WORKSHOP @ EFOOD 2019, 30/11/2019



In this workshop we will explore how culture and traditions can guide the design of increasingly playful and social food experiences. Through hands-on engagement with traditions, play and food, we will discuss strategies to make designerly use of forms of play that are embedded in culture. In response to recent calls for increasingly situated and emergent play design methods, we will explore strategies to chase culturally-grounded play.

The workshop will gather scholars, designers, chefs and other relevant stakeholders, from diverse communities and backgrounds. Together, we will share, enact and analyze playful food traditions, all with the goal of making creative use of them: we will use that knowledge to prototype new and interesting food-based experiences that will hopefully help us challenge and expand our current understanding of what it means to play with our food.

More information: Please send an e-mail to


Play and playfulness are increasingly popular in food design, in and beyond the realm of eating games. Increasingly, designers resort to play- and game-inspired strategies to design novel food-based experiences. Designers employ different strategies to design for play, including: best practice knowledge, theory informed design, player-centered methods and co-creation. Each of these approaches allow designers to leverage diverse forms of knowledge (designer expertise, theoretical frameworks and player expertise) to craft compelling interventions.

A recent call for new methods for play design highlights the need for new strategies that allow designers to chase play potentials by interacting with both context and users. The call proposes “uncovering existing manifestations of contextual play as a starting point for designing for situated and emergent playful engagement”. It builds on the idea that play potentials, framed as “existing playful dynamics that are already meaningful in context”, should be at the core of play designs aimed at open-ended everyday activities.

In this workshop, we highlight an area for chasing play that we argue has not yet received enough attention: culture and traditions. Human culture is imbued with play; indeed, play has been a major force in the formation of culture and society, and a society can be understood by looking at how its members play. Play is present in all cultures, in different forms, and is an important factor in many human traditions. For example, Pimientos del Padrón is a typical Spanish tapa comprised of several small green peppers, some of which are very spicy, though they all look identical. In Spain, eating Pimientos del Padrón has become an opportunity for social play, to the extent that the rhyme “Pimientos del Padrón, algunos pican y otros no” (Padron peppers, some are hot, some are not) is typically uttered when you get that tapa, setting the mood for a playful “Russian roulette”. In such traditions, play is deeply and seamlessly integrated into culture, to the extent that the food embodies play potentials relevant to people from that culture. This workshop explores how to leverage such latent knowledge to design culturally meaningful playful eating experiences. We ask: how might food designers identify interesting manifestations of play that are culturally embedded, and unpack them so that they can become a useful design material? We see EFOOD as a locus of cultural diversity that congregates people with a long-standing commitment to food, design, and culture, making it the ideal venue to tackle this challenge.

Workshop structure

The workshop will take place within the EFOOD 2019 conference in Lisboa on November 30, 2019 (10am to 5pm). In the morning, we will share strategies to chase cultural play, and analyse the playful traditions proposed by participants (see Submission Instructions below for details). In the afternoon we will design and prototype new play-food experiences inspired by those traditions, and discuss how playing with culture can inspire food design.

The workshop activities will be as follows:


November 30, 2019 Activity Description
Morning 10 - 10.30 am Introduction Welcome, introductions and outline of workshop plan.
10.30 – 11 am Play-chasing methods Quick presentation of the toolkit we will use to explore the playful traditions.
11 am - 12.30 pm Chasing play in traditions In groups of 3-5 people, we will explore the playful food traditions to chase play potentials and find playful inspiration.
12.30 – 1 pm Sharing the analyses We will share our findings so that all participants can use them.
  1 – 2 pm Lunch break  
Afternoon   2 – 4 pm Design & prototyping In groups, we will leverage the morning findings to come up with novel food-based experiences that draw from the playful inspiration from culture and traditions.
4 – 4.30 pm Play-tasting Groups will present their work. We all will taste the prototypes and discuss how they relate to the play potentials chased in the traditions.
4.30 – 5 pm Reflection and wrap-up We do a group reflection on how playing with culture can inspire food and research.


Ferran Altarriba Bertran is a PhD student at the University of California, Santa Cruz. His research explores the design space of everyday-use playful technologies and experiences, with a focus on their social and emotional value. As part of his research, Ferran has worked extensively with food design and gastronomy, including collaborations with world-leading institutions and restaurants such as elBulli Foundation, El Celler de Can Roca or Fundació Alícia.


Submission instructions

To attend the workshop, please submit a (max. 4 page) expression of interest to ???, including:

• A 150-word bio.
• A short (~300 word) statement about the perspectives you bring to the issues we will explore in the workshop.
• A description of one or more playful food traditions from your family, culture, community, etc.. An example of a description of a playful food tradition can be found here.
• Optionally, you can also describe strategies/methods you have used to source inspiration in cultural play. We will share and experiment with those strategies during the workshop.

Expressions of interest should be submitted before November 20, 2019. All attendees must register to attend the workshop.