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dish journey

With the emerging of fine-dining restaurants in the 1930s and 40s, menus reflected the dining culture that showcases each restaurant’s signature dishes and artistic visuals.

The New York Public Library’s “What’s on the Menu?” transcription project features restaurant menu data that incorporates both general bibliographic information as well as the culinary and economic information.

The “Dish” spreadsheet, in particular, features a list of dishes, how many menus they’ve appeared on, the first and last appearance, and the highest and lowest price listings.

Using the information, I wanted to bring attention to the most popular dishes (most appeared) that existed in the collection to gain a better insight as to the American dining experience and changes throughout the years.

Dish Journey embeds this data into the art form of the stream of colors to create an experience of movement and continuation while leveraging the strong emotional connection color has to taste. With color strokes appearing, disappearing, shrinking, and growing, the visualization guides the audience through the top 20 most appeared dishes in New York restaurants through the 1850s to the present.

DURATION

4 weeks, Feb 2021 - Mar 2021

TEAM

Joanne Chen​

CONTRIBUTION

Research, Data Analysis, Ideation, Data Visualization

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reflection

Observations
During the visualization process, I had assumed that food in the protein group, which appears in the main course, should be the majority in the list, but instead, vegetables (orange color) had more appearance. This meant that either the food group was more popular among people or that there was less variety with vegetable dishes so that the same dishes gets added up more easily, resulting in three types of salad in the top 20 by the end of the 2010s. 
It is also surprising to see that foods such as celery, olives, cheese were considered dishes on menus because nowadays, they are considered more of a side dish. 
And also, drinks such as coffee and alcohol have been popular since their first appearance, suggesting that restaurants were not only a place to fill up one's stomach but also a place to relax, socialize, and enjoy the cuisine.

Further Exploration
Working on the project, I had the opportunity to explore ways to represent information-as-interface and data-as-story creatively, seeing the data from different lenses. 
For ideas for further exploration, it would be interesting to have a horizontal scroll to represent the other dishes outside of the top 20, include more data with the properties of color and paint, and an animation of the colors flowing and dripping downward to bring out the experience of continuation even more.