Multisensory Experiences: A Primer

From the primer: “We present a primer on multisensory experiences, the different components of this concept, as well as a reflection of its implications for individuals and society. We define multisensory experiences, illustrate how to understand them, elaborate on the role of technology in such experiences, and present the three laws of multisensory experiences, which can guide discussion on their implications. Further, we introduce the case of multisensory experiences in the context of eating and human-food interaction to illustrate how its components operationalize. We expect that this article provides a first point of contact for those interested in multisensory experiences, as well as multisensory experiences in the context of human-food interaction.” (Carlos Velasco and Marianna Obrist, 2021)

More articles on Perspectives on Multisensory Human-Food Interaction.

Concepts for a dynamic, multi-sensorial eating experience


Just when Catalonian chef Ferran Adrià announced that his world famous restaurant El Bulli will be closed permanently, another Spanish chef takes center stage.

During the 8th international gastronomy summit, MadridFusión, world renowned Michelin star chef Juan Mari Arzak of the famous Arzak restaurant in Spain and Philips Design presented a series of concepts intended not only to delight palates, but also evoke emotion and stimulate the senses.

The sensual enjoyment of flavors, the appreciation of harmonies and the recognition of nuances all combine to create the unique pleasure of the dining table. In its latest Design ProbeMulti-sensorial Gastronomy – Philips Design has explored how the integration of light, conductive printing, selective fragrance diffusion, micro-vibration and a host of other integrations of sensory stimuli could affect the eating experience in subtle ways.

Lunar Eclipse (bowl), Fama (long plate) and Tapa de Luz (serving plate) are made from bone china and familiar objects from our everyday lives. However when liquid is poured into the bowl or food is placed on the plates, they begin to shine. A glowing light subtly appears from the bottom of the bowl and plates creating a new sensory dining experience as the senses are stimulated and altered. The series uses bone china and involves the integration of lighting, conductive printing, selective fragrance discharge, micro-vibration, electro stimulus and a host of other sensory stimuli that affect the food and the diner in subtle ways.

Also read this short interview with Juan Mari Arzak on the essential role of design, creativity and innovation in gastronomic cuisine.

Storytellers from Taste3


Great stories are sources of inspiration. That’s one of the reasons we love the 18-minute presentations from the annual TED conference so much. Amazing people telling the most compelling stories.

In 2006, 2007 and 2008, a special set of these great stories was told. Robert Mondavi Winery organized the TASTE3 conference and invited storytellers from the culinary world. It’s the passion behind these stories which makes them so inspiring.

A few examples:

  • Chef and scholar Dan Barber relentlessly pursues the stories and reasons behind the foods we grow and eat.
  • Master breadmaker Peter Reinhart channels the science of baking into deep, spiritual lessons and dispels stale myths about the nature (and flavor) of good, wholesome bread.
  • Journalist and author Benjamin Wallace tells the true story of the world’s most expensive bottle of wine.
  • Owner and founder of Vosges Haut-Chocolat Katrina Markoff reveals the four steps that leads her to inspired, delicious and creative new chocolate collections.
  • Moto Restaurant’s Pastry Chef Ben Roche demonstrates the unique dining experience at Moto with his version of Carrot Cake, Nachos and Wine and Food Pairing.
  • Chef Jeffery Henderson tells his story from the streets to the stoves and how cooking changed his life.

According to the Taste3 blog, the next version of the conference will be in 2010. Deo volente.

Video: The Elements of Taste


This video includes Chef Grant Achatz talking about his ultimate aim: to use food as a kind of artistic medium to give individual diners an emotional experience.

“If you can get past the soy sauce on chocolate, you will enjoy it and feel a certain way. It’s a journey where your heart beats a little faster.”

A Meal in the Live (elBulli)

In a two hours lecture on creativity at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences in 2008, world class chef Ferran Adrià (of elBulli fame) showed a short but beautifull video. In this video, the gastronomic experience of a couple is shown through their facial expressions.

Accompanied by the soundtrack ‘A Day in the Live’ (Lennon and McCartney 1967), we see how the restaurant crew serving the food to the couple, enjoying it to the max.

As Ferran said: “It’s not the food, it’s the experience.”

See also a similar interview with Ferran Adrià at Google, including reviewing the elBulli site.

Jesse James Garrett on UX and Cooking


In his closing keynote at the 10th ASIS&T Information Architecture Summit (Memphis TN – March 18-22, 2009), Jesse James Garrett (president of Adaptive Path) stated the following: “(…) we’re all user experience designers (…) We can engage people’s senses. We can stimulate them through visuals, through sound, through touch and smell and taste. This is the domain of the traditional creative arts: painting, music, fashion, cooking.”

Told you so!

Taste Visualization for Pixar’s Ratatouille


In the Fall of 2006, Michel Gagné was contacted by Brad Bird to create a series of animated vignettes for his movie Ratatouille. The concept was to design and animate abstract representations of what the character was tasting. After discussing ideas and concepts with Brad Bird, he created a series of images to illustrate potential ideas of how the taste could be visualized in an abstract way. These were reviewed by Brad and shown to the music composer as inspiration.

A great example of how to make something abstract like taste very concrete.

Food Concepts in ‘Eat Love’ by Marije Vogelzang


“The atmosphere, the people involved, the stories behind the ingredients, the taste and texture, sound, smell and colour of food and the way it is prepared and served. She explores the intimacy of design that actually goes inside your body and follows the journey of food from seed all the way to poop. Thinking about all this and working and experimenting in her studio and restaurant and by creating eating experiences for her clients she has developed her own unique way of looking at eating from a psychological, cultural and design point of view.” says Dutch eating-designer Marije Vogelzang in her newly published book ‘Eat Love‘.

Marije considers cooking something for professionals.