According to CDC, each year, 1 in 6 Americans get sick from food borne diseases. Globalization of food trade makes food chain longer and complicated.

How might we enhance food safety and transparency, by providing a food product snapshot at every level?

For this project, my team chose the Center for Food Safety (CFS) and their mission on informed consumerism and food safety. We began by discussing our roles to match our learning goals.

This is an academic project done at Indiana University Bloomington. I worked in a team where I took care of Ux Research. I relied on tools like Illustrator, Experience Design, Premiere Pro, and Invision.

Secondary Research

Secondary research revealed that CFS strived to make food labels readable to help people compare food products easily. The new food label policy includes the implementation of:

1. Larger font size for the number of calories

2. Emphasis upon added sugar

3. Realistic serving sizes

Here are some predispositions developed from secondary research.

This image depicts my predisposition from secondary research. Consumers make a trade off between price of the food product and their health. They often consider their dietary needs, source of food, and location of processing before making a purchase.

Primary Research

Initial user interviews revealed that users do not pay much attention to food labels unless they have undergone some unpleasant experience or have a specific dietary need. I suggested that we narrow down our participants based on their unpleasant experiences or specific dietary requirements.

This discussion led to creating a research plan, to uncover relevant information and design strategy to match user expectation. We chose survey, contextual inquiry, and co-design for primary research. This approach helped to look at the problem space in three different perspectives. Reducing spurious data and bias, enhancing the correctness of insights.

This image depicts the research plan we chose for this project. We started with survey, contextual inquiry and co-design. At the end we synthesized insights and made design suggestions.


Survey gave a bird's eye view of the problem space. Survey data helped to make an informed choice of the target audience and prioritize problem. It also served as a means to verify predispositions and assumptions from secondary research. Moreover, I connected with potential participants for further research.

Here are key takeaways from the survey.

This image depicts our learnings from online survey. We found most healthy people look at price and macronutrients. They get confused by complex scientific names and are unaware of food processing location or method. Consumers often stick a brand.

Contextual Inquiry

Takeaways from the survey guided our focus on food sourcing and food processing. To deep dive into user behavior, we identified three grocery stores in Bloomington. they were known for low pricing, fresh food products, and organic food. This helped us observe users in proper context. We wanted to know:

1. How often users read food labels?

2. How much time do users spend on reading labels?

3. In which sections of the grocery store, users read food labels?

4. What do users value more amidst food quality, food sourcing, and price?

Let’s look at our learnings from contextual inquiry.

This images depicts contextual inquiry and photos of participants purchasing food. We found that food labels are often used to compare and evaluate safety.

Co-Design Workshop

From Co-Design workshop, we hoped to identify the root of anxiety and distrust amongst consumers. Moreover, designing with consumers helped generate innovative ideas by relying on consumer expertise. Participants could express their lived experiences and together we could explore several ways in which design could have intervened.

Here is a glimpse of our collective learning.

This image depicts the process of Co-Design workshop. It contains list of activities, participants and key takeaways. It is a information heavy image. As an author I would love to talk about it personally.


Synthesizing research date revealed that majority users barely read food labels unless they have a “wake up call”. It could be from a personal experience, for e.g. having an allergic reaction or an unpleasant experience from food sourced from a different country. Moreover, fear or anxiety might stem from conversations, news, and documentaries.

Here are some of the ways we connected research insights and design suggestions.

This image depicts insights synthesized from User Research. Here are some of the high lights. People wish for more transparency as food choices are subject to beliefs, nutritional demands, affordability, etc. Our team suggested to add food lifecycle snapshot, QR code, safety grading, etc. to make food labels more informative.


At this point, we met Professor. Shaowen Bardzell and presented her our insights. She suggested identifying specific user experiences for articulating research findings. By doing so, we will be able to connect research insights with the user's life.

Therefore, we relooked at research data and visualized specificity using storyboards.

This image depicts drawings of some scenarios that users might undergo. For example, users looking for information on long term benefits, avoiding unpleasant experiences, forgetting to check expiry dates.


Connecting suggestions from research and specificity of storyboards my team started brainstorming concepts. Exploring several design ideas was fun, but we had to drop several attractive ideas. Some of the filters used to select ideas were as follows.

1. Does the concept relate to insight or suggestions from research?

2. Is the concept solve a specific situation or match user behavior?

3. Does appropriate technology exist for implementing a concept?

4. Does the concept require extensive change in the current system?

Let's look at some of the concepts.

This image depicts various concepts to make food labels more informative. We targeted barcode labels, health grading, infographics for macro and micro nutrients, snapshot of food lifecycle.

 Usability Testing

As most concepts are incremental additions to existing food labels, we did usability testing using paper prototypes. User likes and dislikes were documented to guide digital prototyping. As a team, we defined success as i) Users are able to make decisions quickly, ii) Design grabs user attention as grocery shopping can be hectic, iii) Design provides on-demand additional information, iv) Enhances consumer awareness.

Here are some results from usability testing.

This image depicts findings from usability study. Overall users liked attention grabbing, clear, and fluid designs.

 Proposed Design

After several iterations, the design evolved as good ideas converged. Users and other stakeholders involved in the project shaped the design through their expertise. We briefly discussed our design before the class prior to submitting it.

FoodTrails helps consumer awareness by representing the extent of processing food product has undergone. If consumers want more information, the proposed design provides a glimpse of food lifecycle from origin to food sale. Consumer reviews help users provide feedback and participate in food safety.

Let's explore the proposed design.

Final Wireframes-11.jpg

Here is a video to demonstrate the proposed design.



Planning a research study: Recruiting participants takes time, and we might get only one chance to meet them. I learned to create a one-pager research plan including an objective, research questions, methods, and target participants. Estimating required time and identifying deliverables made teamwork smooth. Diving into research with meticulous planning made life easy.

Connecting with users through research: This project made me realize that asking good questions can help to build connections. For qualitative research asking questions pertaining to real-life events unfolds rich data. It becomes easy to visualize the problem space from the participant's perspective.

Articulating research findings and providing suggestions: Providing actionable insights is great, but the true value of UX researcher is providing suggestions to stakeholders. It was a challenge when we reached a dead end with no unique insight. So, I started looking at the data with a fresh perspective and uncovered underlying findings.