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Communal Eating:
Sakura Tray

December 13' 2021
Project Statement
The Sakura Tray is designed for the serving of side dishes in the hotpot environment for group and individual dining. Its design focuses on a tray that can unfold to allow diners equal access to all side dishes, fold back up to serve as an ornament in any setting, provide a convenient and hygienic method of adding and removing plates, and offer a storage solution beyond the dining environment.
User Group
Organizing side dishes and add-ons in a way that will allow equal access to everyone
Form finding through abstraction
Sketch Modelling
A series of models were quickly created and then brought to class for user testing and feedback. The models on the left did not receive as much good feedback because it obstructs the view of the people sitting across the dining table. The model on the right worked the best as it was easily collapsible, transportable, and did not obstruct the view of the people eating. 
Sketching & Ideation
After choosing the cubed box form, more sketches were done to focus on it's form, function, collabsibility, portability, size, and transportability. 

The sketches ranged from flat, bento style designs to fully collapsible trays. Some were in the form of stairs that were reminiscent of sushi plates in some Japanese restaurants.
Material Research
The following sketches focused on the shape of ends of the trays. Focusing on how its the form will look like when fully enclosed. The focus was on the treatment of the edge, and its final enclosed shape. 
Material Research & Reference
Melamine Resin /
Stainless Steel
Research on various materials was done to understand their respective manufacturing processes, durability, and how different surfacings and finishings affect food. 

Based on research and inspiration from the interiors of Asian-style restaurants, wood was chosen because it is a ubiquitous material used in many Asian restaurants and is typically used for tables, chairs, and chopsticks.
Lower Fidelity + Testing Models
Moving forward with the collapsible form, lower fidelity and testing models were created out of bristol paper (left) and chipboard (right) as a more detailed version of my initial sketch model to get some user testing done. Testing was done in two rounds, first with the paper models and second with the bristol board model, which was built based on the feedback of the first test. One of the significant negatives they pointed out was the sharp, pointy edges of the trays when unfolded. My parents, who are Asian, pointed out that 4 is an unlucky number, referring to the paper forms, and suggested that I increase the number of trays. 

As seen on the bristol board model, adding another tray allowed the box to take an almost flower-like shape and opened up the possibility of creating different flower-like forms by changing the edge of the tray. More questions were brought up in class about materiality, closing mechanisms, modularity, color, and scale, all of which I considered as I moved forward with my design. 
Visual Design Language
Color Studies
Bending Ply
Trupan MDF
White Oak
Chip Wood
Baltic Birch
Canadian Ply
Surfacing Studies
Craft Plywood
High/Medium Density Overlay 
Fiberglass Overlay
Decorative Overlay
Water-repellent coat
Scale Testing
I dove deeper into the visual design language of woods and different ways I could finish my material to create a more visually aesthetic piece. Settling with craft plywood and having done some extensive discussions with my studio and woodworking instructor, it was decided that a shellac coat would be applied to craft plywood to give a nice water-repellent and glossy coat. 
Pre-process Sketching
Once the material, finishing methods, and user feedbacks were consolidated, I proceeded with my preparation for the creation of my design, focusing on extremely detailed measurements to get my design to stack onto each other the way I wanted to. Furthermore, to address the question about the sharp edge, I decided to soften the edge of the tray so that it creates an almost sakura-shaped flower when enclosed, hence giving inspiration to the name of the design: sakura-tray.   
Building Process
The process of creation was extremely tedious; every face of the tray had to be measured, cut, sanded, and coated so that they would all be perfectly aligned. Many mistakes were made and many re-dos were done but after a long process of cutting, sanding, and gluing, I quickly found a method that worked and allowed for the leeway of slight measurement variants when dealing with human errors. 
Final Product
Once each individual piece was wood-glued and joined together with canvas, multiple layers of shellac were applied to give the woods its water-repellent and medium glossy coat. The sakura-tray’s usage can go beyond its intended design for serving foods, it can be used as a display piece or as a container for whichever goods you wish to keep. This design aims to streamline the inconveniences of hotpot so that users can focus on the focal point of the hotpot setting, which is to consume the contents of the hotpot itself. 
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