In order to use the sense of taste in design, we must not only define what the design intent is and the taste to experience, but we must also decide the vehicle the taste will be provided. Is this natural food? Or, is it some kind of infusion? Is there any kind of additional processing that is useful or necessary? What are the requirements within the program? Would it be better to use the smell of the item, rather than the taste? Or, use taste rather than rely on smell? Again, what is the focus? Is taste the primary experience, or is it a secondary or less? Does this sense support the others or do the others support it?
The best way to improve the use of taste in design is to use the sense. Currently, design focuses on the visual and possibly the aural. The other senses are typically ignored, and taste is very much the case. Of course, part of the problem is the need for proximity and there is quite a bit of intimacy in the taste experience. So, the use of taste will be limited and will not be in every project. Subtlety with taste is likely not an issue, so the typical mode of working by having zero sense experience and building up is not necessary. In fact, if one doesn’t want to consume that with taste, that person does not have to do so. This makes it very easy to go all out with flavors.
It is not quite possible to only have taste, because consuming needs at least touch but likely smell in order to occur. However, if we design specifically around taste, the user must need to know where, what, and how to taste in order to make the experience. In this case, we almost definitely require smell to facilitate, because smell is able to broadcast, and the use of this sense can pull the user to the taste experience. This needs to be designed to ensure the user can orient relative to the smell to create a bearing for the experience. But, what happens when we get to the taste use? What is the intention? It would be wise to have the taste match with the context, and this allows us to ask what the taste of nothing is, because without the other senses, the user may perceive nothing as the environment. Can we rely on the low and subtle flavors because there is no additional stimulation from the other senses? Do we go the other way and use strong tastes to create pops of experience in a seeming void?
If design did not include taste, current design would not be affected in most cases, because design does not often account for taste in the development of experiential interaction. We need to incorporate taste more often, but we should not go to the extreme of always including it. So, the use of the sense is never expected.
Are there alternative uses for taste? Can meaning and information be associated with the sense? Yes, but the information conveyed may be cryptic, beyond the meaning of the flavor. Furthermore, are there items that we can taste that are not consumed as food? We have gum, which is chewed, tasted, but not ingested. Are there other things? What do we gain by eating or drinking exotic, non-toxic substances that are not meant as food, but have taste, nonetheless? This could succeed as an art installation, but what information can be given through the use of such a strategy? What could we learn from eating things like treated earth or treated wood products? Could the consumption of bamboo complement a concrete room? A wood room? Could eating kelp give us the sense of the sea? With a legend or a key, we could define a code that allows us to share a message through the ingestion of food or drink. Sharing this code might be part of the design process.
In order to use taste to create a different design for an existing structure, we can simply provide kiosks or machines with food products, but it could be an exciting challenge to introduce the use of other aromatic foods and other taste experiences at strategic points in the existing building. Is there a taste to accompany us as we ride the escalator or elevator? Are there foods that can calm us in tense situations, such as an electrical storm? What can be eaten while heading down a hallway and while waiting?