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Innovation Design Engineering (MA/MSc)

Tahira Resalat

Tahira combines a passion for storytelling with human behaviour to inform effective product design. As a woman of colour, she has actively sought out research and design projects which advocate for diversity, inclusivity and do their part in challenging inequality. Following her BEng in Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Sheffield, she worked as an Upstream User Researcher at Dyson.

Tahira is also the founder of Teecaake, an illustration company which produces unique designs inspired by strong figures representing values of diversity, inclusivity, confidence and colour.

Having graduated from the MA/MSc Innovation Design Engineering at the Royal College of Art and Imperial College London, Tahira will continue as a UI/UX designer where she will work at the intersection of technical research, data analytics, and user-centric design.

As engineers and designers, we are often taught to look outwards and find creative ways to solve problems. However, introspection has been my greatest lesson in the last two years of the Innovation Design Engineering programme. Foodible is the future of personalised and culturally sensitive wellbeing, and was inspired by my own experience with an eating disorder. Having had firsthand experience as well as growing to understand the gaps in the healthcare industry in addressing this issue, I questioned how design could help, culturally and sensitively, in eating disorder prevention. Working on Foodible has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my life. I collaborated with many notable mental health charities and had the pleasure of working closely with members of the South Asian community in the UK and worldwide to inform my outcome.

Foodible is a culturally sensitive wellbeing platform, designed to provide help across the spectrum of food anxiety behaviours. Using early intervention, its purpose is to demedicalise eating disorders and increase awareness, allowing free conversations to take place to support those suffering, especially within marginalised communities. The app has 5 sections, each addressing a different facet of food anxiety, providing users autonomy, validation, and a widened sense of community. The South Asian immigrant community is highly at risk of developing eating disorders in the UK. The NHS has few culturally sensitive support systems which address the socio-cultural issues pertaining to them. This project therefore aims to bridge this gap.

Eating disorders are medically diagnosed mental illnesses where a person’s unhealthy preoccupation with their body and the food they consume becomes detrimental to their physical and mental health. The NHS is incredibly under-resourced in eating disorder treatment.
Food anxiety is one of the most important early warning signs of an eating disorder.
An estimated 1.25 million people in the UK are currently diagnosed with EDs, with up to 3 times as many people predicted to be undiagnosed. Due to wait-times of as long as 3 and a half years, many of these people are being turned away until their conditions worsen.
Recent research shows that the BAME community in the UK, and more specifically South Asians, are at the highest risk of developing an ED. Some theories suggest that complications of intergenerational trauma are to blame. I myself fit into the bottom category here, having had an eating disorder, which is where my motivation for this project came from.
Young women in the South Asian community are particularly affected by the body image expectations of western beauty standards, as well as cultural pressures. Current ED treatment does not cater to cultural sensitivities on any level.
Early intervention has been confirmed unanimously by literature as the number one solution to preventing EDs, since it is proactive, not reactive. This way, the problem can be prevented early on at the food anxiety stage, before it becomes dangerous.
Straight into the app, it was crucial that the onboarding screens set the tone for the platform, establishing it as an inclusive, diverse and inviting platform. The language was very carefully edited to provide comfort.
The app has 5 main sections, each designed to address a certain aspect of food anxiety.

The Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851: Industrial Design Studentship