User Research - Phase #1

Last week, I started with the primary research phase of the project and interviewed few people about their found consumption habit. This first set of users were my colleagues at the SVA IxD program (first year) who had little or no context about the project as such. During the conversation, I asked them to talk about how they go about the process of planning, purchasing and cooking food and then probed deeper to find out the motivations that influenced their behavior at each stage. Next, I asked them to take a moment and think of the last time they cleaned their fridge at home (or items in their fridge right now) and talk about their motivation of buying those items and if they actually consumed it as they thought they would, what are things they think might be too old to consume, how do they decide what to do with old food items stored in fridge. 

Some of the key things that stood out for all the three participants were:

  • Time is the key factors that influences decisions regarding food (at all stages)
  • Family/ Partners/ Roommates have a strong influence on how people perceive food
  • Individual’s cooking skills and interest are key drivers for peoples’ behavior & choices wrt to food consumption


Here’s a detailed look at my interview notes: 

Participant #1

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Participant #2

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Since, we couldn’t do an ethnographic interview, David sent me a few pictures of his fridge contents to help me better understand the context of our conversation. 

Participant #3

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For kohzy, it was easier to sketch and explain me all the food items he had in the fridge and talk about his purchase, storage, consumption and disposal behavior. Here is a sneak peak of the sketching+interview exercise with Kohzy:

I’m still in the process of continuing my research and gather more insights that can drive my design direction. For the next part of this research, I’m focussing on ethnographic research in people’s homes. If you’re someone who might be interested please leave a note and I’ll get in touch with you. Thank you.

Research Plan

Summary: 

According to a recent study by the Natural Resources Defense Council, an average American family throws away $2000 worth of food every year. It is a costly trend, and people may not be even aware of it. 

One of the key reason that exacerbate household food waste issue is that, “Americans put too much stock in the expiration date”. Part of it is because people do not understand the intended meaning of the two kinds of dates (Sell by and best by) that commonly appear on food products.  And partly, because most people today, do not spend enough time in kitchen to know their food and it’s consumption cycle. Perhaps, they lack a sense of judgement to identify if the food is good. This leads to many consumers throwing food out on or before the date on the package, no matter what the date was intended to mean. This contributes to enormous food losses at home.   

As a part of my design process, I am proposing a research plan that would help me understand what these dates mean to people, if these dates inform their food planning, shopping cycles, ways people use to test the safety of their food (if any), what are the most common food items that are thrown due to this reason. 

Objective: 

  1. How the sell by & best by dates impact the psyche of an American consumer?
  2. How can people be convinced that sometimes the food is safe to consume even if it’s past ‘best by’ date? or if it’s even possible to break into this mentality that’s set in their minds as a safety standard?
  3. Are there any methods that people currently use to make a judgement about the safety of food ?
  4. What happens if a certain food item doesn’t have an expiration date? Ex: cooked food, food ordered from a restaurant. 
  5. Test “Know your food” sticker concept using paper prototype/ mock-up.

Methodology: 

I plan to explore these research objectives by conducting interview (6) with people in their homes (kitchens) as well as at the grocery store (immediately after they finish shopping). I hope to gain some insights based on these which would inform my further ideation and solution directions.