Rethinked*Annex ~ Design Thinking the Ordinary & Daily Life Prototypes

CORRECTION: (11.8.2012) I mistakenly wrote that the prototyping/implementation phase of rethinked*annex’s Design Thinking cycle had ended. This was a misreading of my calendar, the Implementation/Prototyping phase actually goes through to November 13th and the last two weeks of November are for reflection. WOOHOO for more ‘official’ prototyping time.

PRODUCTIVE CONSTRAINTS RATHER THAN SILOS

This may seem obvious but I feel it bears repeating: the rethinked*annex cycles are just a framework to get the ball rolling. The idea behind rethinked*annex is to seamlessly and holistically integrate tools and resources from three disciplines (Design Thinking, Integrative Thinking, Positive Psychology) into my every day life to enhance and optimize my daily existence. So while technically yesterday marked the end of the Implementation/Prototyping phase and the beginning of the two week ‘Reflection’ period for the Design Thinking cycle of rethinked*annex, it is in fact just the beginning. Having a timeframe has helped me move past my fear of execution and was established as a way to ensure that I would start Doing rather than stay perpetually in the thinking stage. It certainly does not mean that this Doing is going to end now that the Implementation phase is over. I hope to carry out some of the things I have learned these past three months for the rest of my life. As I reflect on my experiences these past three months and move on to the next cycle of rethinked*annex, I will continue to evolve these ideas and prototypes.

RETHINKING…* THE EATING EXPERIENCE

 Ambitions:

  • Learn how to cook good food (tasty & nutritious)
  • Make dinnertime a date each night
  • Nurture and engage in meaningful conversations
  • Eat 5 home cooked dinners each week and have snacks in the apartment.

Challenges:

  • Catering to two different diets (carnivore & vegetarian)
  • Finding motivation/pleasure in grocery shopping/preparing a meal/doing dishes
  • Coming up with ideas for what to cook every day of the week
  • Limited resources: financial, space, time, skills

Motivations:

  • Eat good food (tasty & nutritious)
  • Bond
  • Relax
  • Be more environmentally friendly
  • Have a healthy balanced diet
  • Save money

 THEMES

Ownership

While I have not yet been able to prototype my little herbs garden as I had hoped, I did engage in some ‘crafty’ kitchen time by making my own pumpkin seeds (after hacking a pumpkin with a kitchen knife…steep learning curve, folks). I have also been making a green juice each morning, which has helped me feel much more proactive about my health. Finally, I have started a flavor association notebook, which I keep in my kitchen and in which I note different food pairings that I enjoy while trying out various recipes. The aim of the journal is to help me become more observant of individual flavors in the hopes of one day being able to create my very own recipes ‘from scratch’. Other ideas I will be prototyping these next few weeks ~ Making my own: nut milk & pates, jams and sauerkraut

CREATIVITY

Interestingly enough, in the two weeks or so of home cooking that I have done, I have finally discovered (yes, discovered) rhythm. I would without hesitation name balance as the overall core challenge of my life. I am terrible at balancing whether it be mentally, physically or emotionally. I am an over thinker with a chronic handicap in the execution/doing department. I have this highly unhelpful belief that things are not worth doing unless they are perfect. I have been trying to reframe this belief for years but find I have made little progress. I still spend far too much time thinking and much too little time doing. (Something which I think has been apparent during these past three months engaging with Design Thinking, but more on that in a later post.) Anyway, it turns out cooking is very therapeutic and for one of a handful of times in my life I have been able to feel, concretely and tangibly, the delights of rhythm and balance. I shared in previous posts my creative and emotional tensions surrounding cooking, notable among which my intense desire for ownership of the meals I cook and desire for creative expression through the act of cooking. I shared my feeling that since I was unable to cook an entire meal from scratch, I have often dismissed the act of cooking as a whole. Yet in the past couple of weeks, I have been made aware of the immense grey area that lies within the practice of cooking. Some meals are quick and easy to make while others require much more time and craft. I found that once I redefined a successful meal as something pleasing to my taste buds and health and which did not come in a container brought to my door by a delivery man, I could be much more relaxed about defining ‘creativity’ in the kitchen. There are days when I’m tired and want to focus more on the comfort of eating than the creation of a meal, on those days I pick simple and quick recipes and even if I do not create the recipe or the meal from scratch, I still feel creatively fulfilled by the actual act of creation–of combining (even if the formula is not my own) various elements that come together to create a whole greater than its parts. On days where I’m feeling more relaxed and have more time, I experience a different though equally satisfying sense of creative expression, by making an entire meal from scratch. Other ideas that I plan to prototype in the coming weeks include:

  • Paint & Idea Frame ~ I originally thought it would be terrific to cover our kitchen in Idea paint and use the space as a giant whiteboard to write down ideas etc. but my boyfriend is not as writing-on-the-walls friendly as I am so we’ve come up with the following compromise. We’ll paint the walls with regular paint (I’m not a fan of the white in the kitchen and would like something a bit more stimulating and warm) and then we’ll go buy an old wooden picture or mirror frame, paint it and put it up on the wall. The area enclosed by the frame is free game for writing and drawings. This way I still get to write on the walls but it’s contained to a small (and manageable for Matt) space.

 

WASTE

So fantastically pleased to announce that in my past two and half weeks of home cooking I have not had to throw ANY food away (not even the usual wilted Swiss Chard usually found whimpering in some dark recess of my fridge). That’s right, by planning out meals for the next few days and buying only those ingredients necessary I have managed to eat everything in my fridge before it went bad. This has made me feel infinitely better and more motivated to continue cooking my own food. The prototypes that went into this were as follow:

  • Fresh Direct ~ Done dreading the grocery store (and consequently never going). Once a week, Matt and I sit down in front of the computer and browse the recipes I am continually accumulating on Rethinked’s Food Pinterest board. We choose recipes for the next four to six days and buy all the groceries online through Fresh Direct. I was a little worried at first about the quality of the food that would be delivered but so far we have used Fresh Direct three times and I’ve been extremely satisfied with the service each time. I also had some concerns about how ‘eco’ friendly getting my groceries delivered by truck was, but they have this great feature for when you schedule your delivery where certain time slots have little green leaves to show that Fresh Direct is already delivering to your neighborhood on those time slots. I also figured that  whatever carbon footprint I was leaving from having the groceries delivered was probably still a lot smaller than the total once you add up the plastic containers, utensils, brown and plastic bags involved in each meal being delivered.
  • Virtual Cookbook via Pinterest ~ LOVE THIS. This has been a real testament to the power of small ideas. There is really nothing revolutionary behind using Pinterest as a cookbook, but I can’t emphasize enough the difference it has made. I find browsing recipe by image alone works really well for me.
  • Green Juice: I’ve mentioned this one already, but it fits my need in a range of themes. I have started a daily morning green juice tradition where I juice an assortment of vegetables, I usually include kale, celery, cucumbers, carrots, ginger and lemon but I can easily throw in any other vegetables I have not had time to cook or consume yet and which might be going bad. What now, Kale!   

Pumpkin Thyme Rigatoni  

TRADITION

If you’ve been keeping up with my rethinked*annex progress, you’re most likely aware of my dinners from around the world idea. I did a very quick and basic iteration of this idea a couple weeks back by ordering sushi, which we ate while watching Jiro Dreams of Sushi. I would very much like to make this a weekly tradition (along with a Sunday morning feast). Because things have been so crazy these past few weeks I have been unable to keep this up but will be continuing to refine this prototype in the coming weeks.

Baked Tomatoes, Squash, and Potatoes

HAPTIC

I have not yet had a chance to work on the ‘sensory’ palettes I wanted to create, I did however ‘step up my game’ so that cooking does not just mean preparing food but also setting a nice table and attending to the ambiance. These few small changes (adding candles, napkins instead of paper towels and making sure that the silverware and plates all match) have already worked wonders to make our eating experience feel more holistically pleasing. I am still very much interested in trying out my ‘sensory palettes and will be focusing on that in the coming weeks.

RETHINKING…* WINTER 

So far I have identified various ambitions, challenges and motivations behind the design thinking challenge:

Ambitions:

  • Reframe our perception of winter
  • Engage in winter activities

Motivations:

  • Avoid feeling down emotionally
  • Enjoy winter’s unique attributes
  • Not dread winter’s coming

Challenges:

  • Dealing with the cold
  • Lack of sunlight/colors
  • Walkability goes way down with snow, rain and slush
  • Shorter days and longer nights
  • Holiday tourists
  • Feeling trapped ~ Indoor spaces seems to all be packed. Winter feels very claustrophobic.

I have yet to come up with themes like I did for the Rethinking…* the eating experience. Matt and I did however come up with some ideas we’d like to prototype just from looking at what we have gathered thus far as being part of the winter challenge topography (users, activities, environments, objects, interactions & activities) ~

  • Memory frames ~ we thought it would be fun to write down some of our favorite memories of winter moments spent together, frame them and put them up on the wall during the winter months. A visual reminder of all the fun time had in winter.
  • Seasonal eating ~ this is a hybrid prototype that works for both rethinking the eating experience and winter. Eating seasonally and locally.
  • Weekly Game night ~ I love board games and it seems winter might be the best time for me to finally convince my friends to play Monopoly or Apples to Apples. I think it would be great to make this into a winter tradition and have friends over every week for some food, winter cocktails (hello Grogs!) and games.
  • Dinner parties ~ I realize that most of my prototype ideas for rethinking the winter experience revolve heavily around food, but it seems like from November to about March food (and sleep) are front and center in my brain. The dinner party idea is an offshoot of the weekly game night idea mentioned above. It’s a way to emphasize the aspects of winter that I actually do enjoy (food, coziness, and human warmth).
  • Volunteering at a Homeless Shelter/ Soup Kitchen ~ Like most people, Matt and I find it particularly difficult to pass by a homeless person in the dead of winter and not feel deep despair for this other human being less fortunate than we. We are unable to give money to each homeless person we pass and the amount we are able to spare is much too small to improve that person’s life past getting a warm drink. By volunteering regularly, we would be able to enact more proactive and helpful change on a sustainable level.

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