AARP Cart Revamp

Using human centered design to improve the mobility and experience of an existing product.

Project Overview

We were approached by the AARP's Office of Community Engagement (OCE) to refine an existing display cart for greater mobility within an event. These carts helped to increase brand awareness within events, provide flexibility, and mobility so AARP staff can appear at multiple spots within the event space. This project was a fun challenge; we were dealing with a physical experience and not a digital one. The Design Thinking Team reimagined an existing product (a cart) to suit the needs of the AARP state staff and volunteers.


  • Design Thinker
  • Facilitator
  • User Researcher
  • Creative Director

The Challenge

Original version of the cart.

Although the current cart was impactful, it was bulky in both its dimensions and weight, making it difficult to manage by AARP staff and volunteers. We discovered that we had to reframe our challenge too, "How might we create a display vehicle that is easier to manage and transport from the office to the event." Some critical problems the original cart posed was:

  • The average AARP volunteer are women over the age of 70. The cart proved itself to be unmanageable as each cube that makes up the cart weighs 30 pounds.
  • The first impression of the cart is either an ice cream or hot dog cart.
  • The consumer's first interaction starts with a disappointment as they have a different expectation of what the purpose of the cart is.
  • Despite being modular, it takes more than 10 minutes to set up, requires a tool to set the cubes in place, and requires a vehicle with ample storage space.

The Audience

  • AARP State Staff and volunteers.


Research + Observation

Before kicking off our design sprint, we immersed ourselves in the event experience.

  • We interviewed subject matter experts (SMEs) who specialized in in-person events and industrial designers who created booths for in-person events.
  • We conducted phone interviews with AARP state staff and volunteers to understand how they're using their carts and how they show up at events.
  • We attended AARP events for observation and inspiration in Austin (TX), New Orleans (LA), and Washington (DC).
AARP's presence at 2019 JazzFest.

Design Sprint

AARP volunteers interacting with the cart.

After our initial phase of research and immersions, we facilitated a 4–day design sprint. During the design sprint, we brought in AARP volunteers, AARP state staff (from DC, MD, and VA), and consumers for focus groups and interviews.

  • Day 1: We shared our research and experiences. We also brought in AARP state staff and volunteers for focus groups. We concluded the day by identifying themes and reframing our challenge.
  • Day 2: From our learnings, we started to develop ideas. A total of seven ideas were developed, and after several rounds of consumer and state staff feedback—four ideas were advanced to prototyping.
  • Day 3: We enlisted the help of an industrial designer to bring our sketches to life.
  • Day 4: To identify areas of refinement and gain an understanding of which of the four ideas to move forward with—we presented them to consumers. We discussed the next steps, which were to update the sketches based on consumer feedback.

The Solution

Before handing the designs to a display manufacturer, we created an MSCW to highlight the key features of the new iteration of the cart. Based on the feedback from consumers, AARP state staff and volunteers, and guidance from the industrial designer, we settled on two concepts to pass off to the display manufacturer. The two ideas have the following "code names":

  • "Jack in the Grill": Combined the best elements from two prior concepts. It is equipped with solar panels, ample writing space, a built-in cooler, and integrated iPad stations. Jack in the Grill is lightweight, sturdy, and compact, giving the staff and volunteers the flexibility to adapt to any situation and environment.
  • "Wild Card": A lightweight and compact cart that has the flexibility to be combined with other "Wild Cards." This option gives it more flexibility and layout options. By itself, "Wild Card" contains a sizable removable canopy (with integrated lighting), an optional cooler, a fold-out table with a lockable support leg, and adjustable iPad stands.

Password: AARP

Results & Next Steps

The trade show display manufacturing company, Nomadic Display, has taken on the task of further developing and refining the cart. Having taken all our learnings and suggestions into consideration, they developed the most recent prototype. Though still a prototype, this current version of the cart is a vast improvement.

  • When deconstructed, the cart easily fits into a four-door sedan.
  • The cart requires no tools to reassemble or disassemble. On average, putting the cart together (and vice versa) takes no longer than three minutes.
  • The cart is very lightweight and very maneuverable, making it ideal for tight and crowded events.

Selected Works.

Project Name: TipJar
Roles: Design Thinker, Facilitator, User Researcher, Creative Director
Brief: TipJar is an online community for caregivers to connect with other caregivers to find helpful tips and information related to caregiving.

View case study.

Project Name: Livably
Roles: User Researcher, UX / UI Designer
Brief: Livably is a mobile app that helps older adults find new homes within neighborhoods that is better suited to their needs.

View case study.

Project Name: TransZen
Roles: User Researcher, UX / UI Designer, Product Manager
Brief: TransZen is a mobile app that helps trans individuals find health care professionals who are well informed and sensitive to the needs of trans individuals.

View case study.

Let's Work Together.

I'm always up for exciting projects and new opportunities. Reach out to me if you are interested in collaboration.