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Role: Product Designer
Duration: 12 weeks
Key Skills:
Info Architecture
Key Tools:
Adobe Illustrator
Optimal Workshop
So, What's

CYCLD (pronounced "cycled") is designed to aid and incentivize anyone interested in recycling, whether they’re just starting or a seasoned pro, to better track their personal impact, learn more about proper recycling, purchase recycled products from reputable companies, and to most importantly, get their recyclable goods off of their hands successfully.

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I’ve heard too many potential recyclers get turned away from trying because they don’t feel like their efforts push the needle or simply because they don’t know how to start. That bothers me, so I decided to design an app that could help solve it.

Align: Secondary Research

To begin the process, I documented the basics of what I knew: The benefits of recycling, why some people struggle with recycling, a list of items that either explicitly can or can't be recycled.

To refine my scope, I created a research statement to narrow the research breadth to recycling pain points, common recycling knowledge, and steps that will improve the public perception of recycled goods.


Documented notes on basic recycling topics. Click to read more.

Next, conducting a competitive analysis of the existing app experiences led me to 4 major insights on how to better serve my potential users:

Key Insights

  • Most apps don't prioritize teaching users about recycling.

  • Users highly value the ability to get notified when their recycling needs to be taken out for pickup.

  • Users enjoy having a highly functional dashboard to accomplish their tasks.

  • Most recycling apps don't incentivize usage.

Competitive analysis of the 4 highest rated recycling apps on the app store. Red indicates that the app doesn't have that feature, green indicates it does. Click to read more.

Discover: Interviews

After completing my secondary research, I was armed with insights and hypotheses about what I assumed the problem was. Next, I needed real information from real people to move forward.

After curating a screener survey and gathering a pool of possible participants, 5 in-depth interviews were conducted on people ranging from recycling experts to  those who were just looking to get involved.

Raw Interview Data to Useful Insights
Raw Data

Categorized by background, personal impact/process, painpoints and roadblocks, and purchasing habits.

Taking notes of what my participants said and collecting the most impactful points in long form format.

Affinity Clustering

What are the overarching similaries in what's being said? Let's refine the raw data.

9 major categories repeated: Impact, Education, Incentivization, Usage, Management & Treatment, Information, Collection, Financial Investment, and App concepts.

Empathy Mapping

New Recycler - Interested, with bouts of sporadic action.

Intermediate Recycler - Recycles consistently with low activity.

Expert Recycler - Correct, sustained, recycling actions and habits.

Let's orient the affinity insights into user groups.

User Groups To Personas

Creating empathy maps allowed me to synthesize my research findings and curate a much deeper understanding of my potential users and their experience with recycling. I created 3 unique personas and problem statements which provide a north star to reference while making design decisions.

Persona 1

Leland, 22, College Student, New Recycler: Leland feels overwhelmed by info when beginning, doesn't understand recycling's impact, and doesn't know where to start his journey. He needs a way to easily learn the basics of recycling and how it impacts him.

Persona 2

Kara, 28, City Apartment Hopper, Intermediate Recycler: Kara feels that her recycling potential is crippled by her environment and that the the biggest issue exists at the creation phase of the waste lifecycle. She wants a quick way to locate recycling centers and more sustainable commerce options.

Persona 3

Trent, 34, Working Father of 3, Intermediate Recycler: Trent feels personally effective and consistent but that his effort is often canceled out by most people's lack of knowledge, irresponsible brands, and limited disposal services. He wants a way to ensure the brand he's buying are actually sustainable and a way to track the personal impact of his recycling habits.

Design: Wireframes

At this point, I had 3 types of people I was serving and 7,349 ideas on how I might design a solution to meet my users' needs. Unfortunately, to my knowledge, there's no app that can successfully host 7,349 features...yet. Revisit this website in 38 years.


To prioritize what features would be most impactful and feasible, user stories around recycling disposal/pickup, product purchasing, and informational gathering were created. This process allowed me to hone in on a list of key actions my user groups would take.

Test: Initial Wireframes  to Concept Testing

Converting user scenarios, user flows, and app architecture into initial screens. Here I made sure to refine my screens, made the navigation align with the prototype and continued to fill out the content.

Item Scan
Post Video Quiz
Learning Area
Shop Space
Video Interface
Shop Section
Quiz Interface
Concept Testing

Now, to test my initial concept against my participants existing mental models, goals, desires, and perceptions of what they believe the experience should be. Additionally, a tree test and survey were utilized to gather insights on the validity of the current app structure and content.

P.S. This is my favorite type of research. It's insane how much value you can get out of a 30m conversation with the right questions and a patient ear.

Key Insights
  • Dashboard data should  be more personalized.

  • Add recycling function isn't initially associated to graph.

  • Cluttered starting screen, overwhelming, “alot going on”.

  • Participants had trouble associating the term ‘market’ with a familiar pattern.

  • Lack of understanding for pickup schedule.

  • Items scanned should have a location to show history

  • Did not understand the correlation between C02 and amount of bags.

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Research Statement

Understand why people feel motivated (or not) to recycle, the pain points users experience while trying to recycle, common mistakes, the amount of knowledge the common person has on the topic of proper recycling, and what will improve the public perception of recycled goods.

Iterate: High Fidelity Designs

After gathering participant feedback via in person and remote concept testing and integrating the feedback, the low-fidelity designs were converted into high fidelity screens.

After, I usability tested the hi-fi concepts with participants to gauge the feel of the experience, feature congruence, and general feelings and thoughts around a more polished app.


Let's start with the basics. A primary goal of CYCLD is to be widely accessible and feel approachable, not intimidating.

The tone of the app is simple,

clear, nature-oriented, and

youthful. To accomplish this tone, I created a moodboard to define the visual language.

p.s. I love making mood boards

Brand & Interactive
Color Guide

All colors are WCAG 2.0 compliant. Initially, I was

going for 3.0 but to convey the tone I was looking

for, the colors needed to  be brighter.

The primary brand color is intentionally linked with

the success color to form additional positive

associations between the users and the app.

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Concept Test Screens vs. High Fidelity Screens

Let's explore the progression from concept to high fidelity and go over how participant feedback led to research driven design improvements.

Sign Up

Participants had trouble locating the sign up button. To help this, the spacing was improved and color contrast was utilized to help that function stand out more.


The content was updated to be

more personalized so the user understood the data being presented was controlled and entered by them.


To allow for quick info ingestion the frequent searches were designed on a grid. For accessibility, icons paired with color coding.


Initially, the feature name 'Market' didn't align with participants' mental models, so after a quick survey, the term was changed to 'Shop'.

Item Scan

To comply with the established

visual standards, the icons were updated.

Video Viewing

Participants demonstrated confusion while converting from video to quiz. To remedy this, contrast was added and sizing was updated to be more prevalent.

Post Video Quiz

Participants struggled with

recalling which video the quiz was based on. To provide consistent context, the video title is anchored to to header.

Product Info Screen

Provides clear, immediate information for users upon being triggered. Brand color and icons used to reinforce the information.

Add Recycling Feature

Initially, this was a process that

spanned multiple screens. This was updated to be a single screen to prioritize quickness in order to reduce friction and maintain context.


This project was a blast because it challenged me to really dig deep into understanding people's motivations around consistent recycling habits and a general public perception about the effectiveness of recycling. Throughout this process, I learned some key takeaways related to product process:

Respect the Scope

Understanding where the MVP scope begins and ends is crucial. Working on CYCLD, there were alot of initial  directions to go in. Using the feedback from participants was crucial in determining what was most important and what would provide the biggest value add. Choosing what you will not do is equally important to determining what you will.

When In Doubt, Research

Throughout the process, there were junctions where I had multiple paths to take. On the dashboard, for instance, I initially had 4 key features that would exist in that space. After surveying what participants find most important, the choices were easily narrowed down to two options: Personal impact and a pickup schedule.

Concept Testing is Suuuuper Powerful

One of my favorite types of research, concept testing is immensely powerful. Even more so the earlier you utilize it. After I ran my initial ideas through a series of qualified participants, I could easily spot the glaring issues with the project. Not only does this save time, but avoids the costly mistake of shipping an app your users won't use.