In search of clarity

Last Friday, we had a plenary session with Paul Pangaro, who instructed us to look for the connection between design and intent. The design is the “how” and the intent is the “what”:

A fundamental demand from any thesis is coherence, that is, the conjoint validity of WHAT you want to achieve and HOW you propose to achieve it. To say the obvious, doing the HOW must achieve the WHAT with very high likelihood. The definitions of both WHAT and HOW must be clear and prescriptive, and the relationships between them clearly tied, all in service of minimizing risk.
- Paul Pangaro

All that requires coming back to knowing what your intent is. As an intention-clarifying exercise, we were asked to write an “elevator pitch” using a template:

For [target audience], who has [need], this [market category] is a [area name] that provides [key benefit]. Unlike [competitor], this [key differentiator].

(We later found out that this pitch structure came from Proctor and Gamble. That explains why we all had trouble wrestling our ideas into this structure. Designing a novel interaction isn’t quite the same as coming up with a new flavor of toothpaste.)

Anyhow, after a big of heavyweight wrestling:

For anyone with a kitchen, who wants to meet others or spend time with friends, this recipe website is a social cooking experience that lets people cook together in real time.

Unlike GroupRecipes, AllRecipes, or other social recipe sites, the product brings people together during cooking instead of before or after.

When I read this aloud in class, Paul immediately focused in on the “during” aspect. It was not something I had thought of in isolation before; instead I was viewing this project as en entire system designed to funnel people into the “during” part. And I had simply taken it for granted that something very special needs to happen at the “during” part, otherwise people would be disappointed and won’t come back. But now, hearing Paul point that out, it’s a good reminder of where the focus of my project is.

Before the session, I also wrote down these points:

My goal is to create a compelling, low-barrier social experience around cooking for home cooks of all skill levels, including reluctant/novice cooks.

I will achieve this by:

1) providing an accessible and easy-to-use technology platform that transcends physical barriers

2) curating a deliberately limited selection of high-quality recipes in a format optimized for use on this platform

3) designing a system of cues, signals and communication methodbs which heighten a sense of “togetherness” among participants while cooking

4) integrating tools to help people plan, shop for, and anticipate each cooking experience

5) nurturing a friendly comfortable environment for people to meet strangers (community-shaping)

After hearing Paul’s feedback, I now know that #3 is where I need to really spend most of my time figuring out the details. The others play a supporting role. They need to be there, but they don’t need to be perfect. The “during” part is the star of the show.

Now I have clarity, and I just have to keep designing.