Investigating Multisensory Activities with Food

Green Edible Vessel

In the field of design, interactions with a product can be considered multisensory activities; they can invite the user to engage all of their senses.
This research draws from expertise in food design research to create sensory-heightened food products that may evoke positive emotional responses and mindfulness. To investigate this, a methodological triangulation was utilized: interviews with experts in the field of sensory design and food research, experiment and interview with participants. Below is a brief breakdown of each research method used in my MDes thesis.
Please click here to view my MDes thesis in full.

Thesis Breakdown

Research Steps and Approach

The research phase of this thesis aimed to observe and record the details of participants’ experiences when faced with sensory incongruity
in designed edible vessels. The investigation used methodological triangulation, primarily consisting of qualitative research methods because of the importance of the details of participants’ reactions, not
all of which could necessarily be anticipated or easily quantified.
The qualitative methods were largely exploratory in terms of design research, borrowing from psychology and the natural sciences.

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Framework for studying sensory responses

Framework from Expert Coding
The framework is created based on the data from expert interviews,
to serve as a model for the study. The overall framework is derived
from a compilation of experience and academic knowledge across
the interviewees’ three categories of expertise: Food, Environment,
and Experience.

Diagram of Overlapping Codes
The figure below shows codes derived from the expert interviews and from the experiment with the participants. The “shared codes” in purple represent the codes that derive from both methods. The codes in that section become the themes that appear in the narrative descriptions.


Affinity Diagrams
The participant interviews allowed for a greater understanding of each participant’s experiences and observations during the study. The main ideas and codes they discussed are plotted out on the following affinity diagram. Each blurb is a quote from a participant. The quotes in pink illustrate opinions that stood out significantly during participant interviews.

Overall Level of Emotional Response
Surprise was the most frequently recurring emotional response found in the experiment and data collection. Darker blue shows where there were a higher number of references to surprise.


Diagram of emotional reaction (surprise)

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