by Ioana Urma, illustrator, architect, artist
- This poster is part of a series featured in Top Chef Masters “Blinded Me With Science” Episode. (Shots with posters: Video 1, Video 2, Video 3, Video 4, Photos 15-26). Refer to the post Quick & Easy (Food) Science Posters! to read about the governing process and all the posters involved.
- I was in charge of the whole design (like being my own client), with a team of scientists for research and advice, though I also did some research and learned everything they threw at me. On this poster, the scientist mentors were Kevin Miklaz, Julia Stewart, Carolyn Tepolt, and Augustine Urbas (the Emulsion scientist on the show). The schedule only allowed me a few hours to understand the concepts at molecular levels.
- This is just a selection of the studies produced, by far not all of them.
- Unless noted otherwise, all quotes are my own, from the discussion with the scientists.
- Related article by show scientist, Augustine Urbas.
Though I had heard of the term emulsion relating to lotions and photography, I had never heard of it regarding cooking, which may be shocking to the average American, but it probably has to do with EScL (English as a Second cooking Language); I also couldn’t imagine a relationship between food, lotion and photos.
After the scientists explained it, using terms such as “suspended particles,” “stable/unstable structure,” “surface energy,” “polarity,” and “micelles,” it became quickly clear that the concept was neither complex nor complicated. It could best be demonstrated through a this vs that (emulsion vs non-emulsion) comparison, using mixtures of a hydrophilic (water-”loving”/water soluble) liquid and hydrophobic (water-”fearing”/water insoluble) liquid.
This first sketch (above) shows all the elements agreed to go on the poster (which stayed to the end): the two mixture comparison, the zooms into molecular scale, and diagrams of hydrophilic and hydrophobic molecules.
After the content was decided, I took time to develop it more clearly as a system of parts (below). Being interested in languages and word origins, I had some fun with the terms and the way they were visually highlighted/broken up, inventing my own for the micelle: bi-polar!
Next came the question of what real world examples to use.“Would you say all nonpolar molecules are hydrophobic… if so, it seems they’re not just limited to oils. Maybe it’s ok for the cooking discussion to limit it to oils?” And what to put in the “what here” areas. “Maybe in the ‘what here’ I can talk about other ways of binding aside from the micelle?”
Augustine suggested to put examples of stable mixes in the “what here” area. “I had forgotten that butter has water… it’s not just pure fat… So, most foods are probably always going to be a water-oil combination held together by one or more emulsifiers, right?”
Besides this, other changes observed on the poster above are:
- The “wine” colored water (balsamic vinegar) was changed to whitish-blue, for clarity that it is some water based liquid. I also moved it to the front column since it is a more common liquid than oil.
- The “bi-polar” micelle got a better abstract name – amphiphile (“Should we call them micells or emulsifiers… is there a difference? Or maybe amphiphatic (both suffering ) molecules?”)
- I gave the sketchy look a try (see the lines on the glasses and the water molecule), but on realizing it would require too much time to resolve throughout all the posters I eliminated this direction.
Then (below), delving deeper into color sweetness overload (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory style), the poster marked a clean turning point in the way the micelle/molecular level emulsified mixes were drawn: more geometric, to better fit the poster design.
Many more color combinations later (below), the posters consisted of several big and small changes:
- Vinaigrette and mayonnaise stuck as examples. They are easy to visualize and familiar to people.
- I simplified the color backgrounds and related them to the food: pink for the vinaigrette, yellow-tone orange for the mayonnaise (couldn’t be white or any light color). Notice that the water and oil backgrounds were represented in a color-coded way from the beginning).
- I drew all the food elements more nicely: the glasses became oil and vinegar decanters, to be more realistic and easier to recognize, the vinaigrette and mayonnaise and their zoom-ins were greatly improved.
- My granular emulsifier (lecithin) example was removed, since no one could figure out what it was.
- We agreed on how to represent the oil molecule: diagrammatically/generically, since they either vary (depending on type, might not be perfectly non-polar) or they would be too long to fit.“Which cooking oil molecule would you think best to represent? Ethane is not really an ingredient [for cooking]… I looked at olive oil but it seems to have some polar ends and is quite long (might not fit).” The important aspect of the oil molecule is its overall structure and lack of polarity, since the length could vary (more “middle units” could be added or subtracted).
- I started to add a quick one or two line definition of the topic next to the title, for reference and clarity, which was kept throughout the rest of the posters.
After some more reworking, I arrived at a final design (below):
- Augustine reworded the wording several times over until it was just right.
- The 007 reference (shaken or stirred) was dropped to avoid copyright issues.
- The poster was stamped “process,” since it is a product resulting from a process (mixing), not the property of a material.
- The colors finally found peace, or some elegance.
(A parallel post exists.)