DES231: The Future of Work and Play — Assignment: Imagine and explore a world where your insight (from A1 — Future of X) has come true. Your task over the next six weeks is to concept, develop, and fabricate an artifact that belongs in this future world that does not yet exist.

31st October 2030 — An extract from the future release of LocalSeed

"For 3.8 billion years, life has collected copious amounts of data from its surroundings. This research has inspired reiteration and redesigns of its organisms and systems to become more efficient and resilient. From vibrant, non-toxic pigments to attract pollinators to infinitely sustainable nutrient cycles that create zero waste. Nature has learned its context and has adapted to do the best job it can with the least amount of energy and resources. This approach is vastly different from ours. We use brute force, unsustainable energy and vast amounts of resources in order to suppress our surrounding environment and construct what we like, no matter the cost. It is this blind selfishness that has caused climate change and obliterated our biodiversity. LocalSeed proposes a new attitude, or rather, an old attitude, of listening to our local environment and from that, making decisions about how we solve problems.

Our goal at LocalSeed is to change people’s mindsets from always reaching for human solutions that just put bandaids over grander issues. Many of our local environmental issues, such as flooding, erosion, native bush destruction, loss of biodiversity and polluted waterways can actually be solved by natural, soft solutions that restore resilient ecosystems at the same time. We have developed a system that allows you to do just that — solve your environmental problems by collaborating with nature, rather by fighting it.

With the LocalSeed app, your local environmental conditions e.g. climate, soil type, sunlight is consolidated to develop your Ecosystem Profile. Just choose what problem you want to solve and our Darwin AI will create for you an EcosystemPack. Using principles from permaculture, LocalSeed curates a pack of seeds to solve your issue through ecosystem restoration, and delivers it straight to your door."

View the artefact below:


1. Connections Map

My first step was to take a step back from the assignment and actually think about if my insight came true, who and how would the different stakeholders be affected. I wasn't very far into the map before I began to establish a direction of interest — namely the interaction between my insight and how life as a community would change. This was the scale that I decided I was going to target for this project.

2. Brainstorming

This is the part I always find the most difficult, the initial brainstorming of ideas. The additional restrictions I placed on myself through the final outcome of the last assignment made it even more difficult than usual. I knew from that, that I wanted to not just make a single product but rather something that was part of a larger system.

3. Selection

I started looking at ideas that were interesting but likely too far out of reach for a student project. It was at the same time that I was researching in another paper, the extraordinary opportunity of rewilding brownfields (disused, potentially contaminated developed land). This sparked the idea of designing systems that allowed people to reconnect and restore the environment around them. The idea that immediately struck out to me was a customiseable seed packet, that could be adapted to the user's conditions and wants.

4. Inspiration

I began looking at different examples of how companies had gone about making seed packs something more than just purchasing a single pack of a species and actually turning it into something with a bit more depth and design initiative. There was certainly some great ideas but I kept going back to Nature's 10 Unifying Patterns that I learnt about in the previous assignment and nothing was really doing the level of biomimicry that I was interested in, so there was certainly a niche to fill.

Credit: Little Garden, Micropod, Kaipatiki, Elle Bee Design

5. Returning to Precedence

Upon researching these other examples, I returned back to Nature's Unifying Patterns to ground my iterations going forth. I made it my goal to tick off as many of these patterns in some way with my final design

6. System Design

The next step was to actually consider what elements would go into the whole seed pack system. Using my biomimicry precedence, I fleshed out the entire system, from the UI that took in the local data, to what the end product would actually consist of.

7. Product Inspiration

Proceeding on from Phase 6, I was prompted to think about what I actually wanted to produce. As my insight from the previous assignment was focusing on the wider system rather than an individual product, I chose to develop the application, which would highlight the key parts of the system that directly correlate to my biomimetic research.

8. Visual Styling

I began looking for visual precedences, trying to search for aesthetic styles that would correlate with my intent. These ranged from simple minimalistic products, to floral flatlays, to old scientific drawings.

I chose a minimalistic style as I found it was the most effective at conveying information in a simple and clear manner, especially when viewed on a phone, where more complex detail is often confusing or lost by the small screen size.

9. Scientific Research

The initial idea stemmed from a conversation after watching the eco-documentary '2040', where director Damon Gameau highlights the importance of regenerative farming in a sustainable future. From there I began research what are the essential pieces of data that are necessary to determine whether or not somewhere is good or bad for a plant. This was invaluable for the project as it helped answer the questions of 'what would this app actually need to do in order to curate a biodiverse seed pack tailored perfectly for the environment around it?'.

10. Brainstorming of Final Deliverables

Using the knowledge gained in Phase 9, I brainstormed the different aspects of the application that would need to be conveyed in the final deliverables; three images of the design showcasing how it functions.

I chose to break it up into the three steps necessary in the LocalSeed system — Location, Purpose, Order. This would cover all three elements of the design, from intaking the local ecosystem conditions, to the problem the user has, to the creation of the diverse seed pack.

11. Initial Ideation

The first idea I had was to create a simple visual of the users journey through the app, covering each step, from the recording of local conditions to the final ordering. However, it felt too stale and bland.

Pictured is a prototype of what 1/3 images would have looked like

12. Inspiration

Inspiration for a new approach sparked from an unlikely source. One of my favourite photographers, Jeremy Snell. I thought a more interesting approach would be to use my photographic skills to actually place the design in an environment, creating a bit more visual interest than just a flat background.

13. Final Images

From that inspiration, I created a series of simple images that would showcase the design in different scenarios for each page. These are photographs of my phone which I could then superimpose the UI design onto.

14. World Building

The first step I took to create the design was to establish the visual aesthetic. I began by designing the logo, not necessarily because it would have a significant role in my design, but rather to develop the wider world around the UI mechanics. This logo represents interconnectedness. A system where everything comes together to form a whole. The red to blue, hot to cold, gradient represents the importance of climate in the system. This logo founded the colour scheme for the app.

15. Establishment of Aesthetic

Next, using the research undertaken in Phase 7-9, I designed the first page, which would collect all of the information needed in order to tailor the plants to the user's ecosystem. I wanted a simple design that made it very clear what steps were needed in order to complete the Ecosystem Profile. I did not want it to be daunting with how much information was thrown at the user on the first page. I also established the idea of utilising a timeline-like design. This largely came from the preceding work on the System map, that made it feel logical to curate the selection process as one of forward movement towards a final product. All you need to do is complete each task then scroll down to the next.

16. Choosing Your Purpose

Having realised the aesthetic, I needed to develop the next two pages: choosing the purpose and ordering the pack.

From my prior brainstorming, I knew I wanted this to not only be a means of ordering the seed pack, but also to educate the user... so that's what I made this page all about. One thing that I really wanted to make clear with this app is why using natural, soft solutions is just so beneficial for us and the environment around us. This page allows users to learn a bit more about why that is the case and to help people make a decision as to what they want to use the plants for and why.

I also implemented the designs into my photographs in order to see how the page designs appeared on a phone screen.

17. A Demo Pack

Finally I came to actually producing a demonstration pack. This entailed some further research into what plants actually would a user be recommended. I visited a plant shop to chat and learn more about what native NZ species are effective at retaining banks. In addition to this, I studied other restoration projects, which pointed me in the direction species to look into. What was interesting is that many NZ natives are hardy, resilient species that were perfect for this pack, reinforcing the importance of utilising designs that are locally attuned to the environment.

18. The How-To Guide

Having implemented all the visuals into the various photos, I still felt like the graphics were lacking some key information that can help users understand what each feature is for. I knew I needed to annotate the drawings somehow, so I drafted up the idea of doing a How-To guide. A playful way to explain what each element is and why it is there. In a future world, this would be a design used, for example, in the release event for the app to help attendants understand and use the application.

Here I further tweaked some minor elements of the design, such as making it very instructional and user-engaging. Originally I had planned for the app to do all of the work, but I think it is essential for the user to learn what data needs to be taken from the environment in order to create the app. This was largely implemented in the soil type & slope condition recording phase.

I want this app to not only supply a product to purchase but also help educate users about the environment and what has an impact on the health and functionality of an ecosystem.