In order to create a big impact we need to take action. This is why we decided to adopt an educational approach, to be able to advise and guide young adults who are entering a world in which companies and advertising are constantly persuading us to have more, and more often, creating a fictitious desire towards material objects. Young adults are on the threshold of forming behaviour and creating habits that last a lifetime. These are also the individuals that will soon have the financial ability to make purchases, benefit certain provides, keep the system as it is, or make a difference. As society, we are already decades behind when it comes to climate change, and we cannot afford to keep making the same mistakes because of lack of knowledge, or because we are simply imitating a common behaviour. Resources won't be available forever. Our everyday choices will have a huge impact on future generations. We wanted to create a tool that could simulate a real life situation, with real facts and real consequences.
What it Does
The application is a website that takes visitors to a journey through the life-cycle of a product, in this case the life on an iPhone. The application presents to the user the five steps of the life-cycle of the product: Material extraction, manufacturing, transportation, consumer usage and disposal. At each stage, we outline one social or environmental issue that might be evoked by the choices made by the user. A smartphone was chosen as sample product because of how familiar our target group, high schoolers, are with it. It's an object used on an everyday basis and that has had an immense impact on how teenagers and young adults communicate and behave.
During each stage, the user is challenged to jump into the shoes of the company who makes the presented product. The application lets users make choices based on what they think is the way to go forward at that moment of the product life-cycle. Once the user has made their choice, we reveal the alternative real companies choose. Furthermore, we then continue to explain what are the implications of these choices on a social and environmental point of view, from carbon footprint, energy consumption, unfair labor conditions or health risks.
For example, in the case of a mobile phone, we let the player choose between three different elements used to produce specific parts of the device. We then educate them about how that material is obtained, (for example, through strip mining, handmade digging) and if that operation will be harmful for the surroundings. Once this process has been completed, information about the amount of resources used to produce one single phone is displayed to be able to understand the relation between production effort and final outcome.
Once the user has reached the end of the product life-cycle (and end of the game), the results are shown in two parts. First, the impact of the choices made during the game are visualized as shown on the product, here, the iPhone. If poor decisions are made the product appears broken in different ways. Furthermore, the player is given a title based on the level of sustainability achieved, as well as stats in comparison to other players, eg. you picked the same choice as 30% of all players. This way the results are shareable and comparable to the player and its peers, which is an important criteria for our selected target group. They can now spread the word and compare their results to other players or even retake the test to achieve a better score (trigger vs reward).
How we built it
The starting point was to choose the desired outcome for this experience, both for us as a group, in this particular context but also what we wanted to offer to our targeted group. The concept had to be reviewed and polished in a very meticulous way in order to make it applicable to various scenarios. Once the concept had been defined and agreed upon, extensive research was made about each one of the life-cycle steps to be able to gather enough usable information for the user to make an informed decision. Next up, we made a careful selection of the most relevant data, which was then taken and used to formulate our scenarios. A strong theoretical background allowed us to move on to the next phase, sketching the main skeleton of our application. Wireframes were designed to ensure usability, visual impact and user flow. Our priority was to allow the user to move easily through the different scenarios, in a very natural and self-explanatory way. Looking at design, we came to the conclusion that since our main focus was to educate and present new information to the user, our interface had to support and allow that process to happen. A clear and minimalistic look was chosen for the webpage, highlighting the necessary and eliminating possible chances of getting confused.
When you are working with sustainability you realize that it's no more about a topic. It's about our everyday lives and the lives of those who yet have to come. It is indeed a challenge to understand how to approach such a broad concept and somehow simplify it without losing its main values along the way. Data and useful information to read and analyze are available in huge quantities both in paper and digital form. But how do we create a connection between future generations and sustainability? How do we make it clear to them that actions, decisions matter. That the small ones, those that take place in our own houses, they create a wave that impacts lives, cities, businesses all over the world.
Being able to come up with an idea and make every possible effort to bring it to life in such a short time is already a huge accomplishment for us. That being said, making an impact on someone else's life, education and even future would be the biggest reward that we could ever think of. One huge takeaway for us is to have opened our minds to new solutions, to rethink the way things are being done, to approach sustainability from different points of view and to try to bring something fresh and useful, but most importantly, doable.
What we learned
Outotec challenged us to make an impact. At the end of this journey, we feel that we go home with more than that. There's a lot that's coming with us. Our team consisted of graphic and UX/UI designers, programmers and data analysts, but we learned that we can be more than that. We firmly believe that we can contribute with our knowledge to other areas such as education, something that in the beginning was not even something we had considered. We have learned that external influences matter more than we realize when it comes to shaping our behaviour, and that stimulating a person's curiosity through hands on experiences is a very effective way to gain knowledge.
What's next for the project
It is crucial to understand that the presented project is a demo. The length of this has been adapted to be presented for this challenge. A full version of the game can be developed with more scenarios per each step, products to choose from and possible outcomes as end results. We believe that this same idea is versatile enough to be also applied to products coming from other industries such as food industry, textile industry and so on. The end goal remains to educate whoever takes part in this journey, so the possibilities are endless if we considerate how extensive the subject is. As team, we would be thrilled to develop this full project since we share Outotec's core values such as optimizing processes, educating about efficient resource usage, and guarantee quality through long lasting life solutions.