In the current political climate, I have inevitably had to meditate and reflect on the world around me. One of the greatest insights was the consequences of our reliance on consumption and the effects of our global economy and how technology and design are being used to incentivize this convention. In the vision of the world that was been developed with modernity in the industrial revolution, nature is seen as vast and hostile and we as humans can extract value out of it and make our lives easier by taming it commoditizing it with technology. While this view on nature has changed – as more evidence emerges showing the vulnerability of the environment and the damage we have caused –, we still share many of the driving forces of technology and innovation as previous generations, those of convenience, efficiency, speed, and effectiveness. As a result, designers in the industry often cater to these values using user-centered design – finding customer-pains to fix and improve the efficiency and desirability of our products – leading to economic growth.
Our power as designers is that of imagining and creating new ways of living, rather than leading to it while pushing notions of the past. Our work should act as a probe of new values. By starting a conversation between our design material, the world around us, and ourselves, we can measure our reality against the values they stand for rather than the opposite way around – as is often done in the industry –. This way the designer must engage directly with the tools he has to materialize the opportunities for change rather than just imagining.
The values that interest me and guide my work now are those such as plurality, localization, personalization, transparency, and independence:
Localization, personalization, and plurality, as a response to the homogenization and monoculture that mass production and globalization have caused which has implications at a social level by promoting a “standard” way of living and removing rich cultural diversity and on the environmental level, by not taking into account regional local factors. Transparency, by showcasing true intent and the way products and systems work as a whole; as opposed to dark patterns and undisclosed purposes involved in their creation. And lastly, independence, as a way to decentralize the systems that put local economies at risk by making them dependant.
Growing up in the Canary Islands developed my appreciation and connection to nature and my surroundings. Despite its potential and abundant resources, I have seen how “modernity” and globalization have eroded the Canarian landscape and made its economy one of the most precarious ones in Spain.
I have seen how the commoditization of the sun as a resource for tourism has eroded the coast and taken the land once used to feed the locals. In turn, when the tourists are gone, as in the current pandemic, so is the income used to afford the food imports.
I have also seen how fires have intensified throughout the years. Since the introduction of modern building techniques put out of use the traditional Spanish reed, the plant has taken over the landscape and now only serves as a tinder for wildfires.
My reflection on my roots has shaped and inspired my vision as a designer and my criticism towards reductionism and solutionism.
Most of my thoughts stem from my curious nature and impulse. I often find myself diving into fields I do not have knowledge in to learn more. From art to color theory or history and politics, I am constantly building up my repertoire of references. Gaining insight into different fields often stimulates my creativity and leads me to think of how to use this new knowledge in a different context, by looking across different fields. This interest in very diverse fields has helped me develop a broad range of skills. I can think outside the scope of my tools and quickly learn new making skills motivated by seeing this idea come to life and my proactive nature. I have gained these skills from my art practice in the past, which has developed my visual sensibility and hands-on making and experimental approach.
My proactive attitude and intuition let me find guidance through my design process, which also has helped me take leadership roles in teamwork. While my use of intuition helps me through the process, this often challenges me to reflect on it and find relevance in academic work on the topic. This is a shortcoming of my hands-on approach, as when I struggle at organizing my thoughts into words, so making is often the escape for my reflections and ideas.
The global food supply chain is putting a big strain on our environment. The sector accounts for 30% of greenhouse gas emissions and single-use plastic makes up for 26% of the plastic dumped into the ocean every year. Packaging has played a big role in reducing costs and making supermarkets more competitive. But we may soon reach a point where we need to look beyond economic growth and into sustainable alternatives. While bulk shops and zero waste stores try to tackle these issues, they are not accessible or competitive enough to confront big retailers. zero. is a probe into what an accessible packaging-free supermarket could look like. Inquiring into the past and present regimes, countertrends, and emerging supermarket formats to address the barriers to green consumption: high prices, lack of information, and inconvenience.
This project has given me the chance to fully integrate all of my expertise areas in a different way. Often before, my focus was on experimentation on exploring the possibilities that data or technology bring by using them as tools for design. In this approach, I noticed how my emphasis relied on Technology and Realization; Math, Data and Computing and Creativity and Aesthetics. As a result, my expertise areas of User and Society, and Technology and Entrepreneurship were somewhat neglected until the end of the process where they served as tools of validation. During this project, I wanted to further integrate these two expertise areas further in my project. I also wanted to put to use the skills I have learned in these domains through courses like Trends and Forecasting, Green Business Models, or the Technology Entrepreneurship USE line I have followed.
After realizing the disconnect with societal relevance that a bottom up can lead to, I picked up on the knowledge from Trends and Forecasting. During the project, it helped me look to society through a 3rd person perspective, by spotting trends and looking at the evolution of past and present regimes and how they influence our current practices, making me reflect and find space for opportunities.
Also unlike other projects I integrated this area in the process earlier than I usually did in past project. Performing competitive analysis helped me understand the current regime and how societal trends were reflected on business practices. This analysis helped me spot opportunities for action, and identify commendable actions from other businesses which helped me develop a business model canvas.
This expertise area guided my “making” (encompassing Math, Data and Computing and Technology and Realization), using the inputs from my analysis. I took on a first person perspective through embodied ideation (as I explored in Digital Craftsmanship) to explore ideas through my own experience. I also explored and considered options through exploratory sketching. By following trends and considering the values of my proposed system I also developed a visual identity which was carried through my prototype, video, report and graphics.
The development in my skills programming and using electronics gave me the chance to use them as tools early in the process. It gave me the chance to quickly assess the integration but also a tool to create more elaborate experiences for embodied ideation. I also benefited from what I learned in Design of Business Information Systems, which helped me manage data more efficiently by using a Firebase database.
I also got to explore machine learning as a tool in the design process. The societal analysis which revealed the potential evil purposes of computer vision, prompted me to explore other opportunities of machine learning. By gathering data, and training a model as I learned during my internship and Intelligent Interactive Products I was able to quickly create a proof of concept for the bulk bin, which would have taken considerably more time to calculate and hard code.