Taste should be used sparingly and with specific intent, unless the design purpose is a gathering or restaurant. As mentioned above, taste is aligned with smell and touch, and without these the experience of flavor is much diminished. Therefore, it can be a quick and natural step to include these when designing a sensory experience with taste. For spaces that are for a social gathering or a restaurant, the strategy should be for the designer to use all senses to support the edible or potable program.
People are not likely to put a random object in their mouths, especially anything that is not food or drink, so the designer must create a space of trust, where the visitor is willing to consume the item intended. Once the environment is trustworthy, we must ensure the food or drink aligns with the purpose. After meeting this, we must consider how much will be consumed by the individual. Is the objective to fill the stomach, like a feast? Or, is the taste experience secondary to another sensory stimulus?
The best approach to using taste is to define whether taste is primary, secondary, or tertiary, and then select what is tasted. If the item to be consumed is meant as a secondary or tertiary sense, then what does the taste support? If the taste is a primary stimulus, then what senses support that tasted? Of course, taste uses smell and touch for its full experience, but how do we use vision and hearing in relation to taste? Can a sound or graphic describe taste beyond representation of the taste types, such as salt, sweet, bitter, etc. or the literal imagery or sound of what is being consumed? How does hearing affect taste? It normally does not, but how can it affect taste?
The use of other senses with taste should be complementary, but it can also contrast for dissonant or harsh combinations. Design might not be used to make things better–maybe design can be used to make things worse. If this is the case, it needs to be very clear why something is not comfortable, especially when design is meant to help make things better for people. Using poor flavors and taste experiences, we can use propaganda to sway people, but continued exposure to this method will drive the user away, creating an undesirable installation.
The traditional parts of taste are salt, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami. The combination of these creates specific flavors. These flavors are paired with the scent of the item consumed and the sense of touch within the mouth that helps define them. Unlike with other senses, it is difficult to limit the flavor of an object, then build up. Instead, items will provide some defined flavor but can vary with the amount of elements that create the saltiness, sweetness, sourness, bitterness, and umami flavor. However, the intrinsic flavor no matter how small is native to the object eaten, so the designer must either choose the food or drink to work with the tableau, or vice versa, choose the tableau to work with the food or drink.
Because of the combinations of the types of taste there are nearly countless tastes, and it is can be subjective to select a taste to match a sensory design experience. Is it possible to be objective? Maybe we can measure the extent of each of the five types, then we can measure on a numeric scale how the use of those align with the design intent. This is still relatively qualitative, but it is backing the experiential quality with a value, and this can be helpful for the designer and user. However, we must remember that the experience is subjective and will vary from person to person.
When providing a taste experience, many will provide a palate cleanser. This is good when trying to provide the shock of the new or separate the experience from all others. This is a good way to deaden the sense, then build it up, but with a force relevant to the food or drink consumed. Otherwise, like many restaurants, you can add flavors concurrently or over time to create a new and evolving sensation. Figuratively, we can use taste to add to other sense inputs to create an experience. This flavor can contrast to the other senses, but it is probably better to have the various senses align and be comparable.
Using taste for design can be considered a gimmick, if done poorly. However, the designer should incorporate taste carefully to create an experience beyond the normative visual project. We might use the other senses more often, but taste, like smell, can pull memory and understanding forth with barely any effort. In this way, it is a powerful sense.