Pl@ntNet is an application that allows you to identify plants simply by photographing them with your smartphone. In this case study, we redesigned this app from a More-than-Human perspective; where non-human beings are addressed as participants alongside humans.
This project was part of our collaborative thesis "MtH Design" where we devised an alternative design process.
00 Project Overview
Project: Redesigning Pl@ntNet, Concept for Product Design
Timeline: Fall 2021
Team: Zahra Jalali & Kimia Gholami
Role: Product Design, More-than-Human Design, UX Design, UX Research
01 Project Background
PlantNet (https://identify.plantnet.org) is an application developed by Cirad-France in 2013 that allows users to identify plants simply by photographing them with their smartphone. PlantNet’s photographs are collected and analyzed by scientists around the world to better understand the evolution of plant biodiversity and to better preserve it. PlantNet’s primary purpose is to create a visual inventory by encouraging people to submit pictures of different plants.
This case study includes a general analysis of the target audience, and identifying the problem space within this platform based on secondary research and user feedback. Then by integrating some of the values of the MtH design, we tried to envision an alternate app. This app would not only help users identify plants, but also encourages further hands-on interaction to build a stronger relationship. The new user flow focuses more on storytelling, exploring histories, and would treat plants as active members of a community. Encountering a new plant is like encountering a new person; exciting, intriguing, and thought-provoking.
02 Research & Findings
Our first goal was to find out who uses this app, for what reasons, and how do they find their current experience with the app.
The One-Time User
No prior knowledge to plants flora
Does not regularly interact with them on a daily basis
Installs the app for specific reasons and usually only uses it once
E.g. Encountering a plant and wanting to know if it is poisonous or not
The Regular User
Users who interact with plants more often through hands-on activities such as gardening, etc.
They want to learn more about plants and generally improve their plant knowledge.
Users whose job and profession is connected to biology, botany, gardening.
Users who work in the food sector and need specific data on different types of plants.
Based on secondary research and gathering user feedback:
Most users agree the app gives you an idea what a plant is, but lacks useful information.
Some users think you can not really learn about plants through this platform.
User believe the app is not particularly user-friendly.
User do not understand the different categories the plants are in.
User think it is quick and easy to identify plants.
Is the knowledge provided by PlantNet actually useful for getting to know plants?
How long-lasting is this knowledge?
How can this knowledge become more embodied?
03 Design Process
MtH Design Values
We started to redesign the app based on prior research and More-than-Human Design values. These values were driven from a series of place-based design actions, as part of our thesis research at Emily Carr University.
Empathy as a core value
Acknowledging the agency of the MtH world
Embracing new modes of communication
Spending Time with More-than-human beings
Viewing more-than-humans as experts of their knowledge.
We based these values and users' needs and goals to reimagine & redesign Pl@ntNet.
Encourages users to explore more sensory ways of knowing using sound, motion, smell, and touch.
Avoids scientific classification & typology, focuses on a more relational description based on observation and imagination.
Sees plants as the experts of their own knowledge, not as subjects of study and is based on stories and histories.
This case study was part of my collaborative masters thesis (Master of Design, Emily Carr, 2022). Devising the MtH values allowed us to shape our approach more clearly. To see how those values could potentially alter design outcomes, we conducted a few comparative case studies on existing products on the market, including Pl@ntNet. We purposefully chose products that were directly or indirectly involved with non-human individuals to better identify their approach of inclusion in the design. In these case studies, we re-imagined how these products could be developed through an MtH lens, by implementing the MtH design values in their concept and function.
Ultimately, these case studies helped us shape the MtH Design Process and methods.