*scroll down to view the full-service video

BUOY SAFETY ECOSYSTEM

DESIGNING A SAFE HIKING EXPERIENCE FOR NONTRADITIONAL-NOVICE HIKERS.

In a week-long design sprint, my team and I prototyped an ideal hiking system to enhance a sense of belonging and safety among BIPOC, and non-binary novice hikers, encouraging them to enjoy the physical as well as emotional benefits of hiking.

Team:  Nirali Oza, Madeline Hanes, Sadiya Hinedi, Lyndsey Wang, Sophia Testa

 

THE CHALLENGE

How might we best redesign the hiking experience to make it more inclusive and enjoyable for novice hikers?

THE APPROACH

We utilized a classic design sprint methodology to understand the reasons behind disparities in hiking, brainstorm solutions, and finally prototype and validate the concept.

To examine existing hiking services and experiences, we did a quick round of secondary research, utilized photo-ethnography, and conducted contextual inquiries. We synthesized the data through affinity diagramming, thematic analysis, and empathy mapping.

THE OUTCOME

We delivered three visual artifacts - a service offering map, a high fidelity prototype, and a unique branding style to appeal to our users. These assets helped us tell a compelling story and build a case for our unique, thoughtful service solution. 

MY ROLE

As a service designer and a design strategist, I conceptualized the service system, crafted the offering map, and designed all other visual artifacts and presentations.

IT HIT AN EMOTIONAL NERVE HEARING YOUR INSIGHT ‘DESIGN NEEDED TO BREAK STEREOTYPES’. VERY IMPRESSED WITH THE STORY AND IDEA OF BELONGING. BEAUTIFUL AND COMPREHENSIVE. WELL DONE.

- Tamie Glass, Faculty Director, Design In Health-Focused MA In Design 

FINAL PRESENTATION VIDEO

Unmute video to hear the narration.

01

THE CHALLENGE

According to the 2019 Trek’s annual thru-hiker survey, 59.0% of hikers identified as men, 39.9% as women, and 1.1% identified as non-binary. Statistics collected from the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, and Fish and Wildlife Service show that although people of color make up nearly 40 percent of the total U.S. population, close to 70 percent of people who visit national forests, national wildlife refuges, and national parks are white, while BIPOC remain an underrepresented group in these spaces. Hiking spaces favor tradition and those with experience. Trails have isolated non-stereotypical users and focused mainly on the physical aspects of hiking. Based on our research, people want to enjoy outdoor spaces for multi-faceted reasons: mental, emotional, and even spiritual. For individuals from under-represented groups, hiking may pose additional challenges. They are physically and mentally under-prepared to hike safely due to a lack of experience, access, or support.

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“WHEN I GO ON A HIKE, I DON'T THINK ABOUT THINGS THAT COULD GO WRONG, I JUST GO HIKE TO HAVE FUN AND HOPE IT ALL GOES WELL."

- Mr. V, 28 years old south asian hiker

 

02

THE APPROACH

We started our project with quick desk research to orient ourselves to the topic and current trends. After that, we did photo-ethnography, went to different parks, and documented our experiences through photos and observational notes. The following day, we went to the same parks with our friends and conducted contextual inquiries. 

 

PHOTO-ETHNOGRAPHY

Pictures were taken by the team during field visits.

“WHAT SCARES ME ABOUT HIKING IS THAT I DON'T HAVE ANY KNOWLEDGE OF WHAT TO DO IF THINGS GO WRONG. "

- Ms. W, 24 years old Asian female hiker

EMPATHY MAPS

We crafted empathy maps to better understand the hiker's needs using the data we gathered through inquiries and field visits.​ An empathy map is a collaborative tool teams can use to gain deeper insight into their customers. Much like a user persona, an empathy map can represent a group of users, similar to customer segments. We took three users' pain points from the empathy maps and converted them into insights utilizing the "I need...So that.." technique.

Empathy map and insights.

"PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES ARE FULLY CAPABLE OF TAKING CARE OF THEMSELVES. IT JUST TAKES A BIT OF EXTRA PLANNING, A BIT OF EXTRA KNOWLEDGE...IT’S IMPORTANT TO KNOW HOW LONG A TRIAL IS. THIS ONE WASN’T CLEARLY MARKED..."

- Emily, 20 years old female hiker

 

03

THE OUTCOME

We started to see common patterns in our data through thematic analysis and affinity diagramming, which led us to identify themes. Our final deliverable included a service offering map, a high fidelity prototype, and a unique branding style that appeals to our users.   

INSIGHTS

01. 

Guide

Hikers need a guide or resource that will tell them what to do in a hiking emergency.

03. 

Break stereotypes

It is high time to break stereotypes around who is or who can be a hiker.

05. 

Safety

It is crucial for a nontraditional novice hiker to feel physically as well as mentally safe while hiking.

02. 

Sense of belonging

Hikers need to have a sense of belonging while hiking. It is critical, as negative emotions are amplified during emergencies, which can have lasting effects on a hiker's confidence or sense of security.

04. 

Emotional benefits

There is a need for a well-designed hiking experience that encourages people to reap the emotional benefits of hiking, such as peace and mindfulness in tandem with its physical benefit. 

 

LOW & HIGH FIDELITY PROTOTYPING

From these rich insights, we crafted design criteria and prototyped all the parts of the buoy ecosystem first with rough materials and later high-fidelity branded versions of the prototypes using photoshop.

Low and High fidelity prototyping.

THE SERVICE OFFERING MAP

The service offering map visually describes what benefits proposed services provide to the users, detailing the value proposition into more specific clusters of features. 

 

Buoy is a full safety ecosystem for hikers and it centers around our hiking device the Buoy Buddy. The Buddy is a small device that can be clipped wherever is most comfortable. It has a voice AI companion, named Luka, to talk to hikers in several languages. Luka acts like an AI triage to help hikers navigate through all kinds of emergencies, such as dehydration, cuts, or snake bites. Along with its help button, the device has a GPS ping feature to let family members and park rangers know where the hiker is. 

Let's look at Buoy service through a customer story. Willow (Buoy customer) slips and cuts her leg, she starts to panic, but she hits the "help" button on her Buoy Buddy and Luka talks her through what to do and guides her to the nearest aid station, another part of the Buoy system. At the Buoy Booth, the supplies Willow needs to take care of her cut automatically dispense from the drawers. The Buddy device is able to deescalate the situation and get Willow back to enjoying the outdoors sooner.

Before anyone steps foot on the trail, the Buoy Ecosystem welcomes hikers through the Buoy Box. When the hiker registers for a hiking permit, they receive a box with the Buddy device, park information, and stories and testimonials from a diverse group of hikers. When hikers arrive at the park, they check-in at the Buoy Base, a redesigned Visitor's Center, they then hike with their Buddy device and have access to the first aid and wellness Booths along the trails. After hiking, they have the opportunity to add their hiking stories to the Buoy story collection, contributing to the Buoy community. 

The service offering map

BRANDING & STYLE GUIDE

Logo iterations, branding and style guide

"I LIKE THE WAY THIS ADDRESSES THE PSYCHOLOGICAL ASPECT, JUST HEARING A VOICE KEEPS US CALM. IT'S VERY IMPRESSIVE HOW Y'ALL CAME UP WITH A WHOLE ECOSYSTEM FOR YOUR PRODUCT!"

- Mr. V, 28 years old south asian hiker

04

THE REFLECTION

  • Stories Trump Statistics: I learned this phrase from Rob Biesebnach's book, Unleash the Power of Storytelling: Win Hearts, Change Minds, Get Results. We utilized some of the basic principles of powerful storytelling in our presentation which elicited strong responses in the audience. For instance, one of our audience members shared that we " hit an emotional nerve" while presenting which leads us to believe we have a strong case for our idea and product. 

  • Look and Feel: I learned how crucial it is to have compelling visuals and strong cohesive branding in the era of experience economy. It helped our audience imagine how the services would look, feel, and function for our target audience.