On 3rd November, 18 experienced mentors with various backgrounds in design, technology, science and other came to see where we are with our Honours projects and talk to us about them.

Certain preparations had to be done before the Gurus’ day, including the setting, print & binding of the booklet with all the students & their projects as well as the gurus. Since I am part of the visual identity team, I was happy to use our dynamic branding concept and apply it into the booklet.

After some late evenings in DJCAD, A5 booklet for 2-up saddle stitch binding was born! You can read it through here: SD16 Gurus booklet.

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Rachael reading the SD16 booklet

With layout of our studio changed, some delicious catering food brought in, we were ready on the Tuesday to welcome all the gurus. Some of them visited as far as London – that has to be appreciated 🙂

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Every student created a small “exhibition” which would communicate what is the direction of his/her project and how are the three cornerstones of People, Design and Technology connected in that project.

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I created a simple dinner setting with some people talking, cooking and enjoying the moment together, to share the example of ideal settings for people to eat together.

PeDeTe installation

Few gurus visited me and I explained to them my idea with cultivating the food culture in Scotland in a novel way, and connecting the people together whilst doing that. I will share key points from discussion with them here:

Nick Taylor (DJCAD, University of Dundee)

Nick motivated me to explore a possibility of doing something more physical, since that is more unobtrusive way to connect with humans than doing another digital-heavy, screen-based project. That was a key feedback right there. He told me about an Ambient Kitchen project for inspiration and also discussed a possibility of reviving Scottish cuisine, as something that might be quite forgotten.

Craig Murdo (UX Consultant at Sopra Steria)

We agreed with Craig that phones at a dinner table are very uncool, they break people’s focus and make everybody less present and less involved in talking with others and being there. Craig touched the idea of gamification, for example in a setting of “You are organizing tonight’s dinner, your mission is to cook for 7 people!” which I found quite interesting.

Craig Bunyan (Senior Designer at Seymour Powell)

Craig reflected the fact that my brief and direction is very very broad at the moment, since cultivating a food culture can be done in so many ways. He encouraged me to focus more, narrow down. That is actually me next step. We also brainstormed ideas a bit, since Craig is a walking experienced open-mind with lots of them.

David Todd (Seymor Powell)

I knew that David worked on a food allergies-related app and that this chat is going to be very good. But I didn’t expect the amount of enthusiasm that he brought me – rather than talking specifically about particular aspects of the project, David talked about the importance in backing up design decisions (by research, exploration, prototyping or at least by giving them some thought). He  explained why people click when they see some project which they don’t fully understand – in other words, originality. Putting a digital twist to quite ordinary things related to cooking might be also a great thing to consider. As long as I follow my passion, of course 🙂

Alistair Norris (IDEO)

Chat with Ali was a bit different, since he’s now in Singapore, where it was about midnight when we talked. Ali admitted that he is quite in my target group of people who don’t invest time in cooking but would like to. He told me to think about the users in groups – those who

  • don’t cook & don’t want to
  • don’t cook but would like to
  • cook but only for themselves
  • cook and are happy to share

With some research into these groups I can map out different motivations for cooking, and perhaps choose the group/groups I only want to focus on. He also reminded me of the importance of backing up my design decisions by research, facts and observations. I felt that narrowing my focus down is the way to go here as well.

We had a great panel discussion with the gurus after that.

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What next?

Supported by my tutorial with Andrea & Chris (our lecturers), my next steps would be:

  • Narrow down my focus. My project misssion has already two objectives – cultivate food culture & bring people together, I should just focus on one most likely.
  • Think less obtrusive when designing – moving into physical space more might help that quite a lot, since it’s the younger people who are accustomed to screens, but my target audience is age-wide.
  • Make a workshop? Andrea gave me negative feedback on surveys, so I might as well do some workshop to observe how people interact when they cook.

I’d like to thank to thank to all the gurus who came to our studio to give us their time, attention and guidance. Thank you!