Design, Technology, and Innovation Projects

Design Goals

  • Develop recommendations for possible residential recycling solutions based on prototyping, research, and testing with Austin residents.
  • Develop test metrics and execute testing and measuring of possible solutions.
  • Recommend improvements to existing print and digital resources.
  • Establish methods to track and measure advertising or outreach effectiveness and/or awareness by personas and market segments.

Design Plan

image of design process

Translating Research to Design

The research learnings were a foundation for generating ideas that addressed Austin’s unique recycling challenges. This is our concept generation and evaluation process:

  • Sketch Concepts: Sketch potential solutions that are inspired by opportunity areas (“how might we…” statements) developed from insights.
  • Define Value Criterias: Develop simple, concise, concept evaluation criteria that reflects residents’ needs. This also helps the team align on what’s important.
  • Evaluate Concepts: Use the value criteria to narrow down your big pool of ideas to a small set with greater potential value.
  • Prioritize by Feasibility: Narrow down concepts again, looking at what can be done in the short-term vs. long-term, with a small budget or a big budget, with or without approval from multiple stakeholders.

Concept Sheet Template

Evaluation Spreadsheet Template

Design Sprints

Sprints refer to one or two week segments we spent on each round of prototypes. Our goal within each sprint was to build a rough prototype and test with residents so we can determine each prototype’s viability by the end of the sprint.

Sample Sprint Schedule



Rapid prototyping a concept is a low-cost and effective method for testing the potential of a new service, product, or message.

  • Frame the Problem: As a group, we defined a problem statement that a particular concept addressed.
  • Inspiration: Investigated how other cities / organizations are solving this type of problem
  • Draw It Out: We hand-drew the prototype on a whiteboard, getting everyone on board for what we were building and testing.
  • User Scenario: Wrote user scenarios, imagining how the prototype would manifest in the real world.
  • Storyboard: Small vignettes that help envision the prototype being used to reach a goal or fulfill a need.
  • Form a Hypothesis: Hypothesized how that idea would solve for the problem and developed metrics to measure this hypothesis.
  • Rough Prototype: Built the most minimal version of the prototype using paper, foam core, or other appropriate mediums.

Prototype & Test Plan Template\ Storyboard Template


Usability Testing

Conducted usability tests with residents that either proved or disproved a prototype’s value, helping us to sometimes fail early and move forward.

  • Plan & Recruit: Coordinated test location and tried to quickly recruit an equitable pool of participants–people with diverse backgrounds, income or education levels, with and without disabilities, non-English speakers, different ages, and more.
  • Complete Test Plan: For each prototype, we filled out a prototype test plan detailing the methods for testing and the metrics we were gathering.
  • Conduct Usability Test: Test your rough prototype with the people we’re designing for, in the context they’ll use it.
  • Reflect: Analyzed qualitative and quantitative findings.
  • How to Proceed: Determined next steps. Sometimes that meant refining our prototype based on test results, other times that meant scrapping the prototype and moving on because the prototype didn’t test well.
  • Share: Sometimes we co-created and tested prototypes with Austin Resource Recovery team members, and always shared learnings and outcomes at bi-weekly sprint review meetings.

Prototype & Test Plan Template



We shared work often–with our team and/or with Austin Resource Recovery. Having work out in the open and inviting critique helped us iterate quickly, get feedback from recycling subject matter experts, and avoid going down the wrong path. We developed feedback tips for this project.

  • Ask for the type and style of feedback you prefer.
  • Have fun & practice pausing.
  • Listen & write things down.
  • Wear different “hats.” Set aside your typical priorities and put on your creative hat, your evaluative hat, you subject matter expert hat, your resident hat, etc.
  • Ask “Where can this go wrong?” It is important to have an open mind when reviewing ideas but also to map constraints and barriers that we’d need to overcome.
  • Provide actionable feedback: “This isn’t working because __. You could try __, which will help by doing _____.”

Making Recommendations & Archiving

Hundreds of files, videos, and images make up our process work and design outcomes. We packaged final products and instructionals in a few ways.

  • Recommendations Booklet: We created a booklet that includes a brief history of each prototype, test details, and finished products with instructionals for next steps. Most importantly, Austin Resource Recovery teams can access this booklet and use it in their daily workflow.
  • Relocating Folder: We prepared and transferred all files to Austin Resource Recovery’s internal drive so they can access original files.



We shared process work through many channels, hoping to share our methods, pitfalls, and learnings with other practitioners, government teams, and residents.

  • Public Presentations: More than a presentation, these are our chances to share work and get feedback from the public. We took advantage of public spaces, like City Hall and Carver Library, that had free parking and feel welcoming. Each presentation involved making promotional materials, preparing a deck or visuals, and coordinating with a news source to film and post online for people who cannot attend.
  • Github: You’re on Github right now! It’s an open source platform that encourages collaboration and sharing. This provided the Fellows with a free, transparent way to share work.
  • Medium: Writing platform where we shared our personal reflections on methods and process, on what it’s like to conduct research and prototype in city government, and on keeping open lines of communication.