The Major Project

Brief

Brief: An opportunity to develop and express my creative self, demonstrated through the production of a major enquiry into and response to an issue experienced by people & organisations operating in the creative industries. The Major Project is a research-informed and practice-based project that will result in a visual outcome and a self-reflective writing piece. We have to go through all stages of the process, from defining the problem, researching, developing an idea, prototyping, and the final outcome.

The first weeks were all about choosing a topic with enough depth to keep me hooked for 3-4 months. A passion project, which I can get excited about and have an endless stream of ideas for. To understand what topic could be “the one” for me, I started off by asking myself a few questions.

  1. What do I want to explore?
  2. What do I think about during the day and gets me excited?
  3. What sparks my curiosity?
  4. Visual outcomes – which areas of design do I want to explore and how do I link them with my idea? Is a particular area of design something I want to do more of in the future?

My way of working can sometimes be backwards, thinking of visual outcomes and stressing over what is “deliverable”. But this time I had so many topics of interest, with no idea what I want to do with them. Especially as I am interested in quite a few areas of design, I felt lost whether I’ll end up making a film animation, tap into UX and app design or go to my roots in series of illustrations. So instead of stressing about that, I focused on choosing a topic first.

Topics of interest

  • Sustainability in fashion – continuing on from my Design Marketing 2 Speculative design brief from last term
  • Interior design and how it can affect one’s emotions – as an enthusiast for interiors, there seemed to be so many possibilities to explore
  • Data protection on the internet – continuing on from my Manifesto on that topic from first year, what could I do about these cookies?
  • Animal protection – an important topic that matters to me and makes me emotional
  • Boardgames – it’s been a dream of mine since I was a kid to create a game design
  • Shopping – therapy and guilty pleasure of mine (and for so many other people), could I replicate that feeling in the digital world?
  • Food – exploring ways of experiencing food in a new way in a post covid world, unable to taste and smell (long term)

The last one was a random one. I have always been a foodie, it genuinely makes me excited to cook new things, try different foods at restaurants, experiencing different cultures’ authentic dishes and watching people cook. I was scrolling on Pinterest and ogling at pasta dishes that came up, knowing very well that unfortunately, my food experience will probably never be the same again and I can now only enjoy it visually, since having developed the Covid long term condition parosmia:

Parosmia is a dysfunctional smell detection characterized by the inability of the brain to correctly identify an odor’s “natural” smell. Instead, the natural odor is usually transformed into an unpleasant aroma, typically a “burned”, “rotting”, “fecal”, or “chemical” smell. The condition was rare and little-researched until it became relatively more widespread since 2020 as a side effect of COVID-19.

Sadly, this condition can stay for even 2 years and there isn’t enough research into what can treat this. (Update from Yoana in the future: It’s been 8 months, I still have it).

It’s so rare and no one talks about it. I wanted to do something. My gut was telling me to go with this topic, because it is so important and relevant to me right now, such a big part of my life now. I had some thoughts going into my head “what about all the other topics I’m excited about, maybe they would be more exciting for other people then my bizarre condition”, but at the same time I knew that this would be something very special, even if it’s valuable to a small amount of people (roughly 10% of people who got Covid develop parosmia).

During one of our class sessions, I wanted to gather some feedback for this idea of a topic from my friends, and I got a positive response about my idea of making some 3D artwork designs of food, which looked really cool on Pinterest and seemed like an area I could go into.

Research

I then went on to gathering more research and finding references that could help me find my own direction. I made a Canva deck to note down some of the interesting things I found:

Print advertisement created by TBWA, Portugal for McDonald’s

Tanaka Tatsuya‘s Instagram account – miniature photography art with food

Feedback

After the feedback from Russell, I got the reasonable question what do I want to achieve with my project – is it raising awareness, or trying to find a solution, or is it speculative – I had no idea. After my feedback from Xavier, I also understood the importance of the food experience in restaurants (e.g. El Bulli and Noma restaurants) and how famous chefs around the world deliver their art. They gave me a few references to have a look at: the rubber hand illusion, Claes Oldenburg’s giant food sculptures, tricks photographers use to make food look delicious in adverts, and most importantly: Bompas and Parr, a creative agency known for making crazy food installations like jelly sculptures of buildings and other very extra projects that challenge creativity with what food has to offer.

I went on their website and looked at almost all of their projects, they were really fun and excited me even more about the topic I had chosen. I watched their talk live stream about the “future of food” and also went through the PDF, and I particularly enjoyed how they talked about Hypnotic Dining: Bompas & Parr predicts that self-hypnosis – the ability to put yourself into a trance-like state that distorts reality – will enter the dining experience. Diners will be instructed how to hypnotically alter their menus and surroundings, and even the taste of their food. Imagine sweetening or adding salt – a healthier, virtual salt – to a dish. I also enjoyed the mentioning of Lexical–gustatory synesthesia, which is a rare neurological condition in which individuals experience phantom tastes when hearing, speaking, reading, or thinking about words.

My direction for this topic was being formed through a speculative design question: What if there was a way to experience food by putting the focus on stimulating the other senses – vision and hearing? This meant this project would explore something related to the senses.

I started researching projects related to the senses and I found this one really interesting:

https://www.behance.net/gallery/132604115/Sniff-Olfactory-Art

The project talked about smell, and how it’s the strongest of all senses when it comes to memory recollection, making it the biggest nostalgia and behaviour catalyst of the other senses – it has the ability to transport you.

Considering changing my topic?

After researching and finding references on my food topic, another topic from the ones I was considering kept me wondering, as I am really passionate about it – sustainability in fashion. It was still early stages of the brief, so I was seriously considering whether my food topic was good enough and if I should start from scratch. I really wanted to have a look at some references on that topic too so I can see which one I’m more passionate about from the two. I ended up getting hooked on this topic just as much and came up with just as many references and examples, that I have links for in the Canva deck:

At this point I was clearly divided between the two topics and for the 1st Milestone I decided to create a deck with both ideas and hear everyone else’s opinions, which one do they enjoy the sound of more. I was worried that I’m “behind” everyone else’s progress with the brief, as I hadn’t worked on visuals yet, because I couldn’t make my mind up yet. However, I decided to trust my own process, list a few possible outcomes, and focus on reaching a decision on the topic first:

Short summary of each topic:

Sustainability in Fashion

Keywords: Sustainability, Fashion, App, Retail, Technology, Innovation

Our brand new returns a lot of the times end up in landfills, and their transportation alone contributes to 15 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. However, the issues in the fashion industry never fall on any single person, brand, or company. My major project’s focus here is on dealing with the impact of consumption, while accepting people’s desire to consume, but inspiring sustainable substitutes instead of sacrifices. It aims to highlight the importance of sustainability in the fashion industry through a campaign video, which educates consumers and provokes solution-based thinking to environmental issues. Using our voices we can make changes to transform the fashion system.

Outcomes: Campaign Video/Documentary, App, Zine, AR filter

Relationship with Food

Keywords: Food, COVID, Senses, Exploration, Cookbook, Food Design

After having COVID, a lot of people suffered from temporary loss of smell and taste, and in many cases less fortunate people suffered from one of the long COVID syndromes, namely Parosmia – distorted sense of smell and taste. This condition can stay for even 2 years, and for many people It has led to depression. My major project aims to create a food design experience, as food alone doesn’t taste and smell the same anymore. What if there was a way to experience food by putting the focus on stimulating the other senses – vision, touch and hearing? I plan on creating a cookbook, which captures that through 3D digital food design.

Outcomes: Exploration, Physical installation, 3D Digital Food Design, AR filter, Photography, Cookbook, Food Design, Zine

Feedback and topic chosen

The feedback from the class and the teachers was great and an unanimous decision was reached on which topic to go forward with – the food one, how can we experience food in a different way. I am glad that everyone was on the same page, as I definitely didn’t need to be even more confused, I was convinced that the food project is exciting, unseen and they could supposedly tell by the way I presented that it was the one I was more inspired for. I definitely felt that I’m making the right choice and now I can go into the fun part of the project, developing my ideas.

Possible visual outcomes

I created a little mind map of what the deliverables could look like for this project. After all the references I’ve gathered and the research I’ve conducted, I could now clear my head, brainstorm and pin down what are my next steps.

I was drawn to the ideas of a tasting event/restaurant, which is parosmia-friendly. I decided I’m going to explore these options, as I really felt like people around me couldn’t understand what I’m going through, especially when go out to eat and everyone’s enjoying their meal and I just sit there trying to force food inside of me. At this point I do realise that working on this project and whatever I create wouldn’t cure this condition. I couldn’t possibly change how food tastes. I realised I could create a safe space where you feel understood. The aim is to create a place where anyone navigating the world with Parosmia (and of course everyone else) could go to feel better for their new reality.

The Kitchen-19

That’s how I reached a decision to create a multi-sensory food experience at “The Kitchen-19” – a COVID friendly restaurant. The name of the restaurant is of course inspired by “Covid-19”, and it clearly portrays the unique selling point and how this place is different to any other restaurant/diner – it is targeted at people suffering from Parosmia.

The science behind multi-sensory dining

The idea of multi-sensory dining is about treating all the senses to an immersive experience to enhance the flavour of the dish. Numerous research on multisensory meals revealed that sounds influence how we perceive flavours. Professor Charles Spence of the University of Oxford’s Crossmodal Research Laboratory, for example, established the effect in an experiment with Heston Blumenthal.

He offered bacon and egg ice cream to study participants while two distinct soundtracks played in the background – either the sound of bacon sizzling or the sound of hens clucking. Those who listened to the bacon noises said the bacon flavour was the most intense in the meal, while those who listened to the chickens said the egg flavour was more prevalent. This demonstrates how we can use audio to alter the flavour of a dish.

Ultraviolet in Shanghai, the first multi-sensory restaurant in the world, uses sight, sound and smell to create a specific atmosphere that enhances the food being served. Each course of the menu is matched with the perfect scent, music, sounds and lights in order to provide the ideal context for the dish. This concept is based on chef Pairet’s interest and desire to stimulate the “psycho-taste” which allows eating to evoke memories, associations, ideas and emotions.

In my research I found this quote, that enables me to further understand the complexity of food:

“We are so distant from the natural taste of things that we even start to prefer the artificial and we enjoy tasting and smelling the descriptions of the foods instead of the foods themselves”.

Marshal McLuhan, source: https://lucian.uchicago.edu/blogs/mediatheory/keywords/food/

Pairing food with music

This is what I wanted to achieve – making an eating experience about more than just consuming necessary food to live. I decided that a key part in the dining experience at “The Kitchen-19” is going to be pairing food with music. When you place an order you will be fitted with a carefully curated playlist in Spotify, which you can listen to while eating, which creates a unique experience. It is designed to draw the person’s attention deeper into the dish and flavours. These Spotify playlists would be personalised, depending on which meal you order at The Kitchen-19. For example, if you order chicken wings, you get a playlist for that when you scan the QR code on the menu. Dining at this restaurant would be exploring one of our senses we don’t connect with eating – hearing.

Developing Branding & Identity

At first I started off with coming up with a name, trying different fonts and compositions for the logo:

The truth is, it left me feeling uninspired and it didn’t feel like this restaurant has an identity, personality. The dull colours and overall feel made it look boring and not exciting enough. Since the restaurant is target at people who are struggling, I wanted this place to be like a ray of sunshine, making you happy just looking at it. I then decided to go in a completely different direction.

Font Design

I was determined to create a custom font, which I then called Distort-19.

References: https://www.behance.net/collection/193535557/Distorted-typefaces

I took the typeface Poppins in bold, created outlines and decided to start playing around with it. My process was simple: take a letter, stretch it out, move shapes, points and edges, and make it look distorted, which captures that feeling of distorted smell and taste. And repeated that for all the letters, all caps and sentence case, numbers, symbols and punctuation marks. You can see a snippet of the process of making it here:

As you can see from the video it was free-form distort, trial and error with each individual letter, number and symbol, but still keeping them somewhat consistent and of course, within the normal grids for letters, so it can actually be a fully-functioning font. I created it in Black, as well as in a Colorful style, depending when it has to be used for different situations, and to keep it positive and bold.

You can download it from here and try it out: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1QCyWfLa3F7dPusG1InyRaNC678wmMUF7/view?usp=sharing

The colors I hand-picked to be very eye-catching and positive, as that’s the effect I want to have on people that are struggling.

I particularly liked how the asterisk * symbol turned out and thought it could be used as a brand asset.

My inspiration for both the personality of the restaurant, as well as the interior, are American diner aesthetic with their classic, playful style with jukeboxes, checkered prints, bright colors, and so on, but with a little bit of a twist (the distorted elements).

In addition to the custom typeface and color palette, I wanted to create a pattern, which is also distorted and references back to the distorted taste and smell. I created a checkered black & white pattern and used some tools in Illustrator to create a distinguishing brand pattern, that would be used across marketing materials, posters, merchandise, etc.

Details – I even distorted the toilet icons that would be used in the restaurant.

A mockup I created to play around with it.

Logo

I wanted to use the font I created and make a typeface logo, which would be unique and inviting. The tagline would also play a big part, giving a distinctive element for the restaurant. I tried a lot of different versions and finally reached this:

Trying it out in black and white first.
Color version

I created this restaurant front mockup, but I decided not to use it, because I was going away from the personality of the brand:

This mockup worked way better:

I created this visual to illustrate how the Spotify playlists could look like, using the logo as a brand asset and creating little cover pictures like this one if you were to order Chicken Wings.

Mockups of packaging, workwear, dishware, posters, etc.

When creating a brand identity, it’s super important to create as many elements to it as possible, so it makes you imagine clearly in your head what your brand is going to look like, it gives a “360 experience”. 

Menu Design

But most importantly, the menu design. This would showcase the brand identity in the clearest way, attracting potential customers and grabbing attention.

A vital element is the QR code that you can scan and once you choose your order, it sends you a personalised playlist in Spotify.

Final Deck with Visual Outcomes

After failing to choose a presentation template in Canva, I went back to my roots and made it from scratch in Illustrator. It worked better for me to create it stylised in my liking and export settings are way better. You can have a look at it here:

Word count to this point: 3200

Check out my reflection post:

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