Big Red Market

AEM 3110 – Design & Innovation, Cornell University
UX Research & UX/UI Design
October – December 2021
Figma, Adobe Illustrator
Xueqi Jiang, Scott Lees, Jordan Silversmith, Olivia Pawlowski
Project Overview

For the final project in my Design & Innovation course at Cornell University, I was tasked with developing a service or product to enhance the town of Ithaca. In collaboration with three other students, I created a mock-service designed to increase sustainability and community engagement through the exchange of second-hand goods within the Ithaca community. “Big Red Market” is a mobile app concept designed to streamline the exchange of goods within the town of Ithaca and on Cornell’s campus. 

user personas
pain points
user research
idea frames
usability studies

01. Project Overview

The Problem

With a student population roughly two-thirds the size of the town of Ithaca's total population, Cornell University generates significant amounts of compost waste (over 6000 tons per year), landfill waste (over 3000 tons per year), and wastewater. This project aims to reduce waste production among Cornell students by promoting the sharing and reuse of household and dormitory supplies within the student community.

How Might we Question

How might we promote item reuse within the Cornell campus community to enhance sustainability efforts and reduce waste effectively?


This project specifically targets waste reduction efforts within Cornell University, with a focus on addressing household and dormitory waste originating from both on-campus and off-campus student housing.

My role

I worked collaboratively with three students on this project, taking on a role that involved co-leading interviews and leading the UI design for Big Red Market by crafting paper and digital wireframes as well as developing high-fidelity prototypes. Additionally, I led the development of our research plan, provided support in conducting usability studies to validate our designs, and made sure to prioritize accessibility considerations throughout the process.

02. Understanding the User

Research Plan

Our research seeks to comprehend the circulation of second-hand items within the Cornell University community and identify prospects for enhancing waste reduction and promoting sustainability on campus.

Stakeholders include Cornell students, Cornell administration, residence hall advisors, and landlords, with extreme users being students on tight budgets and those prioritizing sustainability, while non-users are individuals who refuse to buy or use second-hand items.

Data collection methods include surveys, stakeholder interviews, online platform observation, and studying analogous cases from other institutions. Our research will span student dorms, off-campus housing, Ithaca's reuse centers, and online platforms, offering a holistic view of Cornell's second-hand goods ecosystem.

Pain Points

From our research, we identified the following pain points common among Cornell students.


Lack of Organized Platforms

There are no centralized, user-friendly platforms dedicated to the buying and selling of second-hand goods among Cornell students. While Facebook groups exist, they are disorganized and inefficient.


Budget Constraints

Many college students operate on a tight budget. The platform would offer them a way to buy items they need at a reduced cost and sell items they no longer use to earn extra money.


Transportation Issues

Students may face difficulties in transporting items to their dorms or apartments, especially if they do not have access to a car. Stores like Target and Walmart are difficult to get to using public transportation.


Timing Challenges

The timing of move-in and move-out dates may create a gap in the circulation of second-hand items, as students may not have enough time to buy or sell used items.

User Personas

Based on our research, we developed three user personas.




03. Market Analysis

Market Research

To kickstart the design process, we examined existing approaches aimed at facilitating the exchange of second-hand goods at Cornell and within the greater Ithaca community.

Cornell Thrift

Cornell Thrift operates through Instagram DMs and relies on Venmo for payment processing. It hosts a weekly clothing exchange event on campus, which is limited to clothing items. Pickup times and locations for each week's offerings are communicated through Instagram, but there is a limited pickup window, requiring timely coordination.

Dump & Run Sale

The Cornell Dump and Run is an annual event organized by Cornell students and Campus Life. It collects donations from students during move-out days and conducts a sale during the last two weekends of August. However, it comes with a $25 delivery fee for Cornell students, and in 2021, the sales had been moved to the Ithaca mall, no longer taking place on campus.

Finger Lakes ReUse

Finger Lakes ReUse offers a diverse range of items, including home goods and books, at multiple off-campus locations in Ithaca. While it serves primarily Ithaca residents, it has yet to establish a strong presence among students due to the locations being challenging for them to access. Moreover, Finger Lakes ReUse does not maintain an online inventory, making it difficult for potential customers to browse their selection remotely.

Key Takeaways


Lack of Dedicated Platform

There is no dedicated platform for buying and selling used goods at Cornell or within Ithaca. Cornell Thrift relies on Instagram DMs for transactions, which limits the scope and efficiency of exchanges. Integrating such a platform with Cornell's existing systems, like NetIDs for verification, can ensure secure and exclusive access for the Cornell community, fostering a sense of trust and safety.


Safety & Trust

Safety and trust are critical factors when buying and selling used goods online. A dedicated platform can address these concerns by associating users with their NetID and allowing for user ratings. This can help build trust within the Cornell community and reduce the risk of fraudulent or unsafe transactions.


Disconnect from Cornell Community

Finger Lakes ReUse faces challenges in connecting with Cornell students due to its off-campus locations, which can be less accessible to students without reliable transportation. Furthermore, the lack of an online inventory makes it difficult for students to browse their selection remotely, which can deter potential customers.

04. Starting the Design

Idea Frames

We developed three potential solutions to Cornell's waste problem:

Cornell Dorm Essentials

Cornell Cares Donation Boxes

Big Red Market

Initial Sketches & Planning

Digital Wireframes & Low Fidelity Prototype

Usability Study Findings

We conducted multiple usability studies, supplemented with A/B testing, throughout this project to ensure that our product met the needs and expectations of our users while continuously improving its user experience. These studies were a critical part of our iterative design and development process, allowing us to make data-driven decisions and refine the product based on real user feedback.

Round 1 Findings:


Users want a confirmation mechanism on both the buyer's and seller's sides to verify that transactions conducted outside of the app are completed successfully.


Require users to sign in using their NetID to improve security.


In addition to buying and selling used goods, users want a way to easily coordinate donations within the app.

Round 2 Findings:


Home and explore tabs can be consolidated into one home tab.


Add a dedicated donation tab to the bottom navigation.


Add a map of donation drop off sites on campus, in addition to showing local organizations accepting donations in Ithaca.

Style Guide

05. Refining the Design

Mockup Iterations

Donation Site Feature

During our user testing phase, a key piece of feedback emerged consistently: users were seeking a convenient way to donate their used goods through our app, in addition to buying and selling goods. Although this suggestion was not our initial focus, its frequency among user responses prompted us to develop an efficient solution.

We focused on integrating a comprehensive list of donation sites, both on the campus and within the broader Ithaca area. This included mapping out the locations for easier accessibility and providing essential information about each site, such as types of accepted items, operating hours, and contact details.

This new functionality not only aligned with our users' desires but also broadened the app's scope, making it a more versatile and socially responsible tool. It underscored our commitment to responding to user feedback and adapting our services to meet their evolving needs.

Final User Flow


Provides users with an overview of goods being sold near them. Users can explore by location and category, or view goods being sold by local organizations like Finger Lakes ReUse.


Includes a comprehensive list of donation sites, including a map of on-campus drop off locations along with their hours and other important details.


Users can view their active listings and sold items and list new items from this page.


View user details including preferred payment method and location. Manage shop, browse likes, and view pending transactions.

High Fidelity Prototype

We incorporated feedback gathered from participants during usability tests to refine our mockups and user flow, developing the following high-fidelity prototype for Big Red Market.

06. Visual System


Color palette


I opted for a minimalist approach when designing the visual elements of the app. The choice to keep the components and icons clean and simple was driven by a desire to create a user interface that is both aesthetically pleasing and easy to navigate.

One key design decision was to give all the buttons an 8px corner radius, which not only imparts a modern and sleek look but also ensures a sense of approachability and friendliness. The rounded corners of the chips further enhance this friendly tone, making interactions with the app feel inviting and enjoyable.

07. Takeaways

Expected Outcomes

We would like to see students and Cornell community members reduce their consumption of new goods, make an effort to donate and repurpose their gently used items, and reduce waste on campus overall.

What I learned

During this project, I learned that regular testing and iteration are vital for creating a product that truly serves its users. Continuous evaluation at different stages allowed me and my team members to spot areas for improvement, leading to a more user-friendly app aligned with our intended users' preferences.

Working with a team with diverse skill sets emphasized the importance of leveraging everyone's strengths. Recognizing individual skills helped us allocate tasks efficiently and solve challenges collaboratively. importance of adaptability and continuous learning. Embracing the diversity of skills within the team expanded my own skill set and prompted me to explore new avenues of design thinking.

As this was my first formal UX design project working with a team, I gained experience in articulating and justifying my design decisions while collaborating within a team. As the lead designer, I had the responsibility of finding a balance between meeting the team's expectations and creating a solution that I could take pride in.