Since teaching a graduate class on branding called Nature of Identity at the Academy of Art in San Francisco during 2011, I’ve had several students approach me asking for advise on their thesis projects. This post showcases one of those student’s work which I mentored during the fall of 2012, and was recently selected as a winner in the 2012 Brand New Awards student category.

Katie King Rumford, 2012 MFA graduate, focused her thesis on the intersection of cooking and graphic design. She noticed how people in her generation avoided cooking, and wondered if graphic design could be used to turn the situation around. She called her thesis Counter Intuition. In her words:

Julia Child said it best, “No one is born a great cook, one learns by doing.” This thesis is rooted in the belief that cooking is about building intuition through practice and experience, bringing a new generation of cooks to the counter.

By the time we started the mentoring sessions, Katie had already been working on her thesis for about a year, and her research on the problem was outstanding.

And a lot of work had already gone into the design solutions as well. But she felt there was room for improvement, and reached out to me for some advice. With my background in branding, I posed questions that allowed her to understand and define who the “customers” were and how to reach them, mapping out customer journeys and identifying relevant brand touchpoints.

And as she began designing all those applications, by helping her identify strengths and weaknesses in the look and feel system she was developing, she was able to create a flexible but consistent identity that was relevant and engaging. Below is a small sample of the system in use.

My belief has always been that the best design solution lies within the problem. Translated to my mentoring approach, that has meant always bringing the student back to their original thesis statement.

Within all the expected and unexpected applications worth designing, could there be one core application that embodies the thesis solution in its entirety? In this case, there was and it meant redesigning the recipe. If young generations are afraid of the kitchen, it’s possible they might be intimidated by those dry sets of instructions. Katie did a great job of theorizing what a visual recipe could look and work like.

As impressive as all this looks, there’s a lot more. Read the thesis book, or visit her portfolio and find out more.

For this thesis, she also filmed a visual recipe video, illustrated and designed a cooking tips book, developed visual aids including recipes and flash cards, designed posters and other printed materials, extended the brand to products and packaging, a website, even an app.

Really outstanding work from a very talented designer. Looking forward to seeing where her career takes her next!