Designing for humans

I’m taking the +Acumen Human Centred Design course with a few friends and colleagues. It’s a really well organised and designed (funny enough) online course that incorporates practical hands on elements in the run up to us prototyping a new way of addressing an issue in our community. Although we could have come up with our own local issue to look into, we opted to choose one given to us by the course organisers and that is ‘How might we provide healthier food options for people in need?’ Now, that question itself threw up a lot of issues for us. What is ‘in need’? In need of nutrition or of companionship or skill? In need of actual food? Does provide mean literally giving people food or does it mean easier access to food? Anyway, at the end of our discussion we’d honed in on a more specific area around this question and decided to focus on the role of nutritious food in communities with cycles of deprivation, poor housing and ubiquitous fast food outlets. As an extension we hope to also look a bit at the role of food in healing from mental and physical health issues.

Here is a list of some of our knowledge and assumptions:

  • Cycle of depravation in some families and communities means parents are not teaching children about eating well or preparing fresh and healthy food
  • Whole generations may not have cooking skills
  • Fast food outlets are ubiquitous and convenient
  • There is a widespread assumption that fresh and healthy food is more expensive than packaged or pre-prepared food
  • Perception of healthy food as being dull and not delicious- ideas that could be perpetuated by food prepared in industrial ways like for free school meals and hospital meals
  • Diet and healthy eating may not be part of most people’s discharge plans from hospital- support to cook and prepare food might not be available to those who are not older
  • It is not difficult to find healthy food options in most areas of Edinburgh
  • People with illness or addiction issues may choose to spend their money on things other than food or healthy food
  • Social housing or poorer housing may not have adequate cooking facilities
  • There are many soup kitchens and food banks in the city but this doesn’t mean people are making their own food choices

Now we need to get out there and speak to people and this could be where you come in. I’d love information and feedback from those who have just left hospital or clinical care and are back at home, those who work with people in the community who recovering from ill health at home or people working in or around healthcare or nutrition, people in social housing or poor housing and those who support them. I’m aware this seems all mixed up but there is overlap but we’re starting broad.

Here are some questions we came up with but if you want to pitch in, please bring up anything you feel is important to talk about.

-What kind of food did you get in hospital? Did you like it? Did you think it was healthy? Could you or would you make the same food at home?

-What kind of advice about food and diet did you get before you left hospital?

-What is your favourite meal to cook? Who taught you how to make it?

-What information or advice do you give about food, cooking and eating well to people you’re working with?

-Do you think healthy food has a role in helping people heal?

-What did you eat last night?

-Where do you usually get your groceries or meals?

-Do you think you feel better when you eat well?

-If you could create your ideal grocery store or food shop what would be in it? Where would it be? What would it look like?

-If you could only eat one thing every day what would it be?

-Do you like to cook for yourself, your family and your friends? Why or why not?

-Would you rather cook for others or be cooked for?

-Who would cook your dream meal? Why?

-Do you think you have a healthy diet now?

-What does your dream kitchen look like? What is in it?

If you have something to say about all this please do send me an email or tweet me @LockhartL. We can even organise a Skype or phone call if you prefer. I look forward to hearing from you, even if it’s to say these questions are not great and you have ideas for something better. After the interview stage we go on to look at designing something cool- and dare I say helpful to people- so watch this space for our progress. In the meantime pitch in!

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