Thali Model: Relooking at an age old visualization

Vinayak Jayasree
3 min readJan 15, 2022

Thali model is a visual tool that helps pregnant mothers and caregivers with varying literacy rates from different parts of Karnataka to visualize a healthy meal.

A Post neonatal care ward at Davanagere District Hospital, Karnataka
A Post neonatal care ward at Davanagere District Hospital, Karnataka

As we know, consuming a nutritious healthy meal is very important for a pregnant mother and her baby’s health. But unfortunately, in most Indian hospitals, diet advisories are showcased in the form of complex, text-heavy food pyramids or confusing nutrition percentage charts.

Visual examples of Hospital Diet charts that seem complex and filled with too much information
Some examples of Hospital Diet chart that are currently followed

The food items recommended in these nutrition charts are focused on general urban populations. Hence, it is challenging for our rural audience from various literacy rates to conceive this critical information.

To resolve these circumstances, my colleague Neelima Devadas (Senior Health Design Researcher) and I (Creative Lead) from Noora Health decided to design a simple visual tool to help pregnant mothers and caregivers visualize a healthy meal.

Notes and rough sketches from the findings in the research
Notes and sketches from need findings

First, we spoke to mothers, caregivers, and nurses from different District Hospitals in Karnataka to understand more about locally available food items and their usual purchase patterns. From this conversation, we listed out vegetables, Fruits, Non-Vegetarian food, locally available grains like Ragi (Finger millet), and other food items.

Initial Concept sketches of the tool
Initial Concept sketches of the tool
A Sample printout of a Thali with Indian dishes that are locally contextual
Sample Print

We decided to place the food items on a banana leaf layout, as this is the cultural way of surviving food in south India on special occasions. We also used Kattori (bowls) for vegetables and other items to show ideal food portions. Having this banana leaf visual element in the final design helped the tool stand out from other diet infographics in a hospital. These small elements added more value to this tool for the mothers and caregivers. It simplified the information needed in order to follow a good diet.

Care Companion Training using Thali Model, From Davanagere District Hospital
Care Companion Training using Thali Model, From Davanagere District Hospital

We prototyped and tested this tool in Davanagere District Hospital in North Karnataka with the help of some brilliant nurses who are part of our Care companion program.

Family and caregivers interacting with the tool
Family and caregivers interacting with the tool

After getting lots of positive feedback on the tool from the users and nurses, we are customizing this tool for different regions across India as part of the Noora health Care Companion Model.

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Vinayak Jayasree

Vinayak Jayasree is a self-taught visual artist and storyteller from Kerala, India.