Cooking is conventionally viewed as a process that serves up to the very basic of physiological needs. A well-designed experience should cater to all five psychological needs - physiological, safety, belongingness, esteem, and actualization. We worked to redefine the entire experience of interacting with the different utilities in a kitchen into a process which caters to all five levels of human psychological need.
This was quite a challenging product design project which included quite a bit of User Experience Design. I worked in a small team with Pranjal and Varun, and was responsible for the User Experience Design, 3D Modelling, and Video Production efforts during the three week course of this project.
The initial hurdle was to transform the multi-faceted cooking process into a linear one that’s easier to comprehend with continuous feedback in terms of progression. This problem lies at the heart of the entire experience and had to be solved without affecting the essence of the art of cooking food. This was especially difficult, considering a rather constrained linear process would not appeal to those who like to spice things up and experiment with what goes in the frying pan. The system should provide for ample amounts of creative freedom while retaining the seamlessness and the connection with the user. This creative freedom without the constraints of when and where would be a perfect experience.
The cooking experience
We believe that the current experience of cooking in a kitchen is broken. It is one that is centered more around the appliances and the tools rather than the users. The new experience that we designed would put the spotlight back on the user where it rightfully should be. We designed this experience to be used by us. Yes, that’s right. That includes you who are reading this article. In fact, it centers around your needs as an intellectual who has probably not cooked as much as he/she should have. The following list is what constitutes a pleasurable yet satisfying and productive on-the-go cooking experience.
- Continuous feedback
- Portability with utility retention
- Pleasurable but unobtrusive micro-interactions
- Gamification with space for creativity
- Non-corrosive material to convey safety
- No fire
Now that we have established our goals, we start the design process from the ground up.
The form design process
Portability with utility retention being one of the main objectives, we started with pen and paper sketches of the form - one that is utilitarian enough but can be packed up and taken on the go as well while retaining it’s aesthetic features.
At this point, it was clear that the user should be able to have a workspace within an arm span of his position. Making this possible while staying within limits which we would rationally assume to be portable was not easy. We sketched out a few variations of the folding mechanisms and overall block-forms.
The form’s details became increasingly comprehensible as we assigned priorities to the various utilities required to aid the process of cooking, and spanned them out on a visual hierarchy that is just perceptual enough to have a subconscious impact on the user.
Prototyping the form
At this point, it made more sense to move from pen and paper to a more tangible medium for initial prototyping as well as refinements to the form. This would also validate the foldability of such a form, and would also give us an idea of how the product feels. We used cardboard cut-outs to create a scaled-down version of the product.
The interactions and usability at a limited scale were tested to further refine a few aspects of the form. The details were still missing as we were dealing with cardboard as the medium. This meant that we had to step up, take things to another level, and move beyond cardboard.
We brought in sheets of Acrylic to create a more detailed prototype that was closer to the actual scale, to evaluate the ergonomic quality of the form and its human-centered effectiveness.
These acrylic sheets were not easy to work with - they had to be laser cut precisely into the different parts which could then be assembled.
This was assembled and tested, and the changes we needed were integrated into the design specifications that were going to be used for the three-dimensional render. The three-dimensional render was crucial to show our vision for what we were building. It also allows for the generation of high-quality product renders which could be used for marketing.
Once the basic form was established, the smaller details and finishes were added to obtain the final detailed model which could then be used for renders. At this stage, we also needed some footage for the final product reveal. The model was animated to showcase its functionality and form.
Here’s where the magic really happens. We integrate pleasurable micro-interactions that keep you updated with the progress of your cooking process and make it easier for you to perform tasks like ordering grocery, sharing through social media platforms, and thousands of recipes. All this is possible thanks to the foldable glass protected screen that we have on the product.
The product tracks time and progress at each stage of the cooking process and prompts you when necessary to make it easier to use. It also intelligently sets the temperature of the built-in induction heater according to what you’re cooking and the ambient temperature readings.
The Final Product Unveil
The product was unveiled through a video which communicates our vision, intends, and design process.