With both our first major event and the completion of our new Freedge prototype quickly approaching, we would like to take the opportunity to reminiscence on how we got to where we are now. We had the privilege of receiving the think-tank advice of NYU’s Net Impact Collaborative Experience (NICE). NICE is a highly inclusive consulting group aimed at advising startups and social ventures in a way that is both inquisitive and informational. Through their questions and answers to our questions, we have gained tremendous insight into some of the challenges that we might encounter, solutions to already existing issues, and altogether new, innovative ideas. At our meeting, we focused primarily on marketing, outreach, and user experience.
The exuberant group we met with provided a lot of insight into our graphic design. With their suggestions, we took an introspective look into what aspects of our current graphic design works and what doesn’t, noting that at first glance it is impossible to grasp our sustainability and affordability goals from just our project name and logo. This jump-started our redesign efforts. The first step was to rebrand. Project Avocado would remain as our team/organizational name and “Freedge” would become the title and descriptor of our refrigerator prototype. The much more intuitive and understandable name comes from our new friends over at UC-Davis, who created the Freedge brand also aimed at reducing food waste, but on a much larger scale. We also discussed ways we could improve our recognition – through an overhaul of our logo and motto, as well as the inclusion of plenty of info-graphs, a storyboard, various hashtags, and catchy phrases; in a cumulative and cooperative effort of the NICE group inspired the slogan “SHARE. ACCEPT. CONNECT.”
We also looked into how we might expand our audience and resources: distributing flyers, seeking partnerships and collaborations, expressing and spreading the need for sustainability and food security, acquiring additional food-space for other NYU facilities through company sponsorships and abandoned dorm mini-fridges, and acquiring additional food-resources through obtaining the surplus of farmers markets and free-food club events. The NICE group even highlighted specific NYU facilities that they felt might benefit most from our system, once we are ready to expand into additional locations.
NICE also helped us formulate a breakdown of how we would like our user experience to be with our system. Their advice allowed us to complete the transformation of our system from something that required manual labor and many, many sticky notes to a semi-automated system fully equipped with a touchscreen that allows the user to input food type and allergen information simply and easily – eventually, along with a camera that provides a live broadcast of what is in the Freedge. The user experience was refined through hypothetical simulations of what the user experience would be like for varying degrees of automation. Ultimately, we gathered that near-full automation is ideal until we achieve the availability of resources necessary to hire students to manage refrigerators around NYU’s campus. This alternative will be less cost-effective than one that is autonomous, but having a Freedge ambassador present could allow the system to also build an engaged community around the Freedge – a goal that was encouraged and emphasized by the good people at NICE.
Please feel free to check out their Facebook page and follow NICE for upcoming events, as we highly recommend it.