How might we support parents recovering from eating disorders to facilitate healthy food relationships and body image in their children?
User Research, High-fidelity Prototyping, Visual Design, Interaction Design. Teammate: Natra Zeryihun, Veronica Wojnas
Oct-Dec 2019 (10 weeks)
At least 30 million Americans have experienced a restrictive eating disorder. Restrictive eating disorders are the deadliest mental illness and often begin in the pre-teen years. Due to genetic and behavioral factors, children of parents with eating disorders are at much higher risk of developing them.
This features locally-grown imperfect produce to help parents who are triggered by grocery shopping and meal portioning avoid these issues.
The kit also includes pre-meal activities collaterals like self-esteem magnets and fun fact cards about the adventure, encourage pre-meal conversation and welcome brochure for parents helps guide them through what to expect.
The recipe app
A voice-based instruction for parents and kids to cook together. Bite-sized mindfulness moments are sprinkled throughout; asking parents and kids to smell, touch, and taste their ingredients as they cook and to talk about things like imperfection in food and body image.
It also ends each meal with a dinner discussion prompt. Adapt based on the child's age and the ratings that families give different recipes and prompt topics.
How it works
1. Fill out a form.
The form is quick and interactive, guided by friendly characters. Choose between a meal kit delivery with organic, pre-portioned ingredients, or providing your own.
2. Start your adventure!
If you order a meal kit, ingredients will come right to your door along with a few surprises like fun fact and activity cards. Otherwise, take a trip to a local supermarket together.
3. Cook and share
The Wabi app will guide you through recipes. The recipes prompt you to take time to taste, smell, and touch the ingredients and share the experience together. Sprinkled throughout are age-targeted conversation starters to talk about body image.
Each meal ends with a dinner discussion prompt. Adapt based on the child’s age and the ratings that families give different recipes and prompt topics.
The Design Process
User and Expert Interviews
We conducted 6 parents in recovery to learn more about what their recovery journey looks like, the impact of what their upbringing had on them, and parenting style when it comes to food.
1. Eating Disorders run in families
"Regular family meals and food experiences are considered to be preventatives against developing eating disorders."
Parents with eating disorders live with anxiety over how their behaviors affect their children. Relapses are common, and parents often have problems with recognizing children’s hunger cues and balancing nutrition with restrictive impulses.
2. Early invention is key
“Maybe if I had gotten help earlier it would have been beneficial, and not a 15-year disease.”
All of our participants expressed wishing that they had gotten help sooner in their journeys. If they wait for 10 years to seek help, recovery rate may drop to only 20%.
After identifying the main insights, we used brainstorming methods like 8x8's to ideate over 90 product and service design ideas.
There were so many unknowns - Would they spark joy and also be educational? Are they age-appropriate? We came up with these design principles when we down-select the 90 ideas:
Adjust to each family’s lifestyle and needs. There is no need for users to go out of their way, or for the solution to become an extra task.
Encourage communication within the family by engaging both parents and children.
Promote a balance between nutrition and food positivity.
Values over Looks
Build self-esteem & encourage self-love in both parents and children.
We talked as a group about each possible feature and whether it fits into our desired outcomes and design principles. We used our design principles to evaluate and down-selected to 3 following concepts out of 90.
Concept 1: Mindful Meals
What? Parents and children customize their meal preferences through the Mindful Meals site, and each week they receive a meal kit and gamified cooking lesson
Why? Builds a healthy relationship with food for parents and children by presenting food in a positive light, as a sensory experience and encouraging bonding over meals.
Concept 2: Mirroring Values
What? The electronics kit turns any mirror into a smart mirror that communicates self-esteem prompts, demonstrates power and yoga poses, and projects body-positive content when engaged.
Why? Supports parents’ continued recovery by ensuring that positive content follows the user wherever they go, and that content adjusts to trigger areas.
Concept 3: Food for Thoughts
What? During dinner time, parents can ask their smart device to prompt a dinner conversation around body positivity. The topic can range from their kid’s favorite movie characters to global current events.
Why? It helps address the cycle of eating disorders in families by prompting kids to think critically about their self-image, planting self-love ideas, and look beyond their physical appearances.
Combining the first and third concepts, we developed a low-fidelity of our cooking app and meal kit. Parents and children customize their meal preferences through the website and each week they receive an interactive cooking lesson delivered. The app provides voice-based instruction while providing fun facts and mindfulness exercises.
Our paper prototype of the interactive recipe guide
Our paper prototype of the meal kit tested alongside with the recipe
Usability Test Insights
People had positive remarks on the prototype and they feel that this experience can benefit both the parents and their children, but there are a few things that could be improved:
- Include more facts about food like the source of ingredients, history, and nutrition to bring mindfulness to the recipes.
- Experiment with ways to foster deeper conversations through prompts in the cooking application
- Develop more customization and flexibility, ingredient delivery can be useful, but should be optional.
Building the architecture
We deepened our understanding of the structure by creating a user flow. We focused on the three main key-paths: online ordering, unboxing experience, cooking. This to lay out the framework for our screens later.
Wabi's complete user flow
Based on the feedback we got from our paper prototype, we refined and developed wireframes to represent the keypaths. Due to time constraints, we decided to prioritize the order form and the cooking recipe flow.
These are some of my sketches from a sketching session I led with my team.
Low-fi wireframes of the ordering flow
Product demo video of the 3 keypaths
Beyond the pixel
Since we realized that we have both physical and digital solutions, we also spent some time designing for an experience beyond the screen. We created physical prototypes of our box, fact cards, magnets, and brochures to explore various forms for an exciting unboxing experience. We made sure that each component provides reassurance and comfort on their own.
We designed some boxes, onboarding brochures, magnet collaterals, and fun-fact collectibles.
Fun-fact collectibles for an off-the-screen experience
Our goal was to provide reassurance in stressful times when it comes to their relationship with food To help us develop the design system for Wabi, we converted our design principles into brand values. The warm colors, friendly illustration, rounded layout, and typography were carefully chosen to enhance mindfulness and self-esteem.
Reflection & Future
Recovering from an eating disorder is difficult and ongoing
Unlike other disorders, parents with eating disorders need to face their difficult areas and triggers constantly throughout the day. Guilt and worry for their children only make this harder. Wabi is only a positive approach to manage anxiety in order for a family to build body positivity and self-esteem. There is no guaranteed solution for eating disorders.
Consider how to extend our experience post-cooking.
We want to conduct more research to see how our solution can encompass moments post-cooking and outside of the kitchen. This could have given us a much richer platform in terms of opportunities for design.
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© Marisa Chentakul 2020