For the last two years, I've been a student at the Umea Institute of Design in Umea, Sweden going for my masters in Interaction Design. My final project was titled "Food and the Future of it". I chose food because it was something that everyone could have an opinion on, and that was important to me while choosing a subject. When I started the project, I tried to find a sponsor but found no takers- at first I was pretty depressed about this but in the end it gave me a lot of freedom and I don't think the result (which I like) would have been the same at all.
For starters, I was really interested in design fiction, and ideas as a product instead of one fine tuned concept as a product. Keep this in mind a little while looking at the work. Anyway early on I wanted my target year to be 2040, and a lot of the material I looked at suggested that we'd all have 3D printers in our house by then. Other material suggested that lab grown meat (which we have now) will be much more commonplace in 2040. I was also interested in this 'cloud' that everyone keeps talking about when talking abotut the future. So with those things in mind I started coming up with concepts, bouncing them off my classmates, and then making a prop for that concept. One time, I had a brainstorming session with my classmates by a campfire near the river. It was the middle of January and in northern Sweden it gets insanely snowy, dark, and cold. It turned out to be a great brainstorm session for food because it took us forever to get the fire started and we were all getting a little desperate. I passed around a microcassette recorder and we took turns answering questions and talking about the future of food.
One thing that was really fun about this project was just 'doing'. I was used to making rhino models of things, and then making a rendering. It was so great to make the actual physical props this time- the response from people was so much better. It was also fun to watch people pick some of the things up and tell me how they'd use them- a lot of fun. It was also great to make models out of actual food, imagine paying for your building supplies and your dinner at the same time!
So I guess right now I'll explain the concepts a little bit. They all either print food, or grow food. The ones that grow food do it by duplicating cells and proteins (something that we do now to get our lab grown meat). The printers use the same technology (only smaller and better) as the 3D printers that we have now. For this world, I've made some small devices that could exist. Human Creativity is absolutely amazing, and I'm confident that if people could design their own custom eggs, pasta, snacks, and other things then they would. And communities would be built up around these designs.
These printers and growers would run off of cartridges, a lot like printers today. Some would hold cells, and others would hold real foodstuff and have everything you need to do 'italian' or 'mexican' food. You know Kraft and Unilever would have a hayday with this. Also, fast food would never be the same. Firstly, Burger King will find that their name is too limiting, and drop the first and last letters off of 'burger' to become URGE King. Two things will happen at Urge King: One, they'll give you free spice cartridges with their brand image on them. You'll buy codes every time you want to print something on the cartridge. Now of course almost everyone will hack this system, but Urge King won't care because they get all of that free advertising. The second thing goes on at Urge King restaurants. They'll have the best, fastest, newest food printers. They'll also have all of the spices you could dream of. They make their own branded food, but can also print off whatever you want them to, just with the Urge King logo on it. Fast food will definitely have to do a lot of things to survive in a world with less cars and more people eating at home.
In the end, there were a lot of scenarios like Urge king, and a ton of other ideas that emerged from talks and brainstorms. In the end I could only do so much, and that's what you'll find in the previous posts. If you have any questions (and I'm sure you do), send me an email immediately at email@example.com . Thanks for reading this much and enjoy the rest of the posts!
Posted by matt at 10.6.09