Thought this semester we have seen that design goes the creation of solutions to solve current day problems. While solutions and artifacts are the immediately visible outcomes of design, and those we can easily contend with, the real power is in the way it molds our world. This project was meant to ask the core question which at times gets over looked, just because we can, does that mean we should? This the a question design must ask, it is the mechanism which can allow designers to consider the full range of implications of our designs. By nature, the process of design requires us to be optimistic of the outcomes of our designs. This optimism means designers are more likely to focus on the good that can come from our work. It is reassuring and encouraging, allowing us to continue further down the path of discovery. However, overlooking the implications, as messy as they maybe, is dereliction of our duty. Designers are responsible for the outcomes, both positive and negative. The beginning of the project was understanding the underlying conditions and environment within which our design materialize and live. During the course we touched upon this topic under the theme of dark matter. Dark matter are the unseen forces that move and nudge us in invincible manners. While dark matter is not a big part of the project, the mention of IBM and the work with Watson is a hint to its existence. The designs we settle on are influenced by the motives of corporations and other social-political motives. These organizations have agendas, and many of our designs will be brought to life within such organizations.
The second impactful section of the semester was the reading from Speculative Everything, these are what really shaped my thoughts on how designs are a statement of the future and how it should be. The work of Norman Bel Gedes at General Motors is probably the best example of design setting a trajectory for the world. While speculation can be used in this manner, the same power can be harnessed to evaluate the implications of our designs. This project attempts to do the later, the fork is an attempt to demonstrate that all outcomes from designs are not good. There are multiple outcomes, many of which live together simultaneously. The fork attempts to show how something positive, protecting babies from food allergies, can also have the outcome of destroying social structures. The objective is not to categorize a design by a singular outcome, but to illuminate these options.
The experience of the semester has enriched my design process int two distinct ways. In the first case manner the question of dark matter remains is one I cannot overlook. I now have to ask how it is influencing my designs, especially in situations where a design brief is provided. I must now ask where these prompts come from, and how this particular prompt is the correct one to approach over the many others. Beyond getting excited about solving the problem, we must ask why this is the right problem to solve and how this problem was selected. During the design process, I can no longer focus on solving just the problem. The design cannot be complete without considering the all the implications and possible outcomes. Designs are all speculative and we must always consider that future they are proposing.
Computing power is now ubiquitous, available everywhere. Chips have become smaller and smaller allowing them to be embedded in all devices. With computing being faster than human processing, the technology is used to augment human beings. The charge is led by IBM and their artificial intelligence agent Watson, moving ahead to augment and replace even the most human senses (https://www.wired.com/insights/2013/01/coming-soon-computers-will-use-the-five-senses-to-enhance-our-lives/). The words of Howard Mumford Jones (A Different Universe: Reinventing Physics From the Bottom Down, Robert Laughlin, pg. 59) could not be any more relevant, society finds itself in place where the most basic senses of man are not trusted. Data and computers reign supreme.
One of the most exciting developments is the ability to identify and separate the individual components that make up the flavor of our foods. Taste was one of the final frontiers in human augmentation and this created an opportunity for a range of new products. The most successful of these product is the smart fork. Using a proprietary model, any means can now be defined along the 5 basic tastes of sweet, sour, salty, bitter and unami, flavors further broken down along the dimensions of pungency, coolness, numbness, astringency, metallicness, calcium, fattiness, heartiness, temperate and starchiness. This allows flavors to be defined along a total of 15 dimensions. With the model embedded inside a fork, it allows a person to get a reading to indicate if the food matches their personal flavor profile or not. By touching the fork onto food, a series of indicators on the edge of the fork tell the person if the food matches their profile. Red lights indicate a mismatch and green indicate a match. In addition to alerting people if food matches their taste profiles, the fork allows people to display their personal taste mark.
The development was received warmly, the first to accept the product into their lives were mothers’ of babies with dietary allergies. Finally, there was a way to protect their children from the life threatening effects of allergies. Following closely were adults with food allergies and sensitive stomachs. While the conditions were not as life threatening, the ability to avoid discomfort embarrassment in public setting were proved extremely popular. The fork made a great present for avid traveller, allowing them to confidently explore the world. In 2025, the fork was selected as the #1 gift by Wired magazine. The fork spread into mainstream usage, pretty soon everyone had their own personal fork. In restaurants it became common place to see people pulling out their own fork at dinners, restaurants even began asking people if they wanted to use their fork or one provided by the establishment. As people became aware of their personal tastes, the desire to experiment with food dwindled, what motivation is there to try new flavors when you can have what you know you can enjoy. No more do we have to sit through mom’s bad cooking, there was no denying the fork, it could tell empirically and objectively whether we liked the food or not. What becomes of this world, sharing meals had traditionally form a core part of society and experience, the fork broke these structures. While we ate together in the space, there was no sharing of meals, each person ate what they fork told them they would like. It was the truly a world of living alone in a crowd.
The goal of my project is to let people could better know where their energy comes from and let them always be aware of the usage the the energy.
Case study 1
This design pay attention to the new energy. It seems like a common sense that “People use energy”, how about let every people produce the energy by themselves?
there are many designs that thinking about transform the traditional power generation which are far away from normal people in urban into some products that are closed to people’s lives. making people know that every behaviors they do will count for the energy, the whole world, the future.
And also, another design that inspired me is a dancing club that could collect the energy by people’s dancing steps. the floor and people’s shoes can store the energy that people produce and turn that into the energy needed by the dancing clubs. like the lighting, audio, etc. This one just help me to relect the current situation of energy usage. People could always use the energy without limit. That’s because there isn’t any constraints of energy using.The only limitation is the money. But if people are only offered certain amounts of energy, they may start to reconsider about their behaviors of energy abusement.
Another example is the lighting wind-driven generations. in the current situation, we cannot see or we seldom pay attention to how the energy is generated. Let alone to saving energy. So the designers think that the very first thing is to let people know how the energy comes from. so they added some LED on the fan of the wind-driven generations in Chicago. And when the fans rotated, the light beams will just connect from one to another, till the one nearby the city. So this case give me a inspiration, that is visualizing the energy, and use analogy way, could help people increase their energy awareness.
Then I came out with the first version of re-mixture. that’s people could produce the energy by themselves, and they could only use the energy that is produced by themselves. But this design lacks of consideration of efficiency issues. and the communication issues. How to connect a community to acchieve the goal? How to make sure people could produce the energy they need because different people have different request of energy.
So I change my thinking, focused on the community and individual’s awareness, and also use analogy, came out with the Fresh Tree system design
I hope in the future, i could think deeper about the efficiency of the design. Maybe it could be some leaves rather than a tree. and also, considering that my design are focusing on the simulation of nature. the prototype of the leaves should be better considered.
Final project statement
The Fresh Tree will exist in the future, when the natural resources keep decreasing. but multiple new energy will be invented and used all over the world. Those new energy includes wind energy, solar power, geothermal energy, and bioenergy.
when developing a new technology, people will think further, they will concern about the potential impact to the environment and sanitation. the awareness of social responsibility among people will increase.
the population will increase in the process of urbanization. but government could afford the resource for them. At the same time, government encourage people to use the clean energy. If people overuse energy, they have to pay extra taxes for the excess amount of energy.
people could contact each other with VR or chip in their head, the transportation is less common to use. and more and more people could live, work and entertain in certain zone. like just in home. And the community is quite different from before. The online community appears. people could have communication with each other by their wearable devices.
In all, with the quick development of technology, the cost of using new energy is decreasing. People can pay less on the energy. However, in order to avoid people abuse the energy without limit, government will only allocate a certain amount of energy for everyone per month. and if people excess the amount they have to pay high taxes for it. And the whole society has formed a consensus, the society should sustainably developed. we should think about the future while we making every decision.
In these scenario, the Fresh Tree is borned. it consists of three energy generation devices. 1, The Fresh leaves, which could collect the wind power and solar power; 2. The Fresh trunk, which could collect the solar power; and the Fresh Root, which can collect the geothermal energy, at the same time, it is the battery that stores all the power the Fresh Trees can produce.
Government will allocate the trees to every neighbor, and every family could adopt a tree that near to their residents. The Fresh Tree could produce the energy that people need in their lives. People can use the energy by free.
But once the family excess the energy that the tree could produce, they can only pay for the energy supplied by government or other, which means they have to pay extra money for their overusing. At the same time, the trees they adopted will die away. The Fresh Leaves will turn their colors from green to brown, which just simulates the real situation happens in nature, the trees will withered when people overuse the energy and extract the energy of the earth. And the tree will represent the neighbor image, the neighbors may know what’s your trees going by observing your trees and offer some helps.
And at the same time. people could have a virtue application that connects to their real tree. People will have some wearable devices, which could detect people’s behaviors. when people do something that could saving the energy, like walking to work, or bring their own bags to grocery, the devices could recognise those behaviors that are good for energy and turn them into Green Points, which is the “fertilizer” of the Fresh Tree. With the Green Points, the condition of the trees could be better and healthier. People could see others’ trees conditions by the application. and when people found that they have abundant energy, they could sell them to those in need on the applications.
The positive outcomes of the Fresh Tree is that, people would better know the energy they use is limit. and they will witness the change of their neighbor’s environment then understand the results of the way they treating energy. They can pay attention to their behaviors, their selfish buttons in everyday lives.
The negative risks will be people’s privacy may be concerned. Because there are a virtual community, many information of family may be on the application. How to protect their information is the biggest issue.