The IXDA Interaction11 Student Competition, Boulder, CO

Project Timeline: 3 days

BorrowBox took 2nd place at the IXDA Interaction11 Student Competition. The service model, interactions, and experience prototype were designed inside of 72 hours, while attending the conference.

The design brief:

"Create an interactive system that will reduce consumption in some way. This is your call to consider the current and near-future relationship of objects, services, and how interaction design is a critical element to changing current behaviors and desired futures. In a culture in love with shiny and new, this is your chance to imagine how your community could be made better through use, not ownership."


Without knowing the exact brief, I spent some time reading about the conference theme of "use not own." A few of the most influential resources for me in this space include Enzo Manzini's Collaborative Services, BJ Fogg's Thoughts on Simplicity, Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers' What's Mine is Yours, and Edgar Cahn's No More Throw Away People.

The Problem

Today we have more than 53,000 personal storage facilities, seven times the number of Starbucks in the US. Only 30 percent of the more than 2.35 billion square feet of storage space is used by business, and capacity continues to grow. There is enough storage space in the US for every man, woman and child to have 7.56 square feet of storage. 2009 US storage revenues exceeded the GDPs of 82 countries and equivalent to others. This business has outpaced the growth of McDonald's, growing 740 percent over the past 2 decades. What if we could transfer a small amount of this or other space for public use?

What if tool share was more like Redbox?

Kiosk hardware and telematics technology have evolved and allowed for many new renting business models. If we could make borrowing a drill, air mattress, rake, ladder, or folding chairs, as easy as it is to rent a movie from a Redbox, then perhaps we could change the relationship we have with less commonly used items. Various swapping services exist, and in some spaces have proven popular. This space has not faired as well. One site, NeighborGood, uses a 50-mile "neighborhood" radius, even in overcrowded, traffic-challenged metro regions. A physical in-neighborhood kiosk is something that people understand, can easily get to, and can quickly build the critical mass needed for success.

Visual Modeling

Izac standing in front of Living Wall After being briefed, I went to work modeling service businesses with the rough idea of a vending based solution and enabling sharing of items. I posted my favorite generative service design tools: a customer journey canvas, a service model canvas, a business model canvas, and a service ecology model. I proceeded for the next 5 hours to switch between each of these models with sticky notes, generating a flushed out service model and plan for research the next day. Customer Journey Canvas Business Model Canvas Service Model Valence issues

Rapid Research


From a quick twitter survey, phone calls, and queries of some conference attendees, I found that the items people want to share goes beyond my original concept of tools and is locally driven. For example, someone living in NYC may want a place to store and borrow luggage, chairs, or an air mattress, where as someone living in the suburbs may want access to large gardening equiptment or camping gear, and students living on a campus want cleaning tools, sporting goods, and/or cooking items. I decided, at this point, to let communities make their own decisions of what to put in the shared BorrowBox space by lending the items themselves.

BorrowBox: core service

Co-Design in Boulder Colorado

Sally has just moved from Savannah, GA to Boulder, CO and was willing to co-design and enact the BorrowBox service with me. Together we ran through the service concept, and found items in her house that she would rather lend to people with BorrowBox. I co-designed the BorrowBox service with her through paper prototyping and enacting the service. We ran through the basic service experiences including discovery, user registration, registering items with BorrowBox, borrowing an item, returning an item, and searching for items.

The BorrowBox Service Model

The Technology Infrastructure of BorrowBox

Startup Kit for BorrowBox

BorrowBox is enabled by 3 key enabling technologies: an android cellular based keypad, 3 RFID readers, and an electronic lock. Items are registered with the system utilizing a combo QR code/RFID sticker. The system can be added to spaces as small as a vending machine or as large as a shipping container. This kit can be installed by anyone who services vending machines or by a electrician.

Mobile Web App

Experience Prototype

Mix Your Own

  • Industrial Design
  • Interaction Design
  • Service Design