Designing a well-balanced breakfast concoction

A case study for the Breakfix

Prologue:

This case study is not about a digital product, but rather an analog creation. Although that is the case, I will demonstrate how the creation of the Breakfix also led me to design a system as well.

What is the Breakfix?:

While working at FreshBooks as a front-end developer, I developed the Breakfix, my culinary creation that integrated my morning coffee and breakfast cereal into a single bowl. The advantage of using a single bowl was having one hand free when I traveled from the office kitchen to my desk. Moreover, the Breakfix was a simple and easily transportable solution.

Left: A demonstration of a person holding a bowl of cereal and a coffee mug. Traveling to my desk was a balancing act, especially when the coffee was filled to the brim of the mug Right: The Breakfix allowed for one free hand, which could be used to give out morning high fives or other pleasantries.

What’s in the Breakfix?:

Beyond the reasoning above, the Breakfix was simple to assemble, and required little to no financing from my own pocket. As one would expect from a tech company focused on company culture, working at FreshBooks came with a lot of perks, which included a fully stocked kitchen that respected the dietary preferences of the company’s many employees.

Breakfast Cereal:

Breakfast cereal was central to the Breakfix. The selection of cereal, or combination of cereals, dictated the overall taste of the meal.

Examples of breakfast cereals that can be used in the Breakfix.

Although the possibilities are endless regarding which cereal(s) to choose, I avoided any cereals that would put me into a sugar-induced coma. Also, fruit-flavored cereals like Froot Loops were completely excluded, since I found it hard to imagine it tasting very good together.

Espresso:

The second ingredient in the Breakfix was espresso, which ultimately replaced the cup of coffee I had in the morning.

The espresso I used in the Breakfix was sourced from one of the many automated coffee machines in the office. In regards to what shot should be pulled, I defaulted to a single ristretto (short) shot due to its higher flavor concentration, as opposed to pulling a lungo (long) shot. Even though it appears as more espresso is being poured, that’s not the case. Instead, more water is being pulled along with the espresso; hence, creating the illusion of more espresso being poured.

Left to Right: Example of a ristretto (short) shot, in comparison to a lungo (long) shot

Milk:

Milk was also an essential ingredient in the Breakfix. It’s worth noting that depending on the type of milk being used (i.e. almond and oat milk) traces of its base flavor would become apparent in the Breakfix.

Top Row: Examples of dairy-based milk products Bottom Row: Examples of plant-based milk products.

Assembly of the Breakfix, Version One:

The first step was to pour cereal into an empty (and clean) bowl. After pouring the cereal into the bowl, I chose from these two options:

Latte Style:

A shot of espresso was poured on top of the cereal, followed by the milk.

1. Breakfast cereal(s) was poured into the bowl 2. A single shot of espresso was pulled on top of the breakfast cereal 3. Lastly, milk was then poured into the bowl on top of the breakfast cereal(s) and espresso

Latte Macchiato Style:

Similar to the style above with the exception that the milk was poured onto the cereal before pulling the espresso shot.

1. Breakfast cereal(s) was poured into the bowl 2. Milk was then poured into the bowl on top of the breakfast cereal(s) 3. Finally, a single shot of espresso was pulled on top of both the breakfast cereal(s) and milk

A New Iteration of the Breakfix:

The above version of the Breakfix was marvelous in delivering my caffeine and breakfast cereal in a single bowl. However, when it came to sustaining me until lunch I sometimes found myself needing a small snack to get me through the morning. Instead of adding more of the same ingredients into the bowl, I opted to add an entirely new ingredient into the Breakfix.

Introducing Peanut Butter Into the Mix:

When looking at possible ingredients to add into the Breakfix, peanut butter instantly came to mind. The salty flavor from the peanut butter complemented the other ingredients in the bowl. It’s also important to note that peanut butter is a great source of protein, and up until that moment protein was completely lacking in the Breakfix.

Regarding which peanut butter to use (smooth or crunchy), it was entirely based on what was in the kitchen that morning. Also, with regards to organic and artisan peanut butter, although they may be the healthier option, I discovered that regular peanut butter melted down easier due to the heat being emitted from the espresso.

Although I defaulted to using peanut butter I considered using other spreads. An option worth noting, especially for any peanut allergy sufferers.

Examples of the many spreads that could be used in the Breakfix

Re-Engineering the Breakfix:

The addition of peanut butter meant the Breakfix needed to be re-engineered from the ground up.

First things first, how could I apply the peanut butter in the bowl with all the ingredients? Inspired by the affogato, I placed a spoonful of peanut butter in the middle of an empty (and ideally clean) bowl. I then pulled a single shot of espresso on top of the peanut butter dollop. The heat emitted from the espresso melted a portion of the peanut butter, which I then mixed together to form a paste-like substance.

Immediately after, I poured my cereal into the bowl and mixed it with the newly formed paste. After the paste had adhered to the cereal I then poured the milk on top.

1. A spoonful of peanut butter spread was placed in an empty bowl 2. A single shot of espresso was pulled on top of the spread 3. The espresso and spread were mixed until its consistency resembled a paste 4. Breakfast cereal(s) were poured into the bowl 5. The breakfast cereal(s) was mixed with paste 6. Last but not least, the milk was poured on top of the combined breakfast cereal(s) and the paste mixture

A System Designed for the Breakfix:

During the making of the Breakfix I later realized that I had also designed a system with its own patterns and processes as well. I came to that realization based on these following attributes:

Efficiency:

As noted, a system would ensure that efficiency would be upheld throughout the lifespan of a product: from its creation to its delivery.

The Breakfix encapsulated my coffee and cereal experience in a single bowl. Aside from the initial benefit of having a free hand, after its use I only had to wash a single bowl since the coffee mug was no longer part of my morning ritual.

With regards to assembling the Breakfix there were little to no surprises that occurred, as long as I adhered to the guides/standards I laid down. As a result, I spent little to no time in the office kitchen trying to figure out what to eat; thus, allowing me to kick-start the day’s task quickly and with complete ease.

Consistency:

A characteristic that I had always associated with any successful system was that its ensured consistency. By agreeing on a set of patterns as well as processes the end result would remain constant for an experience/output no matter how many times it was reproduced.

The Breakfix system was designed with a set of defined ingredients, as well as standard assembly procedures. By following both guidelines, I was ensured that I would successfully be able to recreate the Breakfix every morning that was both tasty, and that would also provide sustenance.

Modularity:

When a system incorporates modular components that are independent from one another they could be augmented, reapplied, altered, even excluded, ultimately affecting the final output/experience of a product.

All ingredients featured in the Breakfix cereal, spread, milk and espresso — could be considered as individual components. By considering them as individual components I had the ability to include as much, as little, or even completely exclude each ingredient in the bowl. Plus, since the Breakfix was conceived with modularity in mind, there was the possibility of including a new set of ingredients into the mix as well.

Each ingredient in the Breakfix were modular components that could be added, altered, reapplied, multiplied, and could even be removed during the assembly process

Scalability:

Although a system ensured that guidelines and standards needed to be upheld but room for scalability was still needed, especially when it came to further developing and/or evolving a product.

I had demonstrated that by including peanut butter or any spread into the Breakfix the assembly process was re-engineered in order to keep my sustenance in check throughout the morning.

Aside from exploring different cereals, espresso beans, milks and spreads, all the while adhering to the noted guidelines, the discovery of adding nuts and fruits into the Breakfix created a whole new set of variations and possibilities that weren’t originally thought.

Left to Right: apple, banana, blueberry, cherry, strawberry were just a few of the fruits that could be incorporated into the Breakfix after having stumbled upon that discovery

Conclusion:

The Breakfix was a part of my morning ritual. I never thought to write about it, let alone design a whole new system.

With regards to the traits associated with a prospective system its attributes are universal, regardless whether the product/service/experience is digital or analog based.

As for the future of the Breakfix, I’ll be interested to learn about your experience if you should choose to make one yourself. Who knows, you may even stumble upon a new morning ritual.

Social introvert from Canada, currently living in England. Interaction designer at Government Digital Service.

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