Saturday, 10 January 2015

Containers – Group Project - Part I

For the project stage of our personal design agenda work, we were put into pairs and asked to design something that reflected our own agendas.

Myself and Daecan, a former architect student, were paired together and as we are pragmatists, we quickly began to brainstorm what it is that we would like to design.  We began by looking at the objects that we interact with during our day-to-day lives.  This in itself is quite telling, as neither of us wanted to produce something that was purposeless – the product had to have a use, and be useful to the user.
From our list of objects, we investigated a few avenues; looking briefly at the well-trodden path of the eco-friendly toothbrush, the water tap, and the bottle opener, before stopping at food containers.

On a recent trip back to my parental home, I realised that our kitchens are used very inefficiently.  In particular, a large percentage of the kitchen cupboards in my parent’s house are taken up by containers.  Tupperware.  Cake tins.  Biscuit barrels.  Very specifically sized plastic boxes.  And we hoard all of these items because they may be useful for one food item, one day.  It occurred to me, then, would it be better if we can design a ‘one size fits all’ container, one that can change shape to suit the item inside it.

We began investigating the boundaries of this collapsible container; a container for everything.
Starting first with usage, we then looked at scale – could this container transform from the size of a cake tin to the size of a portable water bottle? What shape could it be – did it have to be square? Could it be round?  How would it collapse? And could it be beautiful enough to form a relationship with the user? Would they want to re-purpose it when it had reached the end of its life?

...And then we met with our supervisor, and he suggested that we had been too pragmatic in our approach.  We had essentially already decided what the end result was and we may have been pigeon-holed ourselves too early.  He suggested that we might want to look more at the culture of eating and the interaction the user has with their food... Cue another mind map.
This time, we focussed on mobile eating – i.e. lunch boxes and take-aways.  We considered the traditional presentations of the picture perfect Japanese bento box and the British fish and chips wrapped in newspaper.  We also discussed how different cultures eat their food, what implements they use (if any) and how this can be dictated by the type of food they are eating.  Most importantly, we talked about the overall ceremony that comes with eating food – how we peek into our lunch boxes to see what our mothers packed for us; how we offer our food to others around us; and how modern society loves to take photos of their food to ‘share’ with foodies all over the globe.  The anticipation; the big reveal; and the showing-off.
(very) rough sketches
In our rough sketches we looked at containers that were primarily moulded silicone, allowing the user to play with their food, use the container to eat their food (while keeping hands clean), and could fold down very small for ease of transportation.  Time and time again though we kept accidentally re-designing the paper bag! It seemed a bit of a dead end, so we decided to think individually and come up with some variations based on our cultural exploration, while trying to avoid the re-hashing the archetype of the paper bag.