Family Dinner

Meal-time organization prototype

I tested and prototyped a tool that brings family members together to communicate about and plan for the preparation of nightly family dinners. Its goal is to organize, but most importantly it gets everyone involved in decision making.

I. Research and Benchmarking

Family dinner can be a beneficial routine for intergenerational families (defined as three or more generations living together). As a time to share stories and skills, it helps aging parents feel valued; Children can learn about family traditions and develop respect; For the "sandwich generation" who are taking care of their parents and their children, dinner is a way to create a routine that keeps their family members in good physical and mental health.

Interviewing sandwich-generation caretakers provoked discoveries that brought focus to the project. I learned that physical cues in the home are an effective way to remind aging parents about activities and keep them engaged with others. This insight helped me center the project around a group decision-making tool and a physical artifact that could display both meal plans and family photos.

Grandma Romito’s recipe books

II. Experience Maps and Scenarios

I explored the events before cooking, during cooking, and after cooking by sketching scenarios for families with different relationship dynamics and challenges.

III. Prototype Testing

Dinner options are listed on “meal cards.” The focus of each meal card is not the recipe itself; Likely these are meals that the family already knows how to make. Rather, any notes about ingredient options or family traditions can be added, as well as meals that could be made from the leftover ingredients later in the week. During testing I also learned that grouping meals by desired outcome or type of day was more effective than categories like "Soups and salads." Categories like "Busy Days" and "Family Traditions" let family members easily choose meals based on each day's needs and wants.

My grandma enjoyed helping us make meal cards! Each week, meals are selected and placed on a display that has meal cards on one side and family photos on the other. Details for each day, like dinner time, are dry-erasable.

IV. Final Prototype