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Experience Design

MyPlate: A more usable nutrition icon

MyPlate food icon

USDA's MyPlate offers more usable guidance for nutrition

The US Department of Agriculture announced yesterday a new icon to replace the food pyramid that has been the image for nutrition in the US for almost two decades. MyPlate provides a more usable image that matches the real-world use for this information. It provides “an uncomplicated symbol to help remind people to think about their food choices in order to lead healthier lifestyles,” states Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
“Simple is hard” is an established design principle. Often infographics have so much information to convey that the biggest challenge isn’t the imagery, but knowing what to leave out so information doesn’t get in the way of communication. Too much information and lack of clarity were problems with the food pyramid. MyPyramid, released in 2005, further complicated and abstracted an already overloaded image. The MyPlate icon not only simplifies the message about nutrition, but provides better real-world context (most people eat on round plates), focuses on the actual task of meal planning (“What do I put on my plate?”), and keeps the information clear and concise.
To promote the new symbol and see how people are using it, the USDA is sponsoring a social media campaign “encouraging consumers to take a photo of their plates and share on Twitter with the hash-tag #MyPlate.” Most responses so far seem positive and suggest the image resonates with people. And when we just don’t feel like eating healthy, a hedonistic parody is already available to “guide” us.
What do you think about the new food icon? Is it more usable? Effective? Will it help your meal planning?

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Karen Bachmann

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