Potluck

A cooking experience that uses augmented recipes to enhance the social connections created while making food together.

Potluck helps cooking with others become a more streamline and collaborative process through rethinking how recipes can designed to be made by multiple people.

PROJECT

CCA BFA Interaction Design
Senior Project

TIMELINE

Sep 2019-May 2020

TOOLS

Sketch, Principle, Keynote, InVision, Adobe Photoshop & Premiere Pro.

OVERVIEW

The name Potluck refers to the type of meal where each person brings a dish to contribute. Here, rather than providing a dish, each person brings their unique experiences around food to be shared and celebrated. This project is an investigation into the social dynamics present when people cook together, understanding how we can use recipes to shape not only the food that is being made, but also the connections that are being formed.

Welcome to Potluck.

Make your next dinner party a breeze.
We'll take care of the coordination so you can focus on the cooking and collaboration.

Your Event Space

Create an Event to help you manage your upcoming cooking plans with friends. It functions as a space for sharing recipes and coordinating supplies between participants.

Welcome to Potluck.

Your Event Space

Create an Event to help you manage your upcoming cooking plans with friends. It functions as a space for sharing recipes and coordinating supplies between participants.

Browse Recipes

Look through a curated collection of recipes, organized by occasion, so you can find what best fits your event. These recipes are meant to be cooked as a group.

Browse Recipes

Look through a curated collection of recipes, organized by occasion, so you can find what best fits your event. These recipes are meant to be cooked as a group.

Customize and Contribute Supplies

If wanted, tweak each recipe according your preferences by substituting out ingredients.

See what supplies are needed for cooking, and plan who brings what on the day of the event.

Browse Recipes

Look through a curated collection of recipes, organized by occasion, so you can find what best fits your event. These recipes are meant to be cooked as a group.

Customize and Contribute Supplies

If wanted, tweak each recipe according your preferences by substituting out ingredients.

See what supplies are needed for cooking, and plan who brings what on the day of the event.

Recipe Overview

Get an overview of each part of the recipe, grouped chronologically by steps best done at the same time. Finish each part to unlock the next.

Recipe Overview

Get an overview of each part of the recipe, grouped chronologically by steps best done at the same time. Finish each part to unlock the next.

Divide and Conquer

Once the recipe starts, each participant gets a separate step to complete that goes toward building the dish.

Divide and Conquer

Once the recipe starts, each participant gets a separate step to complete that goes toward building the dish.

Prompts

In addition to the recipe, there are a collection of questions and task that pop up throughout the cooking process, meant to be completed as a group.

Prompts

In addition to the recipe, there are a collection of questions and task that pop up throughout the cooking process, meant to be completed as a group.

Tips & Tutorials

Tips are available throughout the cooking process, along tutorials for some of the more complex steps.

Tips & Tutorials

Tips are available throughout the cooking process, along tutorials for some of the more complex steps.

Share Your Creations

At the end of the recipe, show off the dish you completed together with the Potluck community.

Share Your Creations

Tips are available throughout the cooking process, along tutorials for some of the more complex steps.

Process

Finding what I cared about

INSPIRATION

I'm usually the type that likes to start projects with some sort of problem statement, goal, or semblance of structure. However, with a project like a senior thesis, it's hard to commit right off the bat to a topic you'll carry on for months. I knew I wanted to do something around food, as it's some I've always been passionate about. But, exactly what, I had no idea.

A portion of my questions...with the only consistent one being: "why am I doing this again?"

Thus, over the course of a few months, I asked various questions around food. This lead to the first half of this project being mainly research, interviewing, and exploring concepts that I found interesting. Luckily, I was able to talk to various people about my topic, including Asian American farmers, volunteers and professors working in the community food space, and first & second generation immigrants who were balancing food of their heritage with those of their new environment.

I found I was interested in the interpersonal connections food generated. In particular, how the food we make and consume function as a vehicle for connections, memories, and experiences.

THE IMPETUS

The start of Potluck came unexpectedly through a concept I was pursuing towards the end of last year. I was interested in creating an interactive recipe book, documenting the recipes that second-generation immigrants made to remind them of home. I had asked people to share how they were taught that recipe, the environment in which they cooked it in, and what it ultimately meant to them.

Sketches done by my interviewees of the recipes they shared with me.

While I eventually shifted away from the idea of a recipe book, what stuck was a something that happened in all my interviews, where my participants would struggle to document their recipes through just measurements and steps. For them, the meaning of the dish was in the cooking experience, not the raw materials and process. It was about the people they cooked and shared the dish with, and how the food connected them to each other. I wanted to understand how recipes could go beyond just documenting a process, and actively shape the cooking experience.

INTERVIEWS + INSIGHTS

With that question in mind, I began to interview people about their experiences around cooking with others. I chose people who lived away from home or with roommates, and generally cooked by and for themselves rather than a family. This was in order to see what it was like for them to cook alone vs. in a group. The interviewees also had various levels of cooking experience, ranging from frequent dinner hosts to individuals who rarely cooked at all. These are the insights I found:

Ideation & Iteration

Learning by making

I began creating prototypes not as a way to validate my concepts, but rather to learn what I should be building towards in the first place. I started by finding a standard recipe, then tweaking, removing, or adding in elements to it that could result in increased collaboration or social connections. I then put these augmented recipes in front of some participants, and observed what happened when they made them.

VERSION 1

How to make a recipe collaborative?

An experiment more than anything, my first exploration was to understand how a recipe could better foster teamwork. I recruited four participants (some that had never met each other before) under the guise of a dinner party where they would be cooking.

The prototype:

  • I found a recipe and broke it apart step by step.
  • These steps were divided into four sets, with each set of instructions printed out on color coded cards.
  • Ingredients were listed out, but the instructions were not printed anywhere else besides the individual cards.

The testing:

  • Each participant was given one set of steps to complete, essentially being responsible for that percentage of the dish.
  • Participants were asked to work and communicate with each other in order to complete the recipe.
TESTING INSIGHTS

1. Timing is the key to collaboration and task distribution.

When I assigned steps to each person, I had given them the whole set of steps at once. There was no indication of when each task was supposed to be completed, beyond number of steps on the bottom (1/5, 2/5, etc.) As a result, the participants had no sense of timing, especially on how each step related to the rest of the recipe.

2. When assigned something, people feel a sense of responsibility towards it.

Participants were willing to figure out how to complete the steps they were assigned, despite not originally knowing how to do so. The more experienced participants would teach those who needed help, rather than taking over or volunteering to do it from the start.

3. Having to all figure things out from square one evens the teamwork dynamic.

By providing everyone the same level of information at the start (no background on the dish, just the steps), the whole group had to work together to figure the recipe out. No participant had to act as the leader or distributor of tasks, and each participant was invested in figuring out how their step worked with the rest.

All in all, this recipe format still allowed a successful dish to be made, but the coordination of steps needed to be improved.


VERSION 2

How to make a recipe more engaging?

Building off of my first prototype, I tweaked the step distribution and added ways of using the recipe to draw out more engagement between participants. To test, I asked three roommates to cook the recipe together.


The prototype:

  • The recipe was divided into parts according to actions done chronologically (prepare, mix, cook, etc.). Within each part, steps were organized by individual ingredients.
  • The ingredients were also featured on a set of small cards, each with an additional task or question on the back.
  • The tasks and questions were mapped to a rough point system in order to gamify the cooking process.

The testing:

  • Participants were given the recipe sheet and cards with no instructions from me on how to use them.
TESTING INSIGHTS

1. Task and questions are engaging when done as a group.

The additional question and tasks on the back of each card were originally intended to be done by one person at a time (the person working on the ingredient), but everyone in the group naturally started to chime in so they could compare results and answers.

2. Chronological order helps clarity.

Laying the steps out by their intended order of completion greatly helped the recipe flow, as participants were able to divide up tasks, but still complete them in the order they were needed.

3. The physical recipe gets damaged easily and takes up space.

Many of the cards got wet or dirty during the cooking process, as they were frequently picked up. Moreover, while the large recipe page helped to give an overview, it took up much needed counter real estate.

This prototype was far more successful in coordinating and engaging participants. However, the format it was presented in needed to be modified, and the mechanics behind the questions and tasks thought through.

VERSION 3

How can my concept scale across situations?

In addition to building on the augmented recipe, my next prototype accounted for the aspects of cooking together that were not preparing food, but were equally as important. The whole experience include things before the cooking even started, such gathering people to cook, and finding and choosing a recipe. Unfortunately, this was also around the time that the shelter in place due to COVID-19 began, so I was unable to further test my prototype in a physical group setting. However, I still gathered feedback on my concepts remotely through my peers and past participants.


FEEDBACK & INSIGHTS

1. Competition was hard to balance with collaboration.

While the competitive aspect was engaging, it seemed counterintuitive to my goal of collaboration. Participants would be competing to finish tasks, versus working together through the recipe.

2. It was overwhelming to constantly having questions & tasks paired with the actual recipe instructions.

Cooking itself is already a complex process, which can make it tough to process additional actions on top of it. It was suggested that I reduce the number of tasks and questions, and reserve them for the parts of the recipe that were less intense.

3. There were more interesting ways of collecting information from people beyond forms.

I originally had a click through onboarding flow that helped better personalized the experience. However, I got feedback that forms tend to be a tedious process, and there were more engaging ways to gather the information needed.

The concept was taking shape, but the different interactions I was adding had to be refined and balanced.

VERSION 4

How to simplify a complex process?

For my fourth prototype, I decided to focus my efforts on the in person mobile experience. The web experience was mainly for making the recipe browsing and onboarding experience easier on a large screen, but became unnecessary as the pre-categorizing and filtering of curated recipes cut out any heavy browsing and user input.


FEEDBACK & INSIGHTS

1. Screen real estate could be better used to display more steps.

I had originally left a space for illustrations on the recipe screen to represent that stage of the recipe, but it took up valuable space for information. Moreover, the tray of steps on the bottom was too small to navigate with ease.

2. Balancing coordination and feedback in the app versus in real life.

There were questions around much feedback was needed to be shown on the app if people were already physically cooking around each other. How much was needed to keep everyone on the same page without being redundant?

This was my last prototype before my final version, which helped inform what I should focus on to tighten up the experience.

Flow & Details

Translating the concept into a product

With the core interactions mostly figured out, I started making the final version of Potluck. By creating a product flow, I mapped out the main features and screens I wanted to build wireframes for. This included Onboarding, Event Creation, Profile, Recipe Browsing & Overview, the Recipe itself, and a Community page.

Check out the interactive prototype.

A few of my wireframes.

PRINCIPLES AND TIER BREAKDOWNS

I documented the principles I followed to break down each recipe and its corresponding interactions. Below is also a breakdown of the different actions types users are encouraged to do, what they achieve, and their level of importance.

OTHER SCREENS

Additional screens were created, including onboarding, the profile, recipe overview, and supplemental activities.

Visual Design

Matching the styles to the interactions.

I wanted the Potluck cooking process to feel almost like a collaborative game, so I drew a lot of inspiration from mobile game UI. I decided to illustrate the ingredients and recipes instead of using photos to give the app more character and life.

Logo explorations

Product Video

The tldr.

The last step of this project was an explainer video, showing what Potluck was in 2 minutes or less. I tried my hand at stop motion animation, something I had never done before. The style of storying I aimed for was using objects metaphorically to represent my narrative. I left the app more in the background to really highlight the experience it was helping create, rather than making the UI the star of the show.

Unfortunately housebound due to the COVID-19 shelter in place, I was constrained by the equipment I had on hand and the items lying around my house. It was a brain racking but fun task to constructed the visuals based on what I could dig up (it's crazy what you can find in your family's closet), and I hope to do more stop motion in the future with in a better environment with proper equipment.

Reflections

This was arguably the hardest, yet most rewarding project I’ve done during my time as an undergraduate. It's taught me what I am passionate about a designer (and as a person), and I've greatly enjoyed learning about how interaction design can enhance our connections with food and others.

Unfortunately, due to the unforeseen COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine, I was unable to test my final prototypes with users through cooking together. If I have the chance in the future, I want to put my project in the situation it's intended to be in, and see how it fairs.

It's surreal to think that this project will be my last one at the California College of the Arts. I'm immensely thankful for the support I've received from my peers and teachers, throughout this project and all my time here at CCA.

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