A product-service system to support new plant parents

Project Info

Date : February 2021 – July 2021

Duration : 100 working days

Team : Solo project (thesis)

Used techniques : Explorative interviews, context mapping study, digital prototyping, concept validation, future visioning, design road mapping, service blueprint, business model canvas, launch strategy

For my master’s thesis I got the chance to combine two of my biggest passions: design and my own company surrounding plants. During this project I got to research and create together with Overgrown’s users. They helped me expand my knowledge of what the journey to becoming a plant parent looks like. With the help of a context mapping study I dived deep into the green spark: the moment the passion for plants is ignited.

Based on this knowledge, a new future vision for Overgrown was created to expand beyond the niche of rare and collectable plants. The first step towards this new future vision is Emma: a product-service system that supports new plant parents into their journey to becoming a plant parent by lowering the starting barrier.  

Getting a peek into the green homes of plant parents

The problem

When we look at all of the benefits of having houseplants around us, it is not hard to see why they have been around for ages already. However, over the past years they have seen a huge surge in popularity. The pandemic has been a big accelerator to this surge in popularity. 

This surge in popularity has given Overgrown the opportunity to grow and thrive, but it also came with a set of challenges. The quickly changing market brought on a lot of new small plant shops, making competition fierce. In addition to this, rare plants became a lot more difficult to source in an ethical way. Also, looking at the ups and downs of houseplant popularity throughout the ages, this hype is going to come down again.

Because of these challenges, Overgrown wants to develop a new product, service or product-service system to expand into a new niche. As a young company Overgrown has little to no knowledge or experience about the market outside of the rare houseplant niche. This lead to the following design assignment:

“Get a deep understanding of the market and it’s consumers. Use this to drive a new strategic future vision which is visualized in a roadmap and create a first product or product-service system towards realizing this future vision. "

Project goals based on Overgrown's own purpose and goals

Let's chat with plant parents

Because Overgrown is a young and single-person operated company, the knowledge of the market outside of the niche of rare and hard-to-find plants was very limited. Therefore the first step was to have broad orienting interviews to find out more about the different kinds of plant parents that are out there. By talking to 13 plant parents, I got an impression of what plants mean to different people; How do they get started with plants, and how do plants fit into their daily lives? What things about plants bring them joy and what aspects take the joy away? These findings were summarized in the plant parent’s journey.

One moment on this journey was particularly interesting. This moment is called “The Green Spark”, to signify that it ignites the passion for plants. Igniting the green spark with new plant parents from the very beginning can have major benefits for Overgrown as this might result in high long-term customer loyalty. In addition to this, this is a great opportunity to learn people how to plant with a more sustainable mindset. Therefore, the next step will be to take a deep dive into what happens in the green spark.

The results of the orienting interviews summarized in the plant parent journey

A context mapping study to take a deep dive into the green spark

To get a deep understanding of what happens in the green spark, a context mapping study was conducted. A context mapping study is a generative technique that allows designers to get to a deeper understanding of what users know, feel and dream.

Before the interviews, participants were asked to do small daily assignments for four days. Because participants were already involved in the problem prior to the interview, it was possible to get to the deeper
layers of understanding during the interview. 

Because of restrictions related to the pandemic, everything was done online. The sensitizing materials were spread in the form of a fillable powerpoint and the interviews were done through a video call.

An impression of a set of filled in sensitizing materials

The results

All the interviews were transcribed and interesting quotes were made into statement cards. These cards were coded and sorted. This resulted in 5 themes to serve as design inspiration, a persona so we know who we are designing for and based on these a new future vision for Overgrown. 

5 Themes

Future vision

The first step towards the new future vision: Emma

The first step towards Overgrown’s new future vision is Emma. Emma helps to lower the barrier for new plant parents. Right now, the most common trigger that creates a low barrier is a cheap plant. In the case the plant dies, not a lot is lost. Overgrown wants to achieve a similar low starting barrier, but in a more sustainable way. Instead of offering a cheap plant that is easily replaceable, Overgrown offers a high quality plant that is all ready to go for a smooth start. After the purchase of Emma, Overgrown offers additional services that help the plant parent form a closer bond with their plant. Through these Overgrown gets a closer bond with their customers, becoming a partner in long term plant growing rather than ‘just’ a one time plant supplier.

These services are developed and added onto through three horizons that are laid out in a roadmap. Throughout these horizons Overgrown’s focus shifts from selling plants to selling plant care. By doing this Overgrown wants to take the focus away from always acquiring new trendy plants to having stronger bonds with the plants you already have. What this exactly looks like will be kept confidential.

Roadmap towards Overgrown's new future vision