Yifan Zhang is a Master student from Collaboration and Industrial Design (CoID) program and had minor study in International Design Business Management (IDBM) during his second year of study in Aalto University. When choosing the directions of his Master thesis, he was intended to further explore the topic of strategic design through doing practical projects.
The numbers of companies in peer-to-peer(P2P) business have been largely increased after the Great Recession. Airbnb and Uber are the most successful companies in P2P business in accommodation and transportation industry; however, none big player has appeared in food industry. As a food enthusiast, Yifan Zhang strongly believes the potential of P2P business in food industry as he witnesses the big popularity of Ravintolapäivä (Restaurant Day) in Europe and its solid participants base in Finland.
In the Autumn of 2016, he got involved in a food startup called Maku due to his strong personal interests in food projects. At that time, Maku had an initial idea to create an online platform on which people can buy and sell food from each other and its concept development process was just about to start. As a consequence, Yifan decided to utilize the Maku concept development project as the case study for his Master thesis.
“Design can be managed and utilized on three different levels within organization: strategic, tactical, operational. If design wished to contribute to company’s business on a strategic level, design need to ground its impact on all the three levels.” According to the literature study, Yifan Zhang framed the Maku project into two phases: concept search and concept design. In the concept search phase, he conducted a field research trip in Italy and structured a series of team research activities to research the users’ needs in real P2P food-sharing scenarios. Findings and insights were concluded and presented in three user journey maps and personas. Based on research, in the concept design phase, he formulated the mission and vision statement of Maku, which followed by the specification of the value proposition and the customers segments of the Maku concept. In addition, as the lead designer within the team, he designed the wireframe and service blueprint of the Maku service and visualized the App prototype for later user testing. Moreover, Maku’s business model was constructed and he concluded Maku’s future strategy points according to the analysis on the potential competitors and its internal capabilities.
Zhang’s thesis showcases a strategic approach to integrate research, design and business activities and their input in the early stage of concept development. Meanwhile, it verifies the designer’s four roles in design-lead strategy and demonstrates the interrelated connections among the four. Moreover, the deliverables of the case project present how strategic design contributes to the company’s business by creating impact on strategic, tactical and operational levels.
Master of Arts Thesis,
Yifan Zhang: Exploring Strategic Design through Concept Development for Maku, a Finnish Startup in the Food Sharing Business.