The Wellness Kitchen is a concept suite of appliances designed to enable behaviors and experiences that lead to, and create psychological happiness and well-being. Uniquely thoughtful, this suite of appliances leverages key data-driven attributes that have been found to contribute to human psychological well-being, in order to create intentional forms and functionality that enable a net positive experience, and nurture behaviors that are good for humans. With the Wellness Kitchen, tasks that once caused stress, isolation, or energy drain, are re-framed in order to empower, engage, and re-energize, resulting in healthier, happier, longer living people.
The Wellness Kitchen has many characteristics that contribute to its unique design. The Growing Refrigerator includes a door-in-door, water-efficient Aeroponic garden that brings visible nature into the home and provides peace of mind and control around what goes into one’s food. The Induction Kitchen Table combines a traditional kitchen table with strategic cooking appliances in order to create a product that curates connection and sharing, as well as improved cooking functionality. The unit combines a thermally insulated induction cook-top, safe for activities like meal preparation or doing homework, with an integrated convection drawer oven that provides easy visibility to one’s food via a flexible opacity window, allowing users to view food conveniently from above without leaving the table. The Vent Hood Light Pendant hangs over the induction kitchen table, and includes an LED light for task or mood lighting. It provides an attachment point to hang plants from the growing refrigerator to act as living condiments for culinary creations. The Rinse and Soak Eco Dishwasher integrates an ultrasonic soak basin with a waterfall faucet and integrated hand sprayer into a standard dish-washing product. The unit captures and conserves soak and rinse water, reusing it for initial dish washing cycle rinse. Upon cycle completion, the pivot out control panel opens and exposes aroma vents that release odor neutralizing mist. The combined functionality of this ecosystem creates a unique solution that rethinks today’s existing appliance solutions and helps afford users the chance to create happier behaviors and environments.
When approaching the design of the Wellness Kitchen, there were several challenges that had to be overcome, including internal mentality shifts and product specific assumptions that had to be questioned and re-calibrated. The largest challenge was the mental shift for us as designers. Designers always want to improve the lives of others, but commonly we do so by solving an unmet need, designing for convenience, or integrating a new technology. This project required a psychological shift, and knowledge of happiness and well-being that we did not have, so we collaborated with a doctor of behavioral psychology, and sought out secondary research done on happiness and well-being. We then analyzed the data and our insights, and consolidated it into a workable set of attributes that could be translated into physical product solutions and experiential interactions. In order to re-frame our design solutions, we reconsidered products from the vantage of how they will influence strong and weak social relationships, enhance savoring and gratitude, support goal setting and specific values and roles that people desire and aspire to, as well as how they can integrate biophilic elements. This re-framing forced us to question product specific assumptions, and open our minds to new forms, features, and experience solutions for traditional appliances while maintaining social acceptance and familiarity. The result is an ecosystem of tools that give back and enhance the overall happiness and well-being of the user.
When designing the Wellness Kitchen, we designed user experiences that supplemented our product experiences, assisting users with creating memorable moments, and helping prevent hedonic adaptation by constructing experiences that grow and change, continually engaging the user. On the Growing Refrigerator, in order to engage the user repeatedly on a low maintenance product, we included suggestive planting notifications within our app that alert the user that a specific holiday (cinco de mayo for example) was coming up, and recommend planting relevant plants now (i.e. mint or cilantro), in order to have them ready for the holiday. This not only engages the user from a growing aspect, but also implies that the user might want to have friends or family over, to connect and share with, laddering up to the higher level attributes that we wanted to influence. For the Induction Kitchen Table, we designed omni-directional controls that can be intuitively operated from either side of the table. This creates a more inclusive space, allowing any user at the table to participate in the cooking process. This inclusivity also supports delegation of tasks or co-creation during meal time, helping to foster education of younger users and remove isolating roles from family providers. The Rinse and Soak Dishwasher incorporates sensory elements like a waterfall faucet and aroma vents to ease the stress of daily tasks with soothing biophilic sounds and smells, enhancing and punctuating the overall experience.
The Wellness Kitchen benefits our client by capitalizing on macro trends, creating a competitive advantage, and providing partnership opportunities that could expand product offering and profitability. Wellness, experience seeking, and sustainability are three major macro trends that are emerging, and the wellness kitchen reacts and supports all three, showcasing that there is a viable market and audience of consumers looking for what this suite of appliances can provide. The suite creates a competitive advantage by leveraging a sustainable product position. Competitors take market advantage by outpacing our client with technology proficiency, or manufacturing cost, however by honing in on happiness and well-being, they are investing in a commodity that will never go out of trend, and will always be desirable. In addition, the suite provides sundry partnership opportunities, from manufacturers like Ikea to create customization and style options, to IOT leaders like Amazon to add smart technology integration in a humane and healthy manner. Not only can this suite benefit the client from an external viewpoint, but the client's internal value message is to "enable happiness and well-being in every home," so the suite aligns with company messaging and could help externally build the brand, but could internally boost morale as employees feel they are producing product that aligns with company values as well as their individual values
With depression, anxiety, and loneliness on the rise in our modern society, we must look at our environment and ask ourselves why? As designers, we touch and decide how every artifact that people interact with works, looks, and feels and if we see negative symptoms, for example, from advancing technology, housing patterns, or food processing, it’s natural to reflect how we can influence the fabric of our lives through the products we create. The Wellness Kitchen is an intentional exploration of how a new design methodology that focuses on psychological well-being instead of technology integration, or design for convenience, can influence the ratio of positive to negative emotions in a user. The benefit to society is transformative experiences. These experiences connect people and remove isolation, responding to disconnected and isolating behaviors that are symptomatic of mobile devices and widespread technology proliferation. They support and enable specific values and roles that humans desire and aspire to, for example conservation and eco-consciousness of food and water resources. Lastly, they bring nature back into surroundings to decrease anxiety and restore energy, addressing time-stressed lifestyles, and information overload. Implementing this type of influence in a kitchen suite is highly impactful, as the kitchen is the heart of the modern home. Influencing emotion and well-being from this epicenter could have a high potential impact on overall happiness and well-being.