A black olive-gruyere dip and Greek’s economy. Sardines and New Delhi’s population density. Sausages with potato-salad and gender inequality in restaurant kitchens. These unusual pairings were just some of the  menu items at events hosted by Susanne Jaschko, Moritz Stefaner and Schott Ceran, whose initiative Data Cuisine explores ways to approach data differently rather than in the form of a graph: They visualize data with food.

Jaschko’s and Stefaner’s argument is that you are more likely to remember a data point when you are actually eating it. “Data is often said to be abstract and ‘dry’, unemotional, non-tangible and non-sensual.” They make a good point. Most people don’t find data and statistic graphs that exciting. Data Cuisine’s food creations, however, are.

Their black olive-gruyere dip for instance visualizes the amounts of money Greeks have stashed away in Swiss bank accounts (the Gruyère cream) as well as the number of Greeks that “fail to report income” (the chopped black olives beneath the cream).

We are constantly bombarded with stats and data, especially in business – to a point where people tend to only briefly look at graphs or numbers. There are obvious benefits to traditionally presented data. It is structured and usually straight forward but there is not a lot of room for interpretation or imagination.

Data Cuisine isn’t just visualizing data and making it look less boring. There are no pie charts created of pasta – their visualizations are more than that. The aim is to “create a culinary experience where taste, texture, and even smell convey their own data points”, according to an article Fast Co. Design.

Interestingly, consuming a meal slows data consumption. “I found it really interesting to watch how deeply people meditate on very simple data points when they think about turning them into food experiences,” says Stefaner in WIRED magazine. “This is a much needed counterpoint to the current trend of consuming lots of data in a very quick and superficial way.”

We are constantly bombarded with stats and data. Computer servers around the world process the “digital equivalent of a 5.6-billion-mile-high stack of books from Earth to Neptune and back, repeated about 20 times” in a year,” according to scientists at UC San Diego. That is a lot of data to digest in a year. What is wonderful is that there are just as many possibilities to create delicious data visuals with taste, texture, temperature and food presentation as there is data in our world. Bon Appétit.

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Kevin Roberts

Kevin Roberts is founder of Red Rose Consulting; business leader and educator; author and speaker; adviser on marketing, creative thinking and leadership.


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