Week 3 Entry 16: Early Thoughts Refining the Project Inspiration Concept

Amraj Singh Sukhdev Singh - Mon 9 March 2020, 2:18 pm
Modified: Mon 9 March 2020, 3:46 pm

Looking back on the pitch presentation, there were a few issues not only with how I had presented the idea, but also with the core of the interaction.

What Worked All the Other Times?

Going back to the roots of some of my more successful design efforts, those often involved choosing a domain, investigating it by talking to users, and then coming up with a proposed solution. Skipping out on that second step, comes with the risk of assuming that "because the idea is in this domain, it will be obvious that the users will be x".

And What Happened Here?

In this case "because it's an idea about teaching people proper knife safety, it's for people who don't know how to cook". A mistaken assumption, I've made a few connections before arriving to that, and retracing those will be helpful in presenting the concept better.

Where Did It All Go Wrong?

So, to look back at where I think I went wrong, I'll revisit the mini-journey that led to having (and possibly fleshing out) the idea.

The starting point was "design to enlighten in the kitchen using x with the property of disgust". I'd interpreted enlighten as "learning" and "informing". From kitchen, I got "kitchen tools", like a frying pan, soup ladle, or cooking knife. And from disgust I'd gotten "anger, disappointment".

A few combinations later, a knife that teaches you knife safety by berating / chastising you.... But there was a step I skipped over in between those - a personal experience that led me to think that this would be necessary.

The Real Life Situation that Made It Seem Useful

Occasionally, I volunteer at homeless shelters around Brisbane. Different shelters have different tasks and responsibilities that a volunteer can help with.

Some volunteers help with preparing meals, and others help with engaging with the community, specifically, talking to the homeless citizens who come from around Brisbane.

Further, weekends tend to be the days where the highest volumes of volunteers arrive. Many of these tend to be mid-late teens or young adults, who have little to no experience using basic kitchen utensils, let alone cooking. Often the reason they are there is because it's an organised event of sorts... so they're unsure of what skills they need - it isn't their fault, many of them are volunteering for the first time on the day they are there.

The result, often a more experienced volunteer is put in charge of directing or training these small groups (usually, safety training for using utensils, and how to cook the meal of the day). This unfortunately means less time for them to actually do some of the regular volunteer tasks - as they have to make sure that the newer volunteers are successful at picking up skills in a short time.

An issue that's besides the fact that teaching well is a learned skill, and sometimes the wrong volunteer gets assigned to training over an extended period.

Young attitudes are... unpredictable - extroverted new volunteers may pester older ones (even ones not training them), or be very chatty, wanting to make small talk while doing their tasks. These habits aren't always appreciated.

So, now there's a situation where the new recruits are - in several ways - unintentionally getting in the way of volunteer work, which reduces the care the homeless receive.

Eventually, some of the more experienced volunteers stop coming, and while they are replaced, the connections they've made to the homeless citizens cannot be. These vulnerable citizens can build a certain bond with those they speak to, and because of their situation, trust issues are common... so you have homeless citizens who simply choose to go to a different shelter.

My idea was that at least to address the issue of needing to train each new volunteer in knife safety, a tool to do so would be really handy.

But the above is a really complex, very detailed situation... so I assumed it would be sufficient to say "young adults dont know how to cook, this tool guides them in the first steps toward it".

Where Now?

To pivot the idea into one that's more relevant to the theme, I think a good place to start is to look at the tasks that happen at the shelter, and focus just on making some improvements into the flow of the tasks.

That is to say, ignoring the dynamics of volunteering, what would be helpful in helping those tasks go more smoothly?

I've unintentionally imposed on myself the need to make this a tool that trains its user... so how about focusing on the bigger picture, rather than just teaching you how to use a knife correctly, there's other tools in the kitchen too. I also don't want to completely transform the concept, only retool it, no pun intended.

Different Types of Everyday Tools at the Shelter

Some examples may include the frying pan, for bacon and eggs, the ladle, for porridge and beans, the grater, for cheese and certain vegetables, and the mallet for hamburger patties... aside from the kitchen knife. Each of these tools has a specific way to use them, and something that walks you through using them correctly may be useful.

Where Will It Be Used?

Besides this, the target audience are inexperienced cooks who are young adults - so where would the training tool be used? If it's at the homeless shelter, it shouldnt be one that consumes electricity or takes up valuable kitchen and storage space, but if it's simply at home, then they'd likely only benefit from using it two or three times, before moving on to the real thing...

Thought Train & Carriages
  • Don't think too hard about the giant problem, focus on the specific situation
  • Doesn't need to be a specific tool
    • Doesn't have to be usable for actual cooking, doubly so for sharp and heavy tools that can actually hurt you
    • Maybe it's a set of tools?
    • Maybe it doesnt even need to be a physical tool? Just a prop with mixed reality?
  • Where to use the tool?
  • Is it going to be costly?
  • What can the tool do that "air guitaring" using the actual ones cant?