegetarian diet, we introduced a plant-based toggle in our sketches.
After discussing the sketches with our advisors, we started designing Figma. We used Starbucks Creative Expression as a reference for creating our visual design system and then converted our ideas into high-fidelity prototypes. Below is a an overview of the design and prototyping process on Figma and the key features added to a mockup of the Starbucks mobile app.
As my first major design project with an industry partner, this project was an immense learning experience. I learned how to navigate through an ambiguous problem, structure questions in a research script, and convert ideas into high-fidelity designs within a few weeks. Following are my key takeaways: