Trellis is a digital platform and physical cart that connects local food organizations with passionate, enthusiastic individuals in the area.

  • with: Julia Petrich and Hannah Rosenfeld
  • context: Introduction to Interaction Design, Spring 2016, seven weeks
  • deliverables: concept video, UI/UX design, product design, physical prototype, documentation
  • role: exploratory research, concept generation, generative research, wireframing, UI motion design, concept video

Project Description

In this project, we were to design a product ecosystem that extends beyond the screen. This was our first opportunity to engage with the entire design process as presented in this course: exploratory research, research synthesis, conceptualizing, user testing, designing the solution, presenting it, and documenting it. The ecosystem was to include multiple touchpoints across multiple channels in a solution that supports users in a problem we defined.

Our team focused on the local sustainable food community in Pittsburgh, eventually narrowing down to helping organizations form long-term relationships with community members. Trellis, our solution, is a digital platform -- both a desktop website and app -- and physical cart that matches organizations and individuals for mutually beneficial relationships. The platform, in addition to facilitating the relationship between matched parties, helps organizations manage tasks while allowing individuals to feel like they are making meaningful contributions to the organization. The Trellis cart creates a space for interaction with the wider local community and is manned by participating organizations, allowing the organizations to advocate both for Trellis and for themselves.

How It Works


During registration, both organizations and individuals answer questions about what they’re looking for and what they can bring to a match. Once they express mutual interest, they can message each other and enter a trial period before making a long-term agreement for value exchange. Organizations can create tasks with customizable form fields that can either be blasted to all affiliates or assigned to certain subgroups. As tasks are completed, organizations can view information entered by the individuals to relieve the burden of tracking often placed on organization leaders. As their relationship grows stronger, both parties can choose to step into a relationship with a more formalized agreement to allow for more engagement and contribution on both ends.

Organization View: Website


We imagine that organization coordinators would work primarily on desktops while using Trellis. On the website, coordinators can view potential matches, contact their regular volunteers, and manage tasks they create.

View potential matches

View regular volunteers and employees

Manage tasks. Visual web design by Julia.

Individual View: Mobile App


Because individuals will likely want to refer to their assigned tasks or contact organizations on the go, we've designed this iteration of the mobile app mainly with individuals in mind. The app provides ready access to information about tasks assigned by the organizations with which they are affiliated.

View matches, task details, task manager, task details. Visual app design by Julia.

The Trellis Cart


The cart plays a critical role for organizations as it allows for them to both advocate for themselves and more deeply connect with their local community. Each organization has its own branded drawer that fits into the cart and can hold tabling material. The cart also establishes Trellis as a physical part of the community: for example, an individual might find out about Trellis through the mobile cart when it is at her local farmers’ market. She can register for Trellis right at the cart and be immediately put on the path toward a more lasting relationship with an organization in her local community.

Annotated cart illustrations by Hannah.

Exploratory Research


Our group formed over a similar interest in food and community. By directing our research toward understanding the stakeholders and the value flows as they exist in Pittsburgh’s locally grown sustainable food community, we believed we might be able to identify opportunities to augment existing value flows and create new ones. We attended a number of events related to local food around the Pittsburgh community and interviewed various stakeholders to get a sense of our problem space and to hone in more specifically on a territory.

Visiting organizations: Garfield Community Farm, Octopus Garden, and the East End Food Co-op

From these conversations, we learned a lot about the community, volunteerism, and the problems inherent to hosting volunteers who are not yet committed members of the organization. First of all, community-led food organizations need to get resources — for which they need resources. People are the most critical resource, and they bring along with them not only physical hands to help but also other skills, passions, energy, and more. However, having just anybody can actually put a burden on these organizations when these human resources are untrained or only volunteer at one-off events. Helping these people (in groups or individually) integrate into a community by bringing them into a place where they can make meaningful contributions with a certain level of commitment became a focus point of our design.

How might we enable community-driven local food organizations to thrive and provide opportunities for individuals to connect with these organizations and contribute to a shared future?

Concept Generation


As part of the conceptualization process, we continued to broaden the scope of what exactly we might be designing before bringing the concepts to users for evaluation. We wanted our concepts to cover as many bases as possible before narrowing down to one solution, since our problem space was still quite broad. So, we developed a series of divergent concepts to get a better grasp on the problem space and begin moving towards a possible concept.

A selection of our many illustrated concepts to take to potential users

Evaluative Research


We conducted a speed dating exercise with our storyboards, introducing our concepts and eliciting immediate feedback both on the concepts as a whole as well as individual elements. We held these sessions with a prospective volunteer, who has done extensive work within her local food community, as well as with an active community organizer who also runs a community garden in the area.

Leveraging our findings from speed dating, we did some synthesizing and took a rough outline of the components of our product ecosystem (digital platform and some sort of physical space) to a volunteer coordinator for a local food rescue organization. The aim of this session was both to get an understanding of how our product might enable her to work more efficiently, but also to hammer out the specific features, language, and task flows our product would need to incorporate. To arrive at these learnings, we took our research participant through a series of card sorting exercises and had her complete a few mad-lib type fill-in-the blank worksheets.

Designing the Website


We moved quickly: from pen and paper to digital wireframes and high-resolution screens within a week. For web, we focused on the organization's perspective and the three main things they'd need to accomplish: manage tasks, view matches, and contact individuals who are affiliated with them.

Designing the App


We focused on two flows for the mobile app: a registration flow, designed for the iPad at the Trellis cart, and a task flow for accepting and completing tasks from the individual's affiliated organizations.

Example iPad registration screens

Mobile UX flow for individuals accepting and completing tasks

Future Plans

In the future, we see Trellis growing, as with more users, it is able to to make better matches and assign tasks more efficiently with more data. We see potential for extending Trellis to ease the search for paid employees, such as farm managers. We also see the potential for allowing existing non-food-related communities and smaller groups of individuals to sign up for tasks together. Ultimately, we see Trellis serving further regions and cities, the formation of a network of Trellis chapters.