Posted in March 2010
In this third assignment we were asked to design a new product with the material ‘agar agar’. Experiencing its characteristics we needed to come up with a product that fitted the material.
As an inspiration we used the fact that the material is transparent and related to other transparant products, in our case ice cubes. Since ice cubes have an aesthetic value as well as a functional one we wanted to implement both, except for the fact ice cubes melt and the aesthetic value is not visible any more.
We are students, always in a rush, worse than "real" workers.
Bike from Tu to the central station delft, train to rotterdam central, grab your bike, cycle to veelzigt, lock your bike, open the door, climb typical dutch stairs, get into the kitchen, open the fridge….
Problem that probably in Italy I would have solved with a Pizza from "Pizzeria la golosa", a few minutes, good tasting, no stress..
It doesn’t work so well here, maybe I’m too picky, but my stomach cannot afford a Domino’s pizza..
Then again, bike, Albert Hein, lock, and then a lot of creativity..
Walking around the shelves in the supermarket, bio, non bio, euroshopper, pasta, meat, vegetables….in the end just confusion..
We need rules..a sort of credo, deciding to be picky, reading labels for hours, produced here, there, E119, colorants..
" Don’t eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food."
that’s what Michael Pollan suggests in his book Food Rules .
A book full of irony, that I suggest to everybody who sometimes, like me, thinks that being picky on food is good for body and brain.
Of course the rules proposed are a lot "dedicated" to Americans, with their problems with glucose and fats, but it is still a good example to take in consideration.
"Eat deliberately, with other people whenever possible, and always with pleasure"
During assignment 2, tools, our team explored several tools which are used in kitchens in different cultures.
Since we had teammembers from Taiwan, Italy and Holland we looked in to that three cultures, with the following results:
Just yesterday I was talking with a graduation student who has a head full of commonplaces and unfortunate journalistic pseudo-truths about the environment and sustainibility, with particular reference to food. Setting aside the specific topic of bullshit ideas (such as that in the past the food was healthier and people enjoyed, as a consequence, better eating: on this topic, you can get a light introduction in Shears, P. (2010). Food fraud–a current issue but an old problem. British Food Journal, 112(2), 198-213), I was struck once again by how frequent the association between food and guilt is.
You can check out Guilt for Dinner, a short, juicy blog post that focuses on the specific guilty feeling that is born when we realize that we are not cooking the way we think we should. In the more inspired words of Denise Gershbein,
The research revealed to us an incredible pattern of guilt and
aspiration in how people eat—an embedded cycle of should/don’t/want.
Our research subjects believed there existed an ideal they had to live
up to, but none of them thought they could meet that standard, so they
felt guilty. And yet they continued to aspire to that goal.
I had the feeling that my student was laboring under the weight of strong feelings of guilt towards food. The same feelings that, it sounded like, pointed her towards vegetarianism, lately. The same feelings that make her think in mandatory terms of local production, without thinking for a second about the implications: or about how wonderful the international world of trade is and has always been historically.
But I digress: what I am driving at is that guilt, filthy guilt, is a very powerful emotional lever, and a food designer would be wise to investigate that guilt about
- being fat
- not being a good mother/cook/homemaker
- empty calories
- geese and their liver
- poor unhappy cocoa farmers
- poor unhappy Alaskan crab fishermen
- poor unhappy whale fishermen (scratch that: they are not the target of guilty feelings)
- eating GMOs
- eating frozen food
- watching food/cooking shows and then eating only frozen food
- eggs laid by poor unhappy chicken
There is, if you think of it, a large choice of food-related guilts. More or less, for every taboo or contemporary ethical (or pseudoethical, let’s not be picky) injunction, we can find a related guilt and a designerly way to use it. We can build on the guilt, and make food products for vegetarians. We can encourage users to plunge into the guilt and turn it into sinful indulgence (really irritating choice of words here), and offer them chocolate. We can try to avert the gaze of the user, for example by packaging and trimming meat so that it looks as bloodless and unrelated to animals as possible.
Or we can frankly exploit the guilt parents feel towards children (am I doing enough?) and sell… nearly anything! As long as we claim that it is educational and/or healthy.
Someone more idealistic than me should comment about using guilt as a positive force for positive effects.
For a small ritual such as the bowl of peanuts you get when having a drink in the bar, can be very deceptive in its underlying aspects. First observations conclude that the peanuts are only offered with cold drinks (soda and alcoholic), customers generally do not ask for them but receive them for free as a sign of hospitality from the bar owner.
On a less superficial level, we see that customers do not receive them when the bar is crowded and busy. We also see that apart from fulfilling an appetite, they are also used by the bar owner to generate thirst.
In our research we have found out that there were so many situations and scenarios happening around this bowl of peanuts in a bar. Therefore we tried to act out (as seen as above) the most important scenarios to illustrate its meaning as well the as social impact.
"The moving bowl." With one eater, there is a natural movement of the bowl towards that person. "Watched by strangers." In an enclosed table situation, strangers do not eat from the bowl of nuts. "Connecting." In an open situation (like on a bar) everybody is free to eat and share from a single bowl of nuts. "The lonely eater." Eating peanuts is often found as a time killer when waiting for somebody or when someone is alone. "Monkey see, monkey do." Often, the act of eating peanuts triggers a natural response at the subconscious level making the company eat along with you.
Finally, for our redesign of the ritual we came to the conclusion that we did not want to design a product or make drastic changes to the ritual itself. We decided to increase the social aspect of being in a Dutch bar. The picture above shows a rough prototype of two bowls with each a part of a famous quote on the bottom.
In this case we took the classic "Luke, I am" and "your father." from Star Wars. The idea behind this is once the bowl is empty a line appears and one has to complete the sentence by going table to table interacting with strangers. Once you found its connection, you will receive a free refill at the bar when showing up together with both of the bowls.
The idea behind this is to give people an opportunity to increase socializing between strangers with a small reward without being obtrusive or ruining the ritual by drastically changing it. People that have no interest in doing so are not obliged to be involved as it is optional.
For an overview of the pictures taken and the situations sketched/acted can be found here.