The Act of Eating

The two week course was a series of experiments to explore the role of design to understand how people eat and if design can shift people’s behaviour of eating or encourage them to eat mindfully.

Experiment 1.1 – Exploring our interaction with food
Our first approach was to understand people’s association with food and the act of eating.
Along with a series of questions around the subject, we asked them to sketch how they would eat in the most comfortable setting imaginable. Most interviewees when asked about the act of eating, mentioned only their environment. This became our most important insight which informed our next experiment.

Experiment 2.1 – How might we be more aware of the act of eating?
We created a neutral environment to bring focus to the food and the act of eating. Four participants were asked to eat from a selection of food items for 5 minutes. The experiment showed us that most of the participants talked about lack of an environment and the experiment itself, and not about the food. Some participants enjoyed not having any distractions while eating.

Experiment 2.2
But what happens if we challenge the familiar way of eating by removing the cutlery and test if that would increase the attention on the act of eating. The participant created his own way of eating by using his hands or the bread as a spoon. The pace of the act of eating slowed down in comparison to the others. And the participant talked about the act of eating and not about the environment.

Experiment 3.1 – A guide to eating mindfully
One of the artifacts from our explorations is a step-by-step guide to mindful eating which urges you to disconnect from the digital world with a WIFI blocker and the physical surroundings with ear-plugs while you eat your meal. It also gives you multiple ways to experience a richer taste palette by encouraging you to eat with your hands.

This guide is one of the ways we explored the role of a designer in enhancing the experience of eating beyond the design of food and the utensils to consume it.

To explore in the future we would test the guide with a diary research on the usefulness of the guide for 2 weeks with up to 10 participants. Asking questions such as; can we create a new habit of eating with the help of the guide? In which scenarios was the guide used? And, what new habits, if any, were formed as a cause of this guide?