By: Nataly Restrepo
The anthropological value of design related to the true needs and motivations (often unconscious) of consumers
The food industry has had an exponential growth both in production as in research & development around the world. Both market and industry’s interest of generating innovation through one of human’s vital activities has created atmospheres that are trying to impulse creativity inside this area.
With this scenario as a platform, last October, Foodlosofia and the Technological School of Monterrey held a Food Design workshop in collaboration of local ventures which included Bears in the Kitchen and Medium Term, companies created by two industrial designers.
The main objective of the workshop was to question in depth the future of how food is understood. Through 10 previously defined problems based on a trend analysis generated by Foodlosofia, student teams analysed and developed design proposals. Some of the themes that stood out through these 5 days were related to food for night workers, food for children, the relationship between food and stress, and food waste.
The teams, conformed by diverse disciplines from medical surgeons to industrial physicists, gave rise to an interesting articulation around the different problems. The perspectives provided a diversity of analysis that, linked by design, managed to generate integral proposals. In the course of the workshop, the evolution of the teams was perceived through the use of design thinking methodologies and their adaptation to the different profiles and disciplines.
The process focused on user analysis by testing their real-world viewing capabilities through interviews, photographs, observation, and surveys.
After this exhaustive fieldwork, students began to realise the anthropological value of design by understanding the true needs and motivations (often unconscious) of consumers. The insights they found were of great interest as they re-orient their proposals towards a human-centered product and not one focused in industry requirements.
Undoubtedly, one of the most fun and productive parts of the workshop was the food prototyping, which included edible and non-edible materials with the aim of treating food as a traditional object with shape, texture, size, ergonomics and usage, leading to a significant evolution of the ideas through different interactions, tests, and multiple changes. In order to mold organic shapes we used a mixture of flour and water, honey as glue, a mixture of nuts, oats, and seeds to give texture, and finally, edible powder and oil pigments for color.
After several days of work, changes and prototypes, the teams began to show unexpected results. The most valuable insights gained through the investigation process were related with the theme of night workers. Once the students understood the way their target market made decisions, the team realised that their target’s routines were unfamiliar to their own, which demanded a deeper analysis of the behaviours observed.
One of the most important insights was the lack of time and portability of food, since many times these jobs include continuous shifts, constant mobility, or an inability to leave the workstation. Based on this context, concepts based on time, rather than content, were presented in a very empathic and interesting way.
The team developed a line of snacks designed according to the time available for eating, taking into account the quality and characteristics of the ingredients needed for optimal performance, as well as the ergonomics and the way of eating while doing certain activities within limited spaces.
A second concept presented was based on food for children. The team identified the different actors involved in this feeding process: parents, schools and the children themselves. They also studied the many factors influencing this relationship, such as advertising, the association of food with caricatures, regulatory policies on sugar levels, and exposure to ads of products with empty calories.
Based on this scenario, the team created a modular product that helped parents to control the portions and include all necessary food groups in children’s nutrition.
In spite of being a product mainly targeted to parents, it also involved children, who could interchange the modules of their lunchbox and be part of the preparation of their own food. This responds to one of the insights gained during the observation about the importance of children’s autonomy in the way they enjoy food, as they don’t feel it as an imposition and obligation, but as a self and familiar choice.
Like these two groups, the end of the workshop had very creative and structured results that had not only nutrition approaches, but also included sustainable business models that were coherent with the physical and emotional needs of their users. This week was a new way of showing how Design works as a communication link to unite different disciplines with multiple approaches and priorities under the same solution and the same purpose. Thus, through design and its methodologies we can adapt our current behaviours to a future scenario that will undoubtedly have many economic, environmental and social stakes that will change our way of life and the way we consume food.
With the collaboration of: Valeria Loera