Today, I delivered my presentation at the EuroIA 2010 in Paris on the relation between my two passions: gastronomy and user experience design.
FoodUX served its purpose as a collection of background materials for the presentation. In future times, I will keep maintaining @CompCook as much as possible. So, keep tuning in once in a while.
Taste is a very important driver of the eating experience and a complex human phenomenon. It has been a topic of scientific research and philosophical discussion.
Research on Taste
The mission of the Taste Science Laboratory in the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University is to elucidate the nature and impact of individual differences in perception - in particular, differences in taste and smell sensitivity - on personality, performance, and preferences.
In its first definition, the American Heritage Dictionary limits the tastes perceived by the taste buds to four: in fact there are at least six in addition to the classic four, there are the taste of fat, and a taste called umami. Umami means delicious in Japanese, and is the word for the savory taste of meat. In this way, our taste buds are designed to tell us about the nutritional qualities of the food we eat: sweet for ripe fruit and carbohydrates, sour for unripe fruit and vitamin C, salty for salt and other minerals, bitter for poisonous plants, umami for protein, and fat for fat!
The second definition, which includes smell and touch, is the one most people have in mind when they talk about the taste of a food; taste, in this sense, means flavor.
Taste and Philosophy
"Taste, perhaps the most intimate of the five senses, has traditionally been considered beneath the concern of philosophy, too bound to the body, too personal and idiosyncratic. Yet, in addition to providing physical pleasure, eating and drinking bear symbolic and aesthetic value in human experience, and they continually inspire writers and artists."
Really looking forward reading it.
During the 8th international gastronomy summit, MadridFusión, world renowned Michelin star chef Juan Mari Arzak of the famous Arzak restaurant in Spain and Philips Design presented a series of concepts intended not only to delight palates, but also evoke emotion and stimulate the senses.
The sensual enjoyment of flavors, the appreciation of harmonies and the recognition of nuances all combine to create the unique pleasure of the dining table. In its latest Design Probe – Multi-sensorial Gastronomy – Philips Design has explored how the integration of light, conductive printing, selective fragrance diffusion, micro-vibration and a host of other integrations of sensory stimuli could affect the eating experience in subtle ways.
Lunar Eclipse (bowl), Fama (long plate) and Tapa de Luz (serving plate) are made from bone china and familiar objects from our everyday lives. However when liquid is poured into the bowl or food is placed on the plates, they begin to shine. A glowing light subtly appears from the bottom of the bowl and plates creating a new sensory dining experience as the senses are stimulated and altered. The series uses bone china and involves the integration of lighting, conductive printing, selective fragrance discharge, micro-vibration, electro stimulus and a host of other sensory stimuli that affect the food and the diner in subtle ways.
Also read this short interview with Juan Mari Arzak on the essential role of design, creativity and innovation in gastronomic cuisine.
According to Jakob, usability is like cooking dinner:
- Everybody needs the outcome;
- Anybody can perform the most basic activities;
- Anyone can learn these basics pretty quickly;
- There's a level of excellence beyond the basics;
- Skill levels form a continuum from beginner to expert.
The cooking analogy stretches even further:
- Although multi-star gourmet restaurants are wonderful, there's also a place in the world for modest neighborhood restaurants.
- Even if you can afford it, you shouldn't eat out every day.
- Variety is the spice of life.
- Sometimes it's nice to have others do the work.
- There's value to being an outsider who's not restrained by corporate politics or "the way things are usually done."
So like cooking, anybody can do usability; the basic methods are simple enough.
Two high-order qualities of compelling user experiences revolve around the principles of harmony and balance. People feel at ease experiencing these. Unfortunately, high-order principles aren't discussed in the user experience domain extensively.
Reading this article by Jennifer Farley (Sitepoint) on balance as a design principle and finding this blogpost on Washoku cooking and design by Garr Reynolds (Presentation Zen) inspired me to learn more on how principles of Japanese cooking can improve my designs for experiences.
In Japanese cuisine, the Power of Five rules. Five principles outline the ideal components of every meal. Each principle is a list of five items which should all be present for a nutritionally, visually, spiritually balanced meal, with no single component overpowering the others.
- Harmony in color. Washoku meals include foods that are red, yellow, green, black and white. This is not only visually pleasing, but a great way to be sure you are getting a good nutritional balance with your meal.
- Harmony in palate. By having a balance of salty, sour, sweet, bitter, and spicy foods, a washoku-style meal is thoroughly satisfying to the entire palate.
- Harmony in cooking method. Washoku-style meals use several different methods of cooking in each meal: simmering, searing, steaming, raw, and sauteeing or frying.
- Harmony in the senses. Each meal should please the five senses: taste, sight, sound, smell and touch (texture).
- Harmony in the outlook. This is a philisophical idea that when eating we should attempt, first to respect the efforts of all those who contributed their toil to cultivating and preparing our food; second, to do good deeds worthy of receiving such nourishment; third, to come to the table without ire; fourth, to eat for spiritual as well as temporal well-being; and fifth, to be serious in our struggle to attain enlightenment.
Elisabeth Andoh (author of Washoku: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen) says: "Selecting ingredients at their peak of seasonal flavor, choosing locally available foods from both the land and the sea, appealing to and engaging all the senses, using a collage of color, employing a variety of food preparations, and assembling an assortment of flavors – a Washoku approach to cooking gives the creative and contemplative cook an opportunity to satisfy his or her own aesthetic hunger while providing sustenance and sensory pleasure to others."
I immediately ordered her book.
The combination of design and food can be very fruitful for people and companies. They get a lot of inspiration from it and take it as metaphor, domain or just for the fun of it.
"Food Design Probes is a research project by Philips. They developed ideas how we will eat and source our food in the future, like in 15 to 20 years. There are 3 products we might have in our homes by then:
- The Nutrition Monitor. It basically has 3 parts, a sensor which you have to swallow, a scanner which can measure the nutritional value of food and a display device. So you'll exactly know what your body needs and what kind of effect your food will have on it.
- The Food Printer. Remember the 3D sugar printer? Well, this is the next generation. The machine brings molecular gastronomy to your kitchen. 'Feed' is with some ingredients, pick a shape, let it print … and voilà your amazing 3D dish is ready. I can't wait to see all the opensource 3D recipes that will be available!
- The Biosphere Home Farm. It's a 21st century aquarium crossed with stylish shelving unit, it contains fish, plants and other mini ecosystems."
Let's see if this consumer electronics company can deliver some great designs from this far-future research and food inspiration.
In this thesis, he made a stronge case for a distinction between taste and flavor. His research showed that the taste and richness of flavor are the basis for a classification of flavors.
"Before we can objectively discuss taste, we first need to distinguish between taste and flavor. Taste refers to the human act of tasting. It is an intricate experience which involves all the senses. Flavor, however, refers to products. Food and drink have flavors. Making this distinction is important because this allows us to classify taste as subjective: whether you like the taste of a product is similar to whether you like the color red. Flavor then is an objective notion, making classification and assessment possible.", wrote Peter Klosse in this column.
In 1991, Peter Klosse founded the Academy for Gastronomy which is a training institute for food professionals, chefs and sommeliers in The Netherlands.
In 2005, editor Carolyn Korsmeyer published the book "The Taste Culture Reader: Experiencing Food and Drink' in the serie 'Sensory Formations' (Berg Publishers). Besides taste, this serie looks into other senses such as vision, sound and touch. Not in a technology but in a human perspective.
This book will interest anyone seeking to understand more fully the importance of food and flavor in human experience, said the publisher. So, I read the book and the following quotes resonated:
"(...) the senses usually work together in interrelation to create sense experience; the term that captures this integrative perspective of the senses is 'intersensoriality'." (Korsmeyer, p.8)
"The senses are the organs by which man places himself in connection with exterior objects." (Brillat-Savarin, p.16)
"There is no situation in which sensibility and understanding, united in enjoyment, can be as long continued and as often repeated as a good meal in good company." (Immanuel Kant, p.214)
"The significant quality of smell and taste is that it is possible to recognize them, but much more diffcult to recall them." (Sutton, p.313)
"There is a particular strong line between the senses of taste and smell and the emotional dimensions of human experience." (Lupton, p.19)
"Taste is a sensation of the moment. It cannot be preserved." (Fisher, p.325)
Looking forward reading another book on taste by the same author: "Making Sense of Taste: Taste, Food, and Philosophy" (Cornell University Press, 1999)
In his seminal plenary speech at the Information Architecture Summit 2009 in Memphis (USA), Jesse James Garrett stated that in fact information architects and interaction designers are user experience designers. As designers, they focus on the engagement of people with artifacts, platforms and environments (online and offline).
According to Jesse, human engagement involves the mind (cognition), the heart (emotion), the body (action), and the senses (perception). Designers must know how to design for these human capabilities.
It almost goes without saying that besides for user experiences, the senses are also crucial for culinary experiences. Tastes, flavors, and smells are important human perceptions of the qualities of food. But are these inherently the qualities of food or are they only emergent through tasting and eating?
Long ago, the French lawyer and politician Jean Anthelme Brillat de Savarin (1755-1826) wrote an important and celebrated book on the human senses in a gastronomic context: "The Physiology of Taste or Transcendental Gastronomy" (1825). The book contains hardly any recipes but many anecdotes and observations covering all aspects of the pleasures of the table. He is considered 'the greatest food critic ever'.
By reading this book, we gain understanding of our senses. We can use it to what JJG had in mind for user experience designers: facilitating compelling user experiences, never to forget.
Great stories are sources of inspiration. That's one of the reasons we love the 18-minute presentations from the annual TED conference so much. Amazing people telling the most compelling stories.
In 2006, 2007 and 2008, a special set of these great stories was told. Robert Mondavi Winery organized the TASTE
A few examples:
- Chef and scholor Dan Barber relentlessly pursues the stories and reasons behind the foods we grow and eat.
- Master breadmaker Peter Reinhart channels the science of baking into deep, spiritual lessons and dispels stale myths about the nature (and flavor) of good, wholesome bread.
- Journalist and author Benjamin Wallace tells the true story of the world's most expensive bottle of wine.
- Owner and founder of Vosges Haut-Chocolat Katrina Markoff reveals the four steps that leads her to inspired, delicious and creative new chocolate collections.
- Moto Restaurant's Pastry Chef Ben Roche demonstrates the unique dining experience at Moto with his version of Carrot Cake, Nachos and Wine and Food Pairing.
- Chef Jeffery Henderson tells his story from the streets to the stoves and how cooking changed his life.
According to the Taste3 blog, the next version of the conference will be in 2010. Deo volente.
At the POLI.design (Consortium of Politecnico di Milano) in Italy, there are new post-graduate courses called 'Food Experience Design'.
The second edition (March 2009) focused on the specialization to create and design innovative pizzerias.
The fourth edition (Sept-Nov 2009) focuses on rethinking baker's, pastry and ice-cream shops.
From the various other courses like Hotel Experience Design, Entertainment Design or Outdoor Experience Design, some pictures are available as well.
This video includes Chef Grant Achatz talking about his ultimate aim: to use food as a kind of artistic medium to give individual diners an emotional experience.
"If you can get past the soy sauce on chocolate, you will enjoy it and feel a certain way. It's a journey where your heart beats a little faster."
Food is art and science. Besides chefs performing the culinary arts and crafts, many researchers have looked into food from a scientific perspective.
Under the subtitle "The Science, Culture, Business, and Art of Eating", author Herbert L. Meiselman (Senior Research Scientists at the U.S. Army Natick Research Development and Engineering Center) has collected an interesting set of scientific essays on The Meal. The chapters of the book are grouped into parts such as 'Definitions of the Meal', 'The Meal and Cuisine', 'The Meal and Culture', and 'Designing and Producing Meals'.
Although the book originally costs a fair amount, it is currently available at a reasonable 20 dollars at Amazon.
From the introduction: "The objective of this book is to appreciate the complexity of meals; to see the psychological, physiological, cultural, nutricial, biological, sensory, food service/catering, and other business aspects of meals; and to see the interdisciplinary nature of understanding meals; meals are complex, but understanding meals and addressing meals in the practical world requires a more complex view of the meal."
The blog Food Design for the KNL Program supports the Food Design course at Industrial Design Department of Delft University (The Netherlands). The course is an experimental activity.
"Why Food Design? The underlying focus of the joint master program is cultural identity, that can be defined as a person's self affiliation (or categorization by others) as a member of a cultural group. Since cultural identity is a very broad theme, we are proposing to focus more narrowly on cultural identity through food.
The course exploits food as a cross-cutting concern of all human societies in all times to stimulate the students to design from the micro to the macro scale in ways that are sensitive to cultural identity."
In a two hours lecture on creativity at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences in 2008, world class chef Ferran Adrià (of elBulli fame) showed a short but beautifull video. In this video, the gastronomic experience of a couple is shown through their facial expressions.
Accompanied by the soundtrack 'A Day in the Live' (Lennon and McCartney 1967), we see how the restaurant crew serving the food to the couple, enjoying it to the max.
As Ferran said: "It's not the food, it's the experience."
See also a similar interview with Ferran Adrià at Google, including reviewing the elBulli site.
Taking the restaurant as a metaphor for delivering compelling user experiences means being interested in the backstage as well as the frontstage. Backstage work in the restaurant (a.k.a. the kitchen) has been the ethnographic subject of the American sociologist Gary Alan Fine (1950). He published his findings in "Kitchens: The Culture of Restaurant Work".
About the book: "Kitchens takes us into the robust, overheated, backstage world of the contemporary restaurant. In this rich, often surprising portrait of the real lives of kitchen workers, Gary Alan Fine brings their experiences, challenges, and satisfactions to colorful life. A new preface updates this riveting exploration of how restaurants actually work, both individually and as part of a larger culinary culture."
"The day begins slowly. Entering an empty, clean kitchen on a cool summer morning, one has little sense of the blistering tornado of action to come."
Chairman and founder of Cantu Designs and executive chef of Moto restaurant Homaro Cantu shows how our expectations of food based upon what we know or are familiar with can be used to change texture, taste, smell and flavor and create new experiences. Great example of designing a new food experience with known ingredients but with different processes. Transmogrification (a.k.a. the process or result of changing from one appearance, state, or phase to another) is what he does.
From Pop!Tech 2006: "Part mad scientist, part artist, chef Homaro Cantu pushes the traditional limits of known taste, texture and technique in a stunning futuristic fashion. With lab partner Ben Roche, Homaro slices and dices technology to reinvent the way people eat."
Watch his presentation at Pop!Tech 2006.
In this podcast (ITConversations), he talks about his background, restaurant and dishes.
courtesy filip borloo
Ron Gagnier (IBM CAN) sees an analogy between the process of cooking with recipes and the process of user-centered software design. Almost just like we do.
From his article at UXmatters: "I may have taken my analogy of following a recipe too far, but I really do think the comparison is a valid one. Recipes exist to ensure cooks can acquire the right ingredients, follow a sequence of predefined steps, and prepare a dish consistently every time. The same is true of a software design process: By following a design process, an entire project team can know what steps to perform and what they’ll deliver. When your team must make substitutions, let experience and sound judgment guide you in making the most appropriate choices. Continue to learn and grow in your role as a designer, because this will help you make better substitution decisions."
During the Chi 2009 panel discussion (moderated by Patañjali S. Venkatacharya) on what user experience designers could learn from food designers, the following references were mentioned.
- Blackwell, A. F. 2006. The reification of metaphor as a design tool, ACM Trans. Comput.-Hum. Interact. 13, 4 (Dec. 2006), 490-530.
- Grimes, A. and Harper, R. 2008. Celebratory technology: new directions for food research in HCI. In Proceeding of the Twenty-Sixth Annual SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Florence, Italy, April 05 - 10, 2008). CHI '08. ACM, New York, NY, 467-476.
- Kowalski, L., Ashley, J., and Vaughan, M. W. 2006. When design is not the problem: better usability through non-design means. In CHI '06 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Montréal, Québec, Canada, April 22 - 27, 2006). CHI '06. ACM, New York, NY, 165-170.
- Langford, D. and Jones, C. 1994. The kitchen interface—a lateral approach to GUI. SIGCHI Bull. 26, 2 (Apr. 1994), 41-45.
- Oppenheimer, A. and Reavey, H. 2003. Beyond "puree": reinventing the blender. In Proceedings of the 2003 Conference on Designing For User Experiences (San Francisco, California, June 06 - 07, 2003). DUX '03. ACM, New York, NY, 1-10. Better ways to find the right recipe
- Svensson, M., Höök, K., and Cöster, R. 2005. Designing and evaluating kalas: A social navigation system for food recipes. ACM Trans. Comput.-Hum. Interact. 12, 3 (Sep. 2005), 374-400.
Caroline Jarrett writes in Caroline's Corner about the differences between The Heuristic Inspection (Gordon Ramsay) and User-Centered Design (Heston Blumenthal) on how to improve the restaurant experiences. On Ramsay "I realised that Ramsay is really doing heuristic inspections. He has a list of specific things that a good restaurant should do, starting with basic hygiene (he’s very keen on not killing the diners). He looks at the quality of service, level of organisation in the kitchen, portion control and profitability." and on Blumenthal "Blumenthal watched the videos of the user reactions and totally changed his approach (now, doesn’t that sound familiar?). He started to think about the users, and not just the diners who already chose Little Chef."
Panelists include Patanjali S. Venkatacharya (Oracle Corp., USA), Ronald M. Baecker (University of Toronto, Canada), Daniel Schwartz (Oracle USA Inc., USA), Chef Jody Adams (Rialto Restaurant, USA) and Chef Jason Santos (Gargoyles Restaurant, USA).
"This panel will bring together a group of user experience experts, with a group often overlooked in the art and science of user experience and food designers. The panelists will include: an award-winning Michelin-starred Chef, a culinary school instructor, a user experience practitioner, and a world-renowned HCI academic.
Together, the panel will compare and contrast concepts from food design and user experience including the challenges of meeting demanding end-user needs, and best practices from food design that one could potentially apply to the design of everyday things.
The main objective of the panel is to explore pertinent questions on the craft of design from two different domain perspectives, whilst evaluating some of the key overlapping concepts.
Among the issues they will examine are:
- How to ensure that designs satisfy the end customers
- The top 3 challenges in coming up with a new design (or recipe)
- How to conduct user testing in a high-stress environment
- Processes to use in developing entirely new creations
In his closing keynote at the 10th ASIS&T Information Architecture Summit (Memphis TN - March 18-22, 2009), Jesse James Garrett (president of Adaptive Path) stated the following: "(...) we're all user experience designers (...) We can engage people's senses. We can stimulate them through visuals, through sound, through touch and smell and taste. This is the domain of the traditional creative arts: painting, music, fashion, cooking."
Told you so!
Personas are documents describing multiple relevant aspects of a target audience. Is someone's behaviour structured or rather chaotic. This also reflects in cooking styles. Is 'mise en place' obvious or not (e.g. cooking while preparing).
Now, enrich your persona descriptions with traits of people's cooking personalities. They reveal a lot. "Cornell University researchers studied nearly 800 family cooks and determined five distinct types. So what's your cooking personality?" - by Tara Parker-Pope (NYT)
Be human, start cooking! - "Cooking is a human universal. No society is without it. No one other than a few faddists tries to survive on raw food alone. And the consumption of a cooked meal in the evening, usually in the company of family and friends, is normal in every known society. Moreover, without cooking, the human brain (which consumes 20-25% of the body’s energy) could not keep running. Dr Wrangham thus believes that cooking and humanity are coeval." - From an article in The Econonomist on Richard Wrangham's thesis (anthropologist - Harvard University)
Susan Coleman Morse and Eli Blevis wrote an article (full version coming soon) in the ACM Interactions Magazine XVI.2: "Permaculture, urban farming, and locavorism - all are newly familiar terms that we define in this month’s forum and that are implicated in sustainable lifestyles. All denote opportunities for interaction designers. By opportunities, we mean not only potential applications of interactive technologies to help where no interactive technologies have been previously applied, but also the potential use of interactive technologies to more broadly distribute the cherishable wisdom of those who practice simpler, more sustainable, more natural heirloom and traditional forms of food culture and land use..."
Passionate people publish on blogs. For every angle of life, there is a blog. Times Online now has published what they consider the 50 of the world's best food blogs. Most of them 'just' focus on food alone and recipes, the training wheels for chefs. But there is so much more to it...
In the Fall of 2006, Michel Gagné was contacted by Brad Bird to create a series of animated vignettes for his movie Ratatouille. The concept was to design and animate abstract representations of what the character was tasting. After discussing ideas and concepts with Brad Bird, he created a series of images to illustrate potential ideas of how the taste could be visualized in an abstract way. These were reviewed by Brad and shown to the music composer as inspiration.
A great example of how to make something abstract like taste very concrete.
I've always wondered how food visualizations effect our senses. Some people make it into their daily work to give food the best presentation. In 2007, they had their International Conference on Food Styling and Photography: A World View of Business, Techniques, and Design. Loved to have been there.
"FOOD takes a provocative and unconventional look at areas that could have a profound effect on the way we eat and source our food 15-20 years from now" says the FOOD-project of this consumer electronics company. Wih three new projects Diagnostic Kitchen, Food Creation and Home Farming Philips figures out what the design probes are.
"The atmosphere, the people involved, the stories behind the ingredients, the taste and texture, sound, smell and colour of food and the way it is prepared and served. She explores the intimacy of design that actually goes inside your body and follows the journey of food from seed all the way to poop. Thinking about all this and working and experimenting in her studio and restaurant and by creating eating experiences for her clients she has developed her own unique way of looking at eating from a psychological, cultural and design point of view." says Dutch eating-designer Marije Vogelzang in her newly published book 'Eat Love'.
Marije considers cooking something for professionals.
It's always interesting to hear people's stories of their most memorable dining experience(s). Which experiences shaped them for the rest of their lives? This Meal in Venice from 1978 by Rick and Teel Sale made them really, really happy. They'll never forget. "Papa! Papa you did it! You made it!"
It's (still) a far cry from having this kind of UX. [via Jason Kottke]
Untill now, reception of FoodUX has been good in most tweets. More to come...
At the site of the famous restaurant The Fat Duck, cuisinier Heston Blumenthal takes the opportunity to outline some of his philosophies and chef statements regarding food, cooking and eating. The parallels with user experience (design) are remarkable.
"We believe that cooking can affect people in profound ways, and that a spirit of collaboration and sharing is essential to true progress in developing this potential. The act of eating engages all the senses as well as the mind. Preparing and serving food could therefore be the most complex and comprehensive of the performing arts. To explore the full expressive potential of food and cooking, we collaborate with scientists, from food chemists to psychologists, with artisans and artists (from all walks of the performing arts), architects, designers, industrial engineers. We also believe in the importance of collaboration and generosity among cooks: a readiness to share ideas and information, together with full acknowledgment of those who invent new techniques and dishes."
(c.f. Heston Blumenthal, Harold McGee, Thomas Keller and Ferran Adria)
Lucia Terrenghi reflects in this position paper "Sticky, Smelly, Smoky Context: Experience Design in the Kitchen" on the challenges to design, setup and evaluate a user experience in hybrid contexts, i.e. physical and digital ones, of everyday life.
It is an exploration of the introduction of digital display technology into the kitchen environment. The paper looks at the complexity of the cooking context and considers how the introduction of technology in the kitchen can affect the cooking experience.
How something looks has great influence on how it feels. "Look-and-feel" would many say simplistically. This applies to objects in our environment, like products, dishes, and others.
The study of Sun and Wang from Taiwan called "Analysis of Interrelations between Bottle Shape and Food Taste" shows how specific atom arrangements of a bottle shapes ones taste.
An interesting relationship between tangible and intangible phenomenons. Just like an application and the user experience emerging from its use.
From The Hindu: "(...) most people don't even notice why the food they eat arrives looking, feeling or sounding the way it does."
Architects Sonja Stummerer and Martin Hablesreiter are on a mission to make people really look at what is on their plates. The young authors of the German book, Food Design, won a `Special Award of the Jury' at the Gourmand Awards last year. This year, they will be shooting a documentary on food design, as they travel across Europe.
Their documentary film is a must see.
Recipes are the training wheels of the chef. Using them is sometimes very hard. How are the ingredients, measures, procedures and end results designed? At UserCentric, Kirsten Peters has found three ways to improve their usability.
Based upon the restaurant metaphor with a front stage (dining room) and a back stage (kitchen), the authors advice information architects and other user experience professionals to apply their thinking to the area of content management in the back stage as well.