Social Digital Banquet

On the first day of first semester, years 1 to 4 of both Product and Digital interaction design were assembled into the one studio for a morning of lecturing leading up to the assignment of a brief that would require us to split into 16 different groups of mixed years and backgrounds.

As you can see it was quite a turnout

The brief that was given was to create a “design banquet” – a large gathering and exchange of idea’s, concepts and food – All rolled into one. Essentially the week long project was assigned to bridge the gap between the different years and disciplines. Nonetheless there had to be a final product delivered and a clear train of thought and a documented journey. Oh and one more thing – There was only 5 days to come up with the finished product.

After the initial briefing the group broke out to a different area to convene and begin to discuss our idea’s. The group started off discussing things like favourite foods etc. which although important to the conversation seemed to be going nowhere meaningful; at this point there seemed to be no structure to the discussion that I could see.

Once I had observed the group enough to ascertain what kind of person everyone was, I decided it was time to assert myself and give the group both structure and direction. I asked them all not to think of the physical aspect of the food – but the message behind it, the story.

I pointed out that when you are presented food at the table it is an end product – A mere fraction of the journey and to think about the “journey” that the food had spent getting there; giving for example an idea revolving around the physical work that had been done to bring the food to the table and how the work could possibly be reflected in the diners’ experience.

Now that I felt I had given the team “food for thought” (sorry) I suggested that we break for lunch to allow the team to sketch out some idea’s on post-it’s to bring to the afternoon brainstorming session.

Each participant brought a good few idea’s to the table (sorry – again). At this point I mounted all the post it’s on a whiteboard and asked each person to explain the concept to the group in turn. Once everyone understood the concepts that had been put forward I opeend to general discussion which then led to the selection of 2 final concepts.

Concept 1: Play for your food – A fun take on both “playing with your food” and the idea of working or competeing for your food while at the same time providing an enriched social interaction. The proposition involved creating a giant game of draughts where each playing peice would contain part of a different course – The more you win – the more you eat.

Concept 2: Locked box – A look into forced interactions between the group of dinner, inspired by “working for your food” guests by locking their meals in a box which would then require either a code or a tool that someone else (randomly selected) in the room would have – This would create a feeling of team work and also encourage people to form new bonds that may have not have otherwise been formed.

There was a  complete divide in the group at this point as to which concept we wanted to persue for the final product – So I suggested quickly experience prototyping both idea’s, taking notes and observations and figuring out which one worked best.

So we did.

Leading the discussion on the two concepts. I cant write on white boards.

Concept 1:
For this one I suggested…Well…Playing draughts – and introduced a prize for the winner as an incentive (a packet of starburst from the vending machine – Big spender). To play the game I selected the two first year students, whom being their first week; didnt know each other at all. During the course of the game I made a few interesting observations – First of all that the whole group became engrossed in the game, secondly that the two playing the game socialised and became competitive during the course of the game – And finally the eventual victor chose to share his prize with everyone (D’aww).

The heat of battle

Group participation

Concept 2:
This concept was slightly harder to prototype however we done it by  giving out 8 post its with the numbers 1 to 4 on them (so there were 4 pairs of numbers). Because the numbers were given out at random no one (not even me) knew who had what number – So each person had to converse with someone and eventually ascertain what number they had, when they found their partner number – the game was over. I managed to talk to almost everyone in the group before finding my matched number and had a good few conversations along the way. However the process was rather “clunky” and required more refining to be smooth.

Once the two experience prototypes had been done we reconveined to discuss our feelings about the two concepts and voted on a final one which concept 1 won unanimously.

It’s true – Everyone LOVES cake

Now I headed up a discussion on how to make this concept a reality and which team members would take care of each issue. It was decided that glasses were best to contain the food in so that you had the visual encouragement of what you were playing for – This obviously meant that most mainstream boards would be too small to support the playing peices – So a custom board would have to be created. The food itself would have to be made and finally a way of setting the teams apart and “crowning” peices.

Once the teams had been decided and a timescale had been decided on leaving time for snagging etc I left the team to go their seperate ways and arranged a few catch up meetings where any points could be raised before the deadline.

I was assigned the job of coming up with the bespoke draughts board. I decided that the most accurate and least labour intensive way of doing this would be to lasercut the board onto 3mm MDF board. I was half right. Sorta.

To cut each half of the board ended up taking approx 200 minutes – Giving the entire board a total cutting time of 400 minutes. I’ve never been so thankful for mobile media in my entire life.

Once the board had been cut and finished in the workshop -the rest of the team had also completed their tasks and the deadline was looming. After a quick mockup – We all high-5’ed and arranged some final tasks (such as writing rules for presentation etc).

Finally the day came to present. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves – Sorry there aren’t more – my camera died during the day.

On reflection I think the pressure project was a week well spent; I feel like I learned a lot about the design process myself as well as gained more valuable experience of managing a team. I also hope I managed to impart a little knowledge onto some of the team members themselves – If so – bonus.


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