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culture . identity . and cuisine

Project Overview .

Capsule is a subscription box service that leverages the user’s cultural background, interests, and lived experiences to deliver value in the form of fostering their sense of cultural connection and encouraging self affirmation through the sending and receiving of recipes, goodies, and holiday items between users on the platform. 


This project has explored themes of heritage, self identity, cultural connection and the significance of food and place. 

Time Frame: September to December 2022

Project Team Members : Rachel Baker, Will Gelder, Iris Sun, Abhishek Patil

My Involvement : UX UI Design, Usability Testing, Survey Design, Data Analysis, Ideation Drawings.

Tools : Figma, Procreate, Adobe Creative Suite, Qualtrics, Tableau, Miro

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Problem Space . 

The United States is a multicultural nation with a large population of immigrants representing diverse cultures, religions, and traditions. These unique cultural aspects, however, may fade over time due to assimilation. American-born descendants and immigrants often feel disconnected from the heritage and culture of their families. Simultaneously, their cultural identities may also be influenced by the cultures of the places and people around them, leaving these individuals with multifaceted cultural identities. There are those who embrace their amalgamated identity, while there are others who feel as though they do not truly belong in any established culture.

Understanding .

Target Population .

Cultural nomads with fractured cultural identities, who lack a sense of belonging in any established culture.

Young adults with the age range of 18 - 35 years old, who have multifaceted cultural identities, and varying degrees of comfort in the intersection of cultures.

Project Goal .

Support cultural nomads with their cultural reconnection and help them establish strong connections with the culture that influenced them as well as their family roots. Encourage them to embrace their multifaceted cultural identity as an authentic and unique representation of themselves.

According to the study of “acculturation gaps”  we revealed that acculturation is a significant pain point for many immigrant families, often negatively affecting intergenerational communication, and causing cultural identity to be lost. We also found that food is often one of the last artifacts of culture to be assimilated and that descendants of immigrants often pursue a feeling of acceptance into their culture(s) by cooking their heritage dishes.

Research .

40 surveys assess the prevalence of cultural disconnect, and understand how strongly culture nomad’s view food as it relates to their cultural identities.

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3 semi-structured interviews to learn participants' cultural background, connection to heritage, and self identity.

We were looking for answers to the following main questions:

01How do people connect to culture?

02. What factors shape cultural identity? 

03. How do cultural nomads relate food to culture and self-identity?

Data Samples .

86% of participants selected food as a factor that shaped their cultural identity.

I think my parents did a good job sharing what was important within our culture, but they didn't necessarily share everything.” - Interview participant

94% of our participants are interested in being more connected.

Research Findings . 

Our survey and interview data indicate that many individuals are related to the issue of cultural disconnection and have strong desire in connecting more and deeper with their cultures. 

In addition, we found that cultural identity is formed by factors beyond ethno-cultural background. Ethnicity, race, and nationality are traditionally thought to be the source of culture, but it has been shown that food, friends, and the places that one has lived can also contribute to one's cultural identity.

Lastly, findings showed that food plays a significant role in connecting people to cultures, traditional foods are often associated with family, celebrations, and comfort of home, while fusion food creation tended to be described as a reflection of one’s own multicultural background.

Design Requirements .

01. Facilitate cultural exchange between individuals.

02.  Preserve the stories and context of personal fusion foods and family-tradition foods.

03.  Accurately represent the user’s identity, along all dimensions.

04.  Guard against the commodification of ethnicity and culture.

Challenge . 

How might we help culture norms find their unique identity and reconnect with their culture while avoiding culture appropriation and commodification?

Design Development .

We moved forward with design development based on our design requirements. We held several rounds of Crazy8s, and iterated off of each other’s sketches. Afterwards, these sketches were refined, resulting in the following concepts:

Learning Buddy . 

Children of multicultural backgrounds can learn about their cultures through the use of a stuffed animal and an app in this concept.

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Fusion Cookbook . 

Fusion Cookbook takes in a person’s unique mix of cultures and returns a cookbook of fusion food recipes based on the user's multicultural identity.

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Memoiry . 

Memoiry is a storytelling activity for parents and children to do together, aiming to enable families to share and discuss their history and provide a relatable storybook to multicultural children who may not see themselves represented in typical children’s books.

Capsule . 

Users digitally collect important artifacts, such as photos, videos, letters, recipes, and songs, to represent precious memories that are core to a specific moment in their lives, such as important moves or life transitions.

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Boxtie . 

Users would receive different themes of the box each month to learn about the culture through recipes, goodies, and holidays.

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Recommendations App .

Recommendation App is a tool that allows users to document their unique multicultural mix as well as make recommendations for music, food, news, art, etc.

Storyboard . 

Capsule .

This concept builds on the metaphor of a time capsule, which represents significant moments in one’s life and is often buried with the intent of later recovery by one’s future self or loved ones.

Users digitally collect important artifacts, such as photos, videos, letters, recipes, and songs, to represent precious memories that are core to a specific moment in their lives, such as important moves or life transitions.

Users then can assign the time capsule to a place, “leaving” it there to be discovered by their future selves, their loved ones, or strangers near the geolocation, depending on privacy settings.

Boxtie .

Each month, Boxtie allows users to choose a culture from the user’s multicultural background that they would like to learn more about and include.

There are different themes for boxes, such as a goodie box containing items from your cultural heritage, a recipe box teaching one how to cook traditional or fusion foods, or a newsbox with trendy items from your cultural makeup.

Boxtie connects people with cultural overlaps, helping the two prepare boxes for each other during special times of the year and send out what they wish to share, allowing them to learn how their culture is practiced in different parts of the world.

Process . 

Boxtie was the concept we ultimately pursued after presenting the two concepts to a panel of peers at Georgia Tech's GVU showcase. There were many valuable comments and suggestions during the panel discussion, including encouragement to focus boxes around holidays and festivals, questions about the price of such a service, as well as appreciation for how this service mitigates the pain of finding specific ingredients. As a result of further team discussion, we incorporated some aspects of Capsule, such as its reflective nature and privacy features, into Boxtie. Ultimately, we decided that "capsule" better reflected the concept of Boxtie's boxes, so we renamed the concept to "Capsule".

Final Design Overview .

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Onboarding: Signing Up for Capsule

When a user first downloads Capsule, they are met with a series of introductory slides which explain what Capsule is and three core steps: creating a cultural profile, exchanging boxes with others, and experiencing culture through the foods and stories that Capsule presents. 

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Box Exchange: Creating a Box for Another User and Receiving a Box

Capsule offers a Box Exchange Event, where you can choose a theme to exchange with other users. Users are paired up with other individuals who have cultural overlap but haven't interacted before.

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Recipe: Sharing Your Personal Fusion Recipe & Its Story on The Platform

User’s recipes are expressions of their unique cultural identity and experience. Through Capsule, users can share their own fusion recipe and stories related to the food and promote/elevate personal fusion foods as authentic expressions of culture.

You: Creating a Diary Entry About Your Received Box

Users can use the diary function to document their experience receiving a box as well as their thoughts. Furthermore, Capsule aims to inspire users to reflect upon their experiences, re-engage with the cultures in which they are connecting, reflect on their own cultural identities, and examine how the latest experience they have had with Capsule has impacted them.

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Reflection  . 

I learned a lot about user research and UI design from this project. In this project, I have conducted interviews, user testing, and data coding, which are areas in which I do not have much experience. Additionally, the project allowed me to gain experience in UX UI design with a team that has different backgrounds and professionals, as well as how to contribute everyone's ideas and construct a cohesive platform. 


Moreover, working on a topic related to culture is a real treat for me. Since I come from a multicultural background, the topic is not only something I am passionate about but also something I can relate to very well. During the interview and survey process, we heard a lot of participant stories, and it was incredibly touching and inspiring to me. Designing a platform to accomplish such a delicate topic is very meaningful for me.

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© 2023 by Iris, Jhih Rou Sun 

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