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“Design Thinking for Food” Offers Human-Centered Method for Addressing Food Challenges

cbiltekoffshimekCharlotte Biltekoff, Associate Professor of American Studies and Food Science & Technology at UC Davis, and Lauren Shimek, Ph.D., Food Science and Senior Portfolio Director at the design firm IDEO, have developed a speaker series and fall 2016 graduate course that brings design thinking to high impact food system challenges.
Design thinking, Shimek explains, is a human-centered method and process that “uncovers new solutions that meet people’s unmet needs and desires.” Design thinking happens at the intersection of people’s desires, business viability, and technological feasibility. The idea for a “Design Thinking and Innovation for Food” speaker series and the upcoming graduate course emerged from what Biltekoff saw as a challenge for UC Davis – how to connect strengths in scientific and technical complexity with informed understandings of users in their social and cultural context.design-thinking-food-article
Working closely with Shimek, Biltekoff seeks to demonstrate how design thinking offers a set of tools to address the tremendous food challenges facing the world by putting people’s lived realities at the forefront of the innovation processes.
The “Design Thinking for Food” course (FST 298), planned for fall 2016 and open to graduate students and advanced undergraduates, will not only teach students the principles of design thinking, but will also engage them in addressing real world challenges brought in by outside experts and stakeholders, such as the Yolo County Food Bank. Students will develop creative, practical, and applicable solutions that meet their specific design challenge and then share their work in a public-facing forum.

“UC Davis has a vision for creating purpose-driven food solutions,” Biltekoff and Shimek stated, “and this multidisciplinary course, centered on design-thinking would inspire the next generation of food systems innovators.”  

Speaker Series
The 2016 winter speaker series features invites guests from IDEO and UC Davis, on Wednesdays from 4:10-5pm. Centered around the broad themes of design thinking and innovation for food, the series will generate dialogue and form collaborations across campus in the hopes of establishing an engaged cohort of students for the fall 2016 course.
On January 27th, Eric Lopez, who has a background in anthropology and business and experience working at Google on consumer insights and is now Business Designer and design researcher at IDEO, kicked off the speaker series with his presentation, “Design Thinking Tools: Insight and Inspiration,” highlighting the first of four phases of design thinking, which are 1) Insight and Inspiration, 2) Synthesis and Strategy, 3) Design and Prototyping, and 4) Communication and Storytelling.  
“The insight and inspiration phase is about getting inspired by people’s latent needs and by analogous solutions in the world to encourage new thinking,” Lopez presented. He then guided the group through an “Ideation Mash-up” activity where the audience worked in pairs to create unexpected ideas resulting from the combination of two seemingly unrelated concepts. In this case, Lopez asked the group to innovate the hospital experience by way of hotels  – the resulting ideas included plush patient gowns and slippers, king-sized hospital beds, and personalized meals from a gourmet chef.
The speaker series continues, Wednesdays from 4:10-5pm in 1207 RMI South, on:

Other upcoming speakers include Bob Adams (UC Davis Innovation Institute for Food and Health, formerly with IDEO) and Justin Siegel (UC Davis Innovation Institute for Food and Health, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, and Department of Chemistry) as well as guests from IDEO who will address distinct phases of the design thinking process.
Watch the DHI calendar for exact dates or email Charlotte Biltekoff (cbiltekoff@ucdavis.edu) to be added to the contact list.
– Stephanie Maroney, DHI Graduate Student Researcher and doctoral candidate in Cultural Studies

This page was last updated: February 1, 2016



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