The Gathering Plate

The Gathering Plate


Research, UX, and visual design exploring a community-based food experience in a hospital as part of my University Honors Thesis.

User Research

3D Design

Systems Design

Brand Design

Independent Work

University Honors Program Distinction

When: January - May 2019 | Where: Northeastern University, Boston, MA


This project was my Honors Interdisciplinary Thesis during my final semester at Northeastern. It combines my passion for healthcare with my love of food, in an exploration of how cooking and community could positively impact the experience of a prolonged hospital stay. I worked on this project independently with the support of my advisors: professors Mark Sivak and Lorna Hayward.


The Problem

A long term hospital stay can have negative physical, social, and mental side effects due to lack of normalcy, especially for children.

The Solution

Create a comfortable space for patients and families that helps them emotionally escape the limitations of hospital-life.


I began by taking stock of the existing research around the connection between food and health in a hospital setting.

Academic Research

  • Patient experience is directly tied to health outcomes and recovery
  • Particularly for children, the hospital experience can be so traumatizing that it damages the well-being of the patient
  • Frequent family meals lead to better lifelong outcomes for children


  • Cyrille Couet, of Colette Wine Bistro provided information about the process of opening a restaurant
  • Chef Christine Ha, "The Blind Cook," spoke with me about accessibility in restaurants
  • Chef Christina Tosi helped me understand the intersection of fun and youthfulness with fine dining

Brainstorming & Stakeholder Map

I created a stakeholder map to understand the various needs and motivations in the system and completed exercises to generate and group my ideas, ultimately landing on the concept of a community-oriented restaurant in the hospital.

Venn Diagram overlapping cricles showing motivations of stakeholders including kitchen staff, guest, the patient and family, the pharmacy, and the hospital care-team.

The stakeholder map revealed that there are numerous people in the patient's orbit and that many are "hidden" from the patient.

Concept Exploration & Layout

I developed a concept with two main facets:

An accessible restaurant that accommodates different health situations, preferences, and cultures

An interactive component that allows patients to engage with food or food systems in a fun, safe, and inspiring way.

I considered different family situations:

  • Patients are with their family and want to spend time with them
  • Patient might not have family present but still want to engage
  • Patients might want to spend time alone

I also put an extremely strong focus on accessibility

  • Physical access
  • Allergies
  • Method of consumption
  • Cultural considerations
M​any of these patients are used to feeling uncomfortable as they ask for changes to be made, so I prioritized creating a space where accommodation is the norm.

Layout of the restaurant rendered in 2D showing concentric circles of tables and chairs surrounding a central kitchen.

The entire experience is centered around an interactive kitchen, creating an entertainment opportunity

3D Renderings & VR

Layout of the restaurant rendered in 3D modeling software.

The space was mocked up in Google SketchUp and turned into a VR walkthrough using Unity.

Once it was decided that the best experience for patrons of The Gathering Plate would be to center the experience around the kitchen, the architecture began to come together.

With the kitchen at the middle of the room, the seating rises in layers around it, allowing everyone to view the kitchen, no matter where they are sitting.

Brand Exploration

Despite my focus being more in UX and strategy, I wanted to provide a brand voice for the concept.

Initial logo design in black and white showing floral elements around the words 'the gathering plate'
Initial logo design in color showing floral elements around the words 'the gathering plate'
Initial logo design in color showing floral elements around the words 'the gathering plate' on top of a circular grey plate

My intention for the brand was for it to strike a balance between adult vs. child and playful vs. sophisticated. I wanted the brand to reflect the values of locally sourced ingredients and sustainablility, while still being accessible to children, which is why I added the color in a way that reflects somewhat of a "coloring book" feel.

Website & Final Paper

The culmination of this work was distilled into a website and a paper summarizing my work. While a project of this magnitude certainly needs more than 3 months to develop, this was a great first exploration into the concept. I'm still extremely interested in the interplay of health, hospital experience, and food, and I've continued to pursue these questions in my work at Boston Children's Hospital.


This project, though entirely conceptual, showed me that there are huge opportunities in combining healthcare and food. It inspired me to think outside the box and imagine a patient experience that could exist in the future. I also got to explore more about food systems and, more specifically, the ins and outs of restaurant design.


Adobe XD • Adobe Illustrator • Google SketchUp • Unity