Data-driven salad of Northside, PA

interaction, data-driven design   |   spring 2016

Using the data collected from one of Pittsburgh's neighborhoods, Northside, to drive not only the design of the product, but also the design process itself. Rae Headrick and I chose to explore how environmental data collected from our journey to Northside can drive the design and making of a salad!


Summary: Understanding place through salad making

We make sense of a place based on the data embodied within it. Different methods of collecting and decoding this data can reveal qualities of the place. The aim of this project is to experiment with the way place-based data drives design processes. Developed as an outcome of this objective, we created a system of salad making based on data we collected from the neighborhood of Northside. Making and tasting these salads provides people with an unconventional experience of understanding Northside.


1. Decoding place

As we considered the way people make sense of place, it became clear that there are two parallel pictures in play here. We described the first as “Environment’s Raw Data,” which is made up by all sorts of objective data. The second picture is made up by human understanding and perception of environments. But there’s a catch.The first picture of “objective” data is, in fact, perpetually modified by human touch and presence. Evidently the human touch acting on the first picture, becomes part of the data interpreted within the second picture. 

We utilized a two-by-two model in order to capture methods of perceiving data. In this case the model contains two axis: literal to abstract, and thinking to sensing. The resulting four quadrants extend four ways of perception. Considering the types of data that speak loudly about place, we categorized four unique kinds of content into the model below. 


2. Emerging Place

We define place as an amalgamation of multiple human perceptions. This diagram helps us understand that our individual impressions of Northside are affected by the imprint of the community as a whole. Adding and subtracting an individual’s impression will thus alter the holistic picture.

We collected data through multiple individuals in order to communicate this idea of emergence.  The menu offers ingredients and methods of serving, which are driven by the aggregation of Julia, Rae, Christine and Jessie’s perceived data. If we were to neglect one individual’s contribution, the range of available salad components would narrow.


Menu system

We created a menu system that utilizes the data of Northside's 4 characteristics (color, texture, route and sentimental value — "I am reminded of...") under the lens of 4 people, to impact the making of the salad in different, unique ways. 



Front of the menu — salad ingredients


Back of the menu — dressing



Menu guide — how to navigate through this menu and make your salad





Example of data driven way — four images of the four respective color contrast are chosen, along with three textures and a "I am reminded of" card. 


Salad making party — engaging our friends in the testing of the menu