Pilot Project for Seoul Upcycling Plaza.

In a one week Service Design Sprint together with the Samsung Art & Design Institute in Seoul we created service opportunities for Seoul’s new Up-Cycling Plaza.

Service Design Sprint
Collaborative Project

Workshop Lead

5 Days

2 UAL Students
6 SADI Students

Design Brief
»Explore how different communities and individuals across Seoul can be engaged in understanding waste as a resource and how their actions can contribute to sustainable ways of living.«

Research & Design Methodology

The design process is oriented at the Double Diamond model and was divided into four major phases. Each phase was build on insights from previous activities.

Seoul Upcycling Plaza

IAs a modern city Seoul has made a bold public statement with the building of the Seoul up-cycling plaza to encourage and boost green industries. The new facilities, spread over 16,500 square meters has a five story building and consists of work spaces focused on encouraging social enterprises (start-ups) and artists to engage in re-using and up-cycling waste to design new products. 


Seoul Resource Centre

Observations at Seoul's Recource Centre were conducted to gain insights in the 'End-of-Life' and recycling process of products.

Field Research

Field research started with street interviews in the city centre of Seoul. Insights around the awareness of upcycling as well as daily recycling practices of consumers were gained.


The define stage was driven by synthesizing the insights from previous field research. Affinity mapping helped to cluster findings and define a problem space.

Insight Mapping

Insights form the field research were mapped and discuessed in the group. The mapping of different user journeys helped to identify gaps and opportunities.


Key Insights

The insight mapping leads to three key insights which helped defining the problem space and set up design criterias.

Piles of Waste

Huge amounts of waste are produced every day and spread all across the city.

Contrasting Situations

There are heavily contrasting situations in recycling outcomes depending on what system is in place.

Low Awareness

The awareness of upcycling is very low, especially given the high awareness of recycling.

Contrasting Situations

Recycling system in residential buildings

During the field research in several residential buildings, we identified that existing recycling systems which were in place are used very well. The system divides waste into 11 different types. If recycling systems are in place, people will use these and look after. Residents are very aware of recycling practices and their importance.

No recycling system in place

On the streets, contrasting situations towards waste management were identified. The research revealed, that if no recycling system is in place, people just dump their waste on the street, which causes huge piles of waste. This leads to the finding that people need systems that guide them. If those systems are in place, people are motivated and disciplined to follow the rules.

Problem Space

Mapping of different user journeys leads to a research question that challenges how daily touchpoints of users can be used to create awareness around practices of Seoul's Upcycling Plaza and encourages a sustainable behaviour.

Current Situation

The user journey of a students daily-life situation reveals gaps and opportunities around wasteful urban consumption practices like like coffee drinking.

Number of coffee shop in Seoul city

Average annual coffee consumption (cups p.p.)

Annual disposable cup usages

Research Question

How might the SUP leverage consumer’s daily touchpoints (such as coffee drinking and waste disposal) to reduce waste and encourage more sustainable behavior?

Persona Development

After the problem space has been defined, personas were created to design around specific needs and values.

– Lives in apartment complex and follows recycling rules
– Studies business
– Drinks coffee everyday
– Hangs out in the center of the city doesn’t know about upcycling

Coffee Shop Owner, 40

– Uses plastic cups to sell coffee
– Accumulates lots of used coffee cups outside of shop
– Likes sustainability, but it is second to the bottom line

The develop stage started with the mapping of drivers and barriers of users. Design Criteria and Values were set up to create a clear direction for the ideation process.

– Sustainability trends
– Environmental responsibility
– Existing recycling culture; rules and guidance about recycling 
– Waste piles throughout the city

– Laws and regulations
– Inconvenience of being sustainable; laziness
– Fragmented processes
– Disparity of environments in low and high traffic areas

Design Criteria & Values

1. Help Seoul and its citizens recycle more effectively
2. Make SUP the champion of the zero waste agenda
3. Connect businesses and people to the SUP through 
a common goal
4. Raise awareness for waste reduction
while promoting upcycled products

Ideation started individually with two rounds. The first round focuses on 'creating awarness' while the second round questions how the user behaviour can be changed. Ideas were prototyped and discussed in the group which leads to a 'final' concept, that has been developed further.

A role play session was conduced to bring the service idea to life and also bring every group member on the same page. Identified gaps were redefined until the concept was ready to test with users outside the studio.


The serice idea was tested with real users and service providers in different coffee shops around the studio.

Concept Solution

The supcup is a take back system where coffee is served in reusable cups, which consumers can return to participating shops around Seoul.

The storyboard explains how the service works for serivce provider and users. It shows different stages along the user journey from pre to post service experiences.

Relationship Map

The relationship map shows how different stakeholders are interlinked. The SUP produces and distributes reusable coffee cups to participating coffee shops around Seoul. People buy their re-usable cup at their first purchase with their coffee in the coffee shop. They can return the cup at any participating shop, no matter which brand. In return of the cup they get a physical or digital deposit coin which they can use for their next coffee.

Customer Benifits

– Easy way to be more sustainable
– Save money by using less material

Shop Benifits

– Help brand image
Bring customers to the store through network

SUP Benifits

– A case study for the "Zero waste 2030" strategy
– Collaboration with local businesses and local community (e.g. local designers)
– Promotion platform for the Upcycling Plaza


The supcup is a take back system where coffee is served in reusable cups, which consumers can return to participating shops around Seoul.

Re-Usable Coffee Cup & Deposit Coin

People buy their re-usable cup at their first purchase with their coffee. When they return the cup they get a physical or digital deposit coin.

User can register in the app to receive their digital token. They can add the code to their digital Wallet.

Partner Sticker

Customers can identify a supcup partner store with the logo sticker pasted outside.

Point of Purchase

Point of purchase displays explain the service to customers.

Digital Platform For Measurement

On the website, users and potential service provider can keep track of impact. It also acts as inspiration for businesses in other sectors to move towards sustainability.

Temporary Pick-Up and Collection Places

To make people aware of the new service, small pop-up shops in the city could serve as pick-up and collection stations for cups. Not only the system but also the intention behind the project can be spread. These pop-ups will be runed by Seoul's Upcycling Plaza to also bring their service closer to the people.

Cups as Promotion Platfrom

During the time, the cups can be used citywide for promotion of local events or support local artists and designers. Over time, these rare flowting cups with different designs can tell the storys of the city.


Implementation in SUP Ecosystem

During the time, the cups can be used citywide for promotion of local events or support local artists and designers. Over time, these rare flowting cups with different designs can tell the storys of the city.

The pilot project for Seoul's Up-Cycling Plaza could be also seen as a tool to raise awareness and initiate other grass-routes projects.