• Lessons from the Kitchen

    I'm (in) Ambidextrous

    I was pleased to be asked to contribute an article to Ambidextrous Magazine (from Stanford’s d.school) in their upcoming “Food” issue (available soon). What’d I write about? Well, it’s been a number of years since I stopped cooking professionally, but I have been struck by what I think some interaction designers could learn from watching how a restaurant kitchen operates. My original pitch sounded like this:

    Chefs organize their cooks and their space with a few key principles in mind: maximizing consistency of product, ensuring creative freedom to experiment, and encouraging effective problem solving under incredibly stressful conditions… For those who manage creative organizations, the professional kitchen can provide inspiration for how to balance these principles effectively.

    If you’d like to read the article, it’s available here as a three page PDF. If you take the opportunity to read it, please let me know what you think. Huge thanks to Amanda Willoughby and Evany Thomas for their careful editing work, and to Lora Oehlberg and Mike Pihulic from Ambidextrous for making it a pleasure to contribute to the magazine.

    There are 13 thoughts on this idea

    1. Ryan Freitas

      Jim, thank you for the link, I’ll give it a read this weekend.

      Mike, I completely agree with your analogy. Your “user research” is very much in line with the way most of the cooks I know seek out inspiration. Jason (who I mentioned in the article) was just sent to France for a month to live, eat and work in environments that are sure to be reflected in the menus he dreams up in the months and years to come. (I know, rough gig, huh?) Good observation about the patterns making their way into cookbooks – effectively, they’re artifacts of all the inspiration and experimentation that have worked their way into the vernacular.

      Thanks for the comments, and glad you dug the article.

    2. Jim Rait

      I’ve now read the pdf and very good it is too.. it provoked this response! http://snipurl.com/1otwj which builds on deciding which sort of design project you are tackling and what key skills are needed to make a great job of it.

    3. Jim Rait

      I meant to include this link too http://snipurl.com/1otwz which talks of

      1. Stability and resilience are opposed

      2. There is a huge difference between a chef and a user of recipe books.

    4. Mike Beltzner

      Great stuff, Ryan. It rings entirely true. I feel like there’s also an analogy to be made about “user research” here somewhere. It seems to me that the most innovative chefs tend to wander, combine influences, and create not based on comment cards, but observations of what works and what doesn’t. Then design proposals are vetted as specials or tasting menus, and eventually added to a repetoire. The very best “patterns” are added to cookbooks.

    5. It’s Like This *and* Like That at Like It Ma

      […] a chow hound, but not that he had worked in a kitchen for a long time.  I recommend you check out this newly minted article where Ryan applies some of the lessons learned, ahem, under fire, to design work.  I love this […]

    6. Judy Robb

      As an interaction designer, avid cook (and eater) I found your cooking/design concept right on, and also found myself paralleling my own experiences in the kitchen with your thoughts! Bravo. Nice to know that I, in my early days as a starving artist, was not the only one that turned to culinary disciplines as a way of feeding our creative thoughts and gullets. Bon Appetit!

    7. Kristen Taylor

      Thanks, Ryan–the article informed my post today–

    8. Todd Kalhar

      Ryan, a wonderful and excellently succinct article! Thank you for sharing! It always amazes me how interaction design tends to draw the most interesting and inquisitive minds from all sorts of fields … cooking now among those on my list. The lessons you’ve extracted from your experience in both areas ring true.

    9. Lilly Irani

      Thanks for writing the article for us, Ryan!

    10. Laurent

      i’m also a cooking & food addict 😉 I ve already discussed often with big chief and always amazed by their generosity. The desire more than anything giving pleasure to their guest. We could also learn a lot of them in UX design : some restaurants really offer such an experience. You re welcomed, they offer you a place full of little details, confortable chairs, nice service, nice flowers, all is selected very careffully. Meal is tasty, delicious, inventive and beautifull to watch ….

      In the old conflict beautifull vs usable, big chief now since a long time it’s beautiffull and tasty

      thanks for your article

    11. Simplicity Rules » Time-boxing your way to q

      […] idea comes from Ryan Freitas in an article comparing designers and chefs. For all four kitchen analogies, read the three page article Cooking Lessons for Designers (PDF […]

    Comments are closed.

  • Close
    Team Profile