Palate

Jennifer Leong

Revitalizing the dinner party to cultivate connections, foster meaningful moments, and celebrate cultural heritage.

Overview

Palate is a dynamic social initiative revitalizing the time-honoured tradition of the Chinese dinner party. Tailored specifically towards second-generation young adults, Palate serves as a pathway for individuals to reconnect with their cultural roots through the art of hosting dinner parties.  Utilizing a pedagogical approach, the project comprises a comprehensive hosting kit and app, providing hosts with the knowledge, cultural insights, and essential resources needed to foster meaningful moments through the shared experience of communal dining.

Context

When my mother and her family immigrated to Canada from China, they left behind their familiar community to start anew. Amidst the challenges of settling in a foreign land, one tradition remained steadfast: gathering over dinner. For my family, these gatherings were more than social events—they were lifelines to build connections to their cultural roots and to their new home in Canada.  

My childhood was filled with dinner parties, brimming with warmth and camaraderie; each gathering unique, yet always fostering a sense of togetherness. These cherished memories have fuelled my passion for continuing the tradition of hosting Chinese dinner parties. Reflecting on the comfort and connection they offered my family and their circles, I aim to rekindle cultural ties for second-generation young adults like myself, amidst the busyness of our modern lifestyles.

Palate functions as a beacon for community engagement, cultivating moments of gathering, upholding cherished traditions, and generating intercultural understanding. The project also fosters the creation of inclusive and affirming spaces that highlight Asian representation in social settings, enabling hosts to share their stories and culture with guests.


Process

This project began with exploring the relationship between young adults and cooking. In today’s society, cooking is frequently viewed as a mundane task rather than an inspiring skill, particularly among young adults navigating the transition to independence. Through research encompassing academic journals, online articles, design sprints, and research activities, the initial goal was to uncover pathways to educate and empower young adults in the space of cooking.

Workshop

Motivated by my curiosity about how community involvement could empower young adults to perceive cooking as enriching, I orchestrated a participatory cooking workshop and dinner party in the fall of 2023. During this research activity, a group of young adults crafted a dinner spread and engaged in a communal dining experience. The workshop was fulfilling and impactful, demonstrating the power of bringing people together.

During our dinner party discussions, we delved into the topic of socializing and communal engagement in our current society. We exchanged views on how our fast-paced, socially isolated, and technology-driven society has led to a need for more opportunities and engagements to connect with each other on a human level. As we continued our discourse, I reflected on the heartwarming childhood dinner parties that my family used to organize. These events created spaces that underscored the visibility of my Chinese culture and were filled with laughter, joy, and a sense of community that brought us together. 

Through the workshop, I discovered the profound influence communal dining experiences can impart on young adults, as we yearned for meaningful engagements while gathering over food. This realization, coupled with a longing to reconnect with my heritage as a second-generation immigrant, guided the direction of the project in the design of a social initiative. Amid the complexities of hosting a dinner party, the intention of this project is to empower and educate individuals, equipping them with the necessary resources to effortlessly host meaningful dinner parties within their own communities.


Creative Direction

The creative direction of Palate is inspired by vibrant cultural influences and contemporary design aesthetics, with the visual system seeking to invigorate the hosting experience with excitement and passion. The dynamic visual system pairs expressive typography, contemporary colours, hand-drawn graphics, and bold photography.

By infusing the brand with lively energy, the creative direction of Palate is designed to radiate joy and celebration, embodying a human, dynamic, and collective spirit. 

The project name originated from wordplay within its name, “Palate,” derived from its multifaceted concept. Serving as a versatile pallet of materials, the hosting kit empowers hosts to facilitate dining experiences with a selection of resources.

Palate also refers to an individual’s sense of taste when experiencing different flavours of foods. This term represents the project’s intention to offer guests the opportunity to diversify their cultural horizons by immersing themselves in Chinese cuisines and traditions in the context of a dinner party.

The typographic system of Palate allows the brand to tell its story through the pairing of two typefaces. This approach creates a playful yet coherent expression of the brand’s messaging. At the forefront of the system is the primary typeface, Moret, a striking serif display with a retro touch that infuses Palate with a personable tone. Complementing this is the secondary typeface, Neue Haas Unica, a functional sans-serif chosen for its optimal legibility, creating a harmonious blend that strikes a thoughtful balance. 

The contemporary colour palette draws inspiration from symbolic Chinese colours, imparting the brand with cultural significance. Red symbolizes happiness and joy, whereas yellow is a colour associated with gatherings and respect for those participating. Adding blue as a brand colour provides a touch of modernity and completes the triadic scheme.

The brand’s mark, an asterisk, is a distinctive symbol designed to embody the essence of the project. Inspired by the tapered strokes of the primary typeface, the asterisk is an abstract icon of an overhead view of people gathering around the table. Designed on a slant to represent movement and vitality, this simple yet meaningful logo becomes a graphical element of the brand’s identity, serving as a visual representation of Palate’s mission to bring people together.

Organic lines and an expressive style characterize the approachable hand-drawn illustrations that breathe life into the identity. These whimsical depictions of ingredients not only add charm but also establish a visual style that conveys an inviting atmosphere tailored for young adults. Incorporating these illustrations also infuses the branding with a human touch, reflecting the authentic cooking experiences that inspired the project’s inception.

The photography style is defined by its crispness and contemporary flair, utilizing direct flash to create striking, on-trend visuals. Vibrant colours and sharp contrasts are prominent features of the styled photographs, adding dynamism to the imagery. 


Final Outcomes

Following an extensive process of methodical research, iterative design, and community-driven engagement, the final culmination of Palate represents a journey centered around revitalizing the essence of the Chinese dinner party.

Comprising a meticulously crafted hosting kit and app, each project component is designed to serve a dual objective: educating and empowering individuals to create meaningful, communal dining experiences.

The Crate

The crate is the foundation of the hosting kit, offering both style and functionality in its design. The kit is designed to accommodate young adults, particularly those who are establishing their first homes away from family, who might lack the essential equipment, such as table settings and glassware, necessary for hosting gatherings with friends, family, and community members.

The sleeve design harmonizes practicality with graphic elements, while other components are thoughtfully packaged and readily accessible. Beyond mere transport, the kit offers an organized space to house all the materials and collateral ordered for hosting.

Crate Materials

Included within the crate are a print collateral package and an array of curated hosting materials, empowering individuals to effortlessly host dinner parties. Through the app, hosts can conveniently order or rent various resources based on what they require to execute their gatherings, including table settings, decor, and activities. Each hosting item is adorned with a custom illustrated label, assisting in the setup and organization process. Presented here is a variation of Palate’s starter kit, offering a glimpse into the options available.

Founder’s Note

At its core, Palate embodies a passion project rooted in my personal journey and upbringing, driven by a desire to foster the lively atmosphere of communal dining experiences in today’s divided landscape.

The first piece of print collateral, the founder’s message, captures the story behind Palate, delving into my cultural background and the intent behind its creation. Complemented by a series of childhood family dinner party photographs, the note aims to inspire others to create their own gatherings and memories around the table. 

The Guide

With a focus on education, the guide functions as an introductory resource, offering essential insights into the background of hosting Chinese dinner parties. The booklet is paired with the app to cover topics such as how to set the table, the art of pouring tea, activity ideas, and the symbolic significance of the dinner menu selected by the host. The content is presented across spreads with dynamic layouts, photographs, and illustrations designed to be approachable and engaging.

Menu

Menus play a key role in dinner parties, guiding guests through the culinary journey while reflecting the event’s atmosphere. I designed menus featuring a sample selection of curated dishes, offering guests details of the dinner and the overall flow of the meal.

Place Cards

The final element of the hosting kit is a set of place cards, customized through the app to designate seating arrangements for guests. These cards enhance the table setting with a simple design, adding a personal touch to elevate the experience. 

The App

The Palate app serves to complement the hosting kit, empowering hosts with a comprehensive resource. From initial planning to event execution, the app is a versatile tool, providing guidance through every stage. Hosts can customize, order, and replenish their kits, access step-by-step recipes to build cooking literacy, and create synchronized shopping lists. During the event, the app remains invaluable with its user-friendly interface and robust features, as guests have the opportunity to exchange photos and discover activities.


Acknowledgements

I would like to extend my appreciation to my instructors for their support, guidance, and mentorship. Their dedication has been instrumental in shaping my growth and development as a student. I am also grateful to my peers for their camaraderie and for making this journey truly fulfilling. In addition, thank you to my family for your unwavering encouragement, patience, and understanding as I worked on this project.

I am grateful to live, work, and practice on the the unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.

Jennifer Leong

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Hi there! I’m Jennifer, a graphic designer with a creative practice centered on art direction, editorial design, and branding. With a love for visual storytelling, I strive to use my skills to create projects that inspire, educate, and foster meaningful connections.

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