Applying intercultural markers obtained from cooking in the design process

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    In post-modern society industrial design has lost many of its cultural values as products are directed to a global market and everybody can understand and use them in the same way. In contrast to the globalization of design, cooking is an activity that is very much embedded in culture. Cooking attracts and polarizes people; ingredients and tools are context dependent. Traditional cooking is very much influenced by the availability of local ingredients and the preparation methods influenced by the local context and climate. This paper argues for a more experience-based design, where the designer and place influence the design of a product, system or related service. It elaborates on the concept of cultural markers, which are those elements that are most prevalent, and possibly preferred within a particular cultural group (Barber & Badre, 1998). In addition it discusses how designers can be inspired by cultural values obtained through a process of cooking and how they could translate these values or qualities in the design of culturally identified products for a cooking context. An exploration was conducted with nine groups of three or four Industrial Design master students representing different cultures (Cantonese, Czech, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin, Spanish, Surinamese and Taiwanese) as well as the Dutch culture. Students representing the foreign culture prepared a meal according to their traditional customs. The process was observed from multiple perspectives, i.e. one of the local students explored the process first hand by preparing the meal together with the foreign student whilst the third member was an objective observer. During the process the foreign student pointed out the markers that were of importance to their culture, while the local student pointed out the concepts that he or she found most remarkable from the cooking experience. The overlapping observations regarding cultural markers and salient aspects where consequently employed to inspire the further design process. Through an iterative design process, each group designed a tool that would allow applying the most outstanding cultural marker, the intercultural marker, from the other culture in the local cooking culture. The proposed process yielded various products that supported the local cooking tradition but clearly represented the cultural markers previously defined by the students. The most remarkable observation regarding this exploration was that the designers experienced cooking as a means to learn from and reflect on each other’s cultures. In addition a culturally embedded activity such as cooking allowed them to design products respecting the values of the other culture. Thus, going through a cooking process together with a person of a different culture can support designers in exploring various inspirational techniques that consequently serve as inspiration for a culturally inspired design.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationProceedings of the 1st International Conference on Designing Food and Designing For Food, ICDFDFF, June 28-29, 2012, London, UK
    EditorsF. Zampollo, C. Smith
    PublisherLondon Metropolitan University
    ISBN (Print)978-1-907675-18-8
    Publication statusPublished - 2012


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