(Food)Design for Bliss – Graduation

Starting point  

The eating context in high-class restaurants is already thoroughly designed to enable blissful eating experiences. However, these experiences are only available to a few people while the majority cannot afford them. Contrary, the home eating context is still neglected in design but offers many touch points to design for. At home, savouring of food is often diminished by executing tasks in parallel or watching TV. From the described context, the design goal of assisting people in savouring their home eating experience to enable blissful experiences is derived.   

Positive Design Approach

To create designs that contribute to savouring the home eating experience, the positive design approach is applied during this project. Building on the sustainable happiness model, the approach offers different happiness enhancing strategies whereof one is replaying and savouring life’s joys. Savouring which is very important for the eating experience, in turn, can be reached through different strategies, whereof sharing with others, sharpening sensory-perception and memory building were identified as the most relevant ones for the eating context.

Analysis

In order to find a relevant focus to design for, the project started off with an analysis of the senses involved in the eating experience and factors contributing to a pleasurable eating experience. In literature, the five senses (taste, smell, sight, sound and touch) as well as the following 11 factors were identified as contributing to pleasurable eating: atmosphere, social aspects, personalization, storytelling, healthiness, surprise, mood, hunger, preparatory activities, behaviour during and after the experience and remembrance.

Qualitative study

In the following qualitative study including an internet survey, a focus group, interviews and a diary study blissful eating experiences, as well as food products, objects and customs related to blissful eating, were collected. In total, the study confirmed that the same mentioned factors relevant for pleasurable eating are also relevant for the culminating experience of bliss. It also showed that the majority of reported experiences took place in the home context contrary to literature which focuses on high-class restaurants. According to the findings, the factors and senses were regrouped into the following stimuli, organism and response variables:

Way of eating, Explanation, Taste, Healthiness, Smell, Preparation, Sound, Feel, Atmosphere, Look, Social aspects, Newness, Surprise

Mood and Hunger

Anticipation, Being in the moment, Reminiscing

Card set

The results of the analysis were translated into a card set that visualizes blissful eating experiences, food products, objects and customs and can be used for ideation. The card set contains 13 cards explaining the different stimuli variables as well as 60 cards with food products, objects, customs and eating experiences explaining the context-specific factors leading to bliss in eating. The card set was used for ideation in the following design phase.

Design goal

From the results of the literature research and the qualitative study, the following design goal was derived:  I would like people to have a blissful experience by assisting them in savouring their home eating experience.

Important savouring strategies:

sharing with others

sharpening sensory perception

memory building

Ideation and conceptualization

In total 4 ideation and prototyping workshops were held which resulted in 18 design interventions. After initial user tests, the interventions that yielded good results were combined into three concepts assisting people in savouring their home eating experience: the mindful spoon, the sharing plate and the travelling tin.

The mindful spoon

The concept targets people eating alone. It is a spoon-shaped and held in a special way to draw attention to the usually automated process of eating. The integrated lens magnifies food. Seeing details that are otherwise only known from macro photography brings magic into eating. This can help to rediscover a positive relationship with food and draws a closer look at what exactly is on the plate and its quality.

Sharing plate

The second concept focuses on couples eating together. It is a uniquely shaped plate that inspires people to serve their food in a creative way that promotes sharing and eating from the same plate. Additionally, it connects the couple in a physical way and requires collaboration. This encourages teamwork and conversations that support the relationship in day to day life.

Travelling tin

The travelling tin is for sharing with others. It is a box that can be filled with homemade food and passed on to a person with a different cultural background. The origin of the food can be shown on a map. The marks make the journey of the box visible over time and encourage passing it on to someone new. Additionally, information about the food can be added online through a QR code. This connects people with different cultural backgrounds and encourages random acts of kindness.

Evaluation

After several iterations and prototypes, the three concepts were tested by seven participants or couples in order to evaluate if the design goal of assisting people in savouring their home experience was met. Each test was followed by an interview.

In general, the participants responded positively to all three concepts but also mentioned some weak points that led to recommendations for further improvement. The mindful spoon assisted people in savouring by sharpening the sensory perception, even when eating alone. For the sharing plate, savouring was achieved by sharing the experience which helped couples to communicate and work as a team. The travelling tin made people feel appreciated and helped to build lasting memories by connecting people from different cultural backgrounds through food. Furthermore, all concepts achieved high scores in the developed bliss indicators (positive change through product, memorability, peak experience, connectedness with food and connectedness with others) which suggests that the concepts can assist people in experiencing blissful eating experiences.

In summary, all concepts managed to keep a good balance between focusing on eating and providing additional impact on participants’ lives. While the emphasis of each concept was on hedonic pleasure, the participants additionally reported many positive emotions that go beyond simply enjoying the food. This shows that food also has the potential to contribute to eudaimonic happiness.

Masters graduation project – 30 ECTS

sharing plate

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