What designers can learn from cooking?

If I did not fall in love with design this lifetime I would have been a chef. Only because I met design first, I am staying married to that profession. Nevertheless I went ahead and started a restaurant along with my high end le cordon bleu co-founder to take care of my food entrepreneurship itches in 2016. In the past few years I have noticed cooking is exactly like designing. Cooking skills and designer skills are very similar.

My secret tip: if you want to master one, learn the other. I bet good designers will make a good chef and vice versa.

Here are my observations by playing in both fields with the same skillset:

  • Both cooking and designing are composite skills. There are many dimensions to the craft that comes together to produce one final artefact. A chef should know the 3ft details and 300000ft details. They should know to craft, strategize and present. So does a designer.
  • There are cooks and chefs in the cooking world and we have a similar category in the design world too.
  • Chefs and designers are alchemists. They mix and match to create magic.
  • Experience is our common ground for chefs and designers. It is universal.
  • Both fields sound very artistic and subjective on a shallow level but both fields are very objective and scientific at a deep level. One who pays attention sees both the subjective and objective side.
  • Everyone gets to share the subjective judgements with the chef and a designer.  A good chef and a designer receive the judgements with grace.
  • Both fields are very systemic and systematic in approach. A good chef knows deeply about ingredients, ratios, proportions, combinations, principles and more. A good designer knows deeply about atomicity, elements, components, basic principles and more.
  • Efficiency and effectiveness of a chef stems from crafting the recipes, setting the systems, making the process visible etc. Similarly a designer's efficiency comes from setting the files, using the right tools etc.
  • A rookie cook is highly excited about the outcomes and outputs. The same happens with the rookie designer. An experienced chef never bothers about the final outcome and focuses entirely on the process and the details. Similarly an exprienced designer never bothers about artefacts and templates but is focused entirely on the design process.
  • An experienced chef is obsessed with the nuances and subtelities and so is an experienced designer.
  • An experienced chef has a monomanical focus on quality of ingredients, quality of tools, quality of processes and quality of experiences. They are particular about when to add salt, how long to kneed the dough, how many layers to fold etc. They course correct on the go. They can smell a dish and can spot what is missing and what could be added on the go. They know how to problem solve. They know how to remove excess salt or make something thicker etc. The same happens with an experienced designer.
  • Experienced designers and chefs are obsessed about documenting their processes. They both reflect deeply.
  • Experienced chefs know how to make the rules and break the rules. They are not so rigid about rules. They bring in flexibility using the why. Same happens with an experienced designer.
  • A chef looks at every cooking session as an experiment and learns from it. They treat every session as a customer research. They never take it lightly. They always look for customer feedback, reactions and learn from failures. A good designer has the same growth mindset.
  • A chef makes a cookbook for cooks and others to replicate and try it out. An experienced designer makes a playbook and design systems for others to replicate and try it out.

A stark findings which made me appreciate our professions more is both chefs and designers guard their freedom like their life is dependent on it. They sound like control freaks but they are freedom freaks. They don't like someone messing with their systems and toolset because it will disturb their freedom.

🥂 to our composite professions

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