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Introduction

The brief of the research was to identify how laundry practices, attitudes and behaviours of particular users can affect sustainability.

The flow of the research was as follows:

  • Decide on a Hunt Statement (the focus of the research)

  • Choose the participant group

  • Carry out the research methodologies

  • Generate insights and come up with design opportunities.

Hunt Statement

This research was conducted to find out how laundry practices can affect sustainability. A hunt statement was formulated that guided the research. The hunt statement for this particular research was as follows
 


‘I want to explore the products that Indian university male students living in student accommodations use to do their laundry and how these products and their practices affect sustainability.’

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Sampling & Ethics

Three participants were chosen which had some similar characteristics apart from being Indian male students. All of the participants were below the age of 25 years and used to live with their families back in India. Students living in off-campus student accommodations were selected to main consistency.

All participants were given information sheet and consent forms before starting the interviews. The forms had all the relevant information regarding the research and their participation.

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Contextual Interviews

The most basic requirement for contextual inquiry is that researchers must spend time where the work happens. It is critical to understand the “ongoing experience” of the worker rather than just the “summary experience”. (Hanington and Martin, 2019, p.58) Taking interviews of the users in the setting or context where the focused behaviour takes place is contextual interviewing. Hence, the interviews were taken in the student accommodation where the students lived and did their laundry.

The interview was carried out in an unstructured format.

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Key Questions that guided the interview

  • What products do you use to wash your laundry?

  • What do you think is the correct way to wash the laundry?

  • Why do you prefer a certain product (mention product name) over other (mention product name) products?

  • What do you do when there is a stain on a certain clothing item?

  • What is the difference in the process that you experienced in doing laundry in the UK and doing laundry in India?

Secondary Research

Image by No Revisions

Before noting down insights and findings I wanted to know more about laundry pods. After doing some secondary research it was found that pods are not sustainable the way they are believed to be.
Waste water from the laundry goes to the ocean. The water is treated but not all harmful chemicals or materials are caught in the waste water treatment. Research suggests that around 77% of PVA is still intact after going through a wastewater treatment facility. (Rolsky and Kelkar, 2021)

 

Laundry pods are believed to be better than other detergent products (as found in the contextual interviews). Materials used in the laundry pods can be toxic for the marine life in larger doses. Since the PVA casing dissolves to release the detergent, most consumers assume it is completely biodegradable. (O’Connor, 2022)]
Just as the other commonly used detergents, laundry pods are not completely sustainable for the environment. Some of the products used for washing might also damage the machine, eventually wasting more resources and materials.

 

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Participant Observation

Participant observation was chosen as the type of observation by the researcher.
Participant observation is a foundational method of anthropology, adapted for design use. The designer-researcher actively participates in the community, forming deep connections and empathy with the people and the things that are important to them, experiencing the events in the same way as the people they are studying. (Hanington and Martin, 2019)

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Process

The observation was carried from the participants taking the clothes from their room to the laundry room, washing, and drying the clothes.


A video was recorded of the complete laundry process of all three participants after taking their consent. Pictures were clicked and questions were asked during the observation. After the observation was conducted the videos were watched again and findings were recorded by using POEMS.


The POEMS framework is an observational research framework used to make sense of the elements present in a context. The five elements are : People, Objects, Environments, Messages and Services. Application of the POEMS framework encourages researches to examine these elements independently as well as an interrelated system. (Kumar, 2013, p.105)

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The POEMS templates of all three participants

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Affinity Diagramming & Insights

Affinity diagramming is a process used to externalize and meaningfully cluster observations and insights from research, keeping design teams grounded in data as they design.


The method of affinity diagramming was used after conducting the contextual interviews and participant observations. Although the hunt statement was narrowed down to exploring the laundry products and the practices with the products that affect sustainability, the researcher noted points related to all the themes. This helped in connecting findings from one theme with another. Some of the themes were clustered into broader themes.
 

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Design Opportunities- HMW?

How might we (HMW) is a method used to encourage healthy exploration of ideas and potential concepts. The statements are started with writing How might we….?

After generating insights multiple ‘ How might we’ statements were generated to find design opportunities. Following are some of the design opportunities which according to the researcher would help provide sustainable solutions and benefit the users as well.

 

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