Human Centred Food: Meaning

To create incremental change, it has often been the habit of innovators to observe the customer; to look at how they use the product. This can aloe the observers to create new packaging or new features that will make the customers lie easier, thereby making the product a no.1 choice. If an observer is watching someone bake and they see that the flour packaging is messy and flour is spilling out, they might suggest that the packaging be changed to overcome this.

However, if you are looking for radical change, Verganti suggest that you get as far away from the customer as possible and instead look for meaning and language. This might seem a little far-fetched, but there are plenty of precedents. Before Swatch began designing watches they were considered to be functional and utilitarian.  But Swatch looked at the meaning and saw that watches could be interpreted as fashion, and suddenly people were buying multiple watches to match outfits. If swatch had asked a focus group, it is unlikely that something that radical would have been suggested.  There is meaning in all products. Fornari says that there are 5 codes of language that can be communicated – Paternal, maternal, Childish, erotic and birth/death.

With the economic downturn there has been a considerable rise in the number of old-fashioned sweetshops on our streets. The old fashioned jars appeal to the childish part of us, a time many associate with safety and being cared for.  Even the cheap chocolate bars of our childhood have been re-issued to meet the demands of nostalgia. But apart from sweets, if you look around any supermarket, the aisles are crowded with products that are attempting to communicate meaning – healthy, low-fat, local, fresh, natural, child-friendly etc. These meanings are not often honest – the term natural has become so debased that it means nothing. But those who really search for meaning in a truly human-centred way have the potential to create profit, brand value, loyalty and longevity.  To do so they must engage with interpreters.

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