Collection No 7

Behind Design

Designing With Dinner

Why you should incorporate food into design.

Food and design are key to life at frog. We have a long-standing tradition where our teams across the globe take a pause from their work to gather over food and drink during what is fondly known as, “Coffee Time.” This opportunity, while satisfying our hunger or thirst also redirects our attention to stimulate creativity before returning to our design tasks or challenges at hand.

Because of this, it should come as no surprise that frogs love to incorporate food into other aspects of their work. We’ve been inspired by restaurants and co-working spaces that incorporate long tables into the environment to encourage random strangers to interact or collaborate. We’ve also noted how government leaders choose to host state dinners as a diplomatic gesture to warm the discussions for challenging topics. While we can access all kinds of data through our digital tools, the shared table seems to offer a safe space where people can open up and discuss differently than they might in any another context.

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Alice Julier, author of Eating Together finds, “When people invite friends, neighbors, or family members to share meals, social inequalities involving race, economics, and gender reveal themselves in interesting ways.”

In our design research practice at frog, we conduct in-home interviews, “shop-alongs” and user testing sessions to gain insight and information about human experiences with products or services. These activities offer enough flexibility to account for the unexpected moments that arise with individuals but we are mindful that different perspectives emerge when groups come together. Because traditional focus groups can be quite limiting or produce group think, we’ve opted to come out from behind the glass screen, and engage directly with people by adopting the power of the shared table to our research approaches.

This thinking led us to develop our ‘Design with Dinner’ method, which allows frogs and recruited participants to join together during an interactive and curated meal experience. We inject concepts, prototypes, and even co-creation activities matched with bespoke tools to nurture unexpected avenues for conversational exchange. The table, instead of being a functional tool for the presentation of food, becomes a place to express and visualize insights in a guided yet fun manner.

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We’ve been able to host these research experiences in Stockholm homes, London restaurants, and Berlin industrial spaces (among other places around the world), each providing a unique opportunity to uncover the impact of groups on designing future products and services. We continue to test it on ourselves to ensure we create a meaningful and insightful experience for participants and our clients.

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What types of experiential research methods are you exploring? How might this approach help your current process? Share you stories below.

karapecknold

Kara Pecknold

Kara Pecknold is an Associate Creative Director at frog. She has a background in visual design and design research and is the current lead for frog’s Collective Action Toolkit, a collaboration and creativity tool for group problem solving that is being used worldwide.

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What kinds of artefacts/tools do you use during Design with Dinner? We're thinking of doing something similar, and wonder about space constraints on the table (and not necessarily having a wall available to stick things onto)...
mtullio, 2016-08-10 17:55:50

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