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The form of taste

Charles Spence


A growing body of experimental research now demonstrates that neurologically-normal individuals associate different taste qualities with design features such as curvature, symmetry, orientation, texture, and spatial location. In fact, the form of everything from the food itself through to the curvature of the plateware on which it happens to be served, and from glassware to typeface, not to mention the shapes of/on food product packaging have all been shown to influence people’s taste expectations, and, on occasion, also their taste/food experiences. At the same time, however, curvature in small and larger-scale architectural forms (such as furniture, and the internal layout of the servicescape) is also associated with preference and approach motivation and may thus potentially be used to bias, or nudge, the food behaviour (and choices) of consumers. Although the origins of shape-taste and other form-taste crossmodal correspondences have yet to be fully elucidated, that has not prevented a growing number of designers (including typeface designers, plateware manufacturers/potters), marketers, advertisers, and chefs, from starting to incorporate the emerging insights concerning these various, and seemingly ubiquitous, affinities between form and taste as a source of inspiration for their creative practice.

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