The design of the tableware is the result of pilot fieldwork conducted at the Oncology unit at Montreal’s Ste-Justine Hospital, with children hospitalized for long term periods experiencing loss of appetite as a direct result of their sicknesses, the chemical and physical regimens they may be enduring, and the effects of the unfamiliar physical environment they are obliged to live in during treatment.
The project focuses on how tableware can modulate taste, and how rethinking the interactive experience of these objects can positively impact appetite. It investigates how children experience the sensory play at work between food and plates, and between food and food environments. It also explores the emotional and social dimensions of people's relationships around the meal. The central concept is to provide each child with a picnic box containing numerous pieces to choose from according to their level of appetite and personal food preferences.
The design has emphasized the variety of objects for a variety of foods, while addressing smaller portioning. The prehensile qualities of the objects rose as an important area of focus so that objects could be manipulated for selection and to create engagement with patients. This manipulation dimension can even extend to stimulate interaction with parents and caregivers. Graphic design has been integrated into the process, allowing a type of personalization and color experience that contrasts with the hospital’s typically monotonous visual environment. More importantly, the personal selection process enhances a reflection on the child’s specific state of taste. For example, many different designs of a bowl are included in the set, as children often prefer to eat a soup or liquids when not appetite is suppressed, or some simply prefer to eat their meal from a more enclosed container or shape than from a flat plate. Pieces engage children to hold the objects in their hands rather than leaving them sitting on a tray or table.