Fascinating Findings of Food Value Chain Research

“The one unusual thing I eat is Liver Pâté on bread because it’s something all children in Norway grew up on.  All kids in Norway eat liver Pâté.” 

Lene, immigrant from Norway


During the past few weeks, my team here at AC4D has been performing research on Animal Food Value Chain, focusing in particular on undesirable meats and other parts of animals.

It is incredibly fascinating to learn how, and why, people choose certain kinds of meat to purchase and to eat, and the reasons why certain parts of animals are not used in American cuisine.

For every interview, we tried to choose people from different cultural backgrounds to get richer data from different perspectives, since food is always something very culture-related. Cultural difference was never the main focus of our research, but it is something that gave us some really interesting and fascinating data on our topic.

Lene was born in Norway and lived there almost whole her life; she used to work in a restaurant back there. She told us about her experience buying and eating animal products when she just moved to the US. “When I moved to Houston and I went to HEB, I saw these big trays of chicken breasts, and they were so big and so cheap! I thought: “Wow! I can buy that tray and we’ll have dinners for a week! We can share one chicken breast with my husband, it’s enough for both of us. And then I started to realize that it’s not normal, the size of the chicken. They are too big, something is wrong with them, they can’t be 3 times bigger than chickens in Norway. And of course! I started to do some research and watch documentaries, it’s growth hormones they put in. It’s not good for anyone: not for your body, not for the chickens. I saw a documentary which showed how chicken can’t walk because their breasts are too big, they are falling forward. It’s crazy. It shouldn’t be allowed. It’s not allowed in Norway. And now I buy only organic and grassfed meat and only at Whole Foods.”

Something to think about, right?

We’ve talked with people with different backgrounds: second-generation immigration from Mexico, who spent his childhood in a Mexican part of LA; an owner of a food truck serving halal food – he moved to the US with his family to avoid the Iraq War; a recent immigration from Norway and was a cook back home, mentioned earlier…. Every time we come back from an interview, we say: WOW!

Having a chance to see different points of view on a problem, from Americans and immigrants, we see how some things that seem very obvious in one culture, can be very unusual in another. It helped us to find problems we would never see or think about if we talked only to long-time locals.

Design In Society Through Out A Story Of Alice In The University Of Wonderland

In the past 2 weeks we studied 6 articles about Manipulation and Globalism wrote by Edward Bernays, Maurizio Vitta, John Dewey, Victor Margolin, Emily Pilloton, and Michael Hobbes.

In my story, I tried to express a point of view of each of the authors on the role of design in society the way it was presented in the articles. The story is about a young girl Alice who is a student the University of Wonderland, trying to find herself. The story contains 6 chapters, in each of them you can find the main points of each author position, adapted to the main storyline.


Chapter 1: Inspired by “The meaning of design” by Maurizio Vitta

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The first chapter of Alice’s story highlights Maurizio Vitta’s point of view on what’s going on with design in the modern world. Designers are used to adding frivolous and unnecessary features on top of the primary, problem-solving functionality of the product. With so much variability, people have gotten used to consuming those products to show who they are (their socio-economic status, culture, and general lifestyle), and not always because of the product’s primary function itself. Maurizio Vitta is encouraging designers to create products with a bigger purpose.

That is exactly what’s happening with Alice – she is attracted to certain things because they change her perception in the eyes of the society. Good for her, her new course of study will change the way she looks at it.


Chapter 2: Inspired by “The need of a Theory of Experience”  by John Dewey

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In this chapter, you will find the ideas of John Dewey about relationships between education and experience. Dewey says that a teacher needs to pay attention to where students are in the process, meet them where they are. The problem of old, traditional education is not that it doesn’t give experience, but that this experience doesn’t lead to the next experience. He believes that designers should design for personal growth.

Alice is very lucky to meet a professor who shares Dewey’s opinion. He will help Alice to find herself in doing great things for the world.


Chapter 3: Inspired by “Global Expansion or Global Equilibrium? Design and the World Situation” by Victor Margolin

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Victor Margolin compares equilibrium model (limitation of world’s resources) with the expansion model (innovations is everything) and talking about the inevitability of a fight between the two. The job of a designer, he says, is to make them work together.

He also mentions that design can be and should be applied to things beyond products.

Alice understands that the resources of the world are limited, and it changes her world view.


Chapter 4: Inspired by “Manipulating public opinion” by Edward Bernays

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Per Edward Bernays, public opinion, on one hand, is slow and reactionary, and does not easily accept new ideas. On another hand, anyone can manipulate with some preparation. Designers can help to identify current opinion and find the ways to change it. Alice has used a major event as the means to manipulating public opinion, while also helping the victims of that event.


Chapter 5: Inspired by “Stop trying to save the World” by Michael Hobbes

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In his article Michael Hobbes tells us about problems of current researches and innovations when designing for social impact. One of them is the tendency to extrapolate working ideas to the whole world without additional research – and gives examples of many failures of great ideas that happened because of that. When you improve something, you change it in the way you couldn’t expect. Elaborate design is the way for social changes, small and big. And it’s worth to make positive changes, even if they are not as big as you wish.

Alice makes the very same mistake Michael Hobbes describes – she tried to make students of all colleges of her Planet avoid purchasing gowns and donate money to the Neighbor Planet instead. Unfortunately, she didn’t perform enough research on the traditions and people of the other schools, and so it didn’t go well.


Chapter 6: Inspired by “Depth over Breadth: Designing For Impact Locally, and for the long haul” by Emily Pilloton

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In her article Emily Pilloton brings up some progressive ideas based on her rich working experience in the field of designing for social impact. She highlights the value of 3 lasting impact requirements: proximity (simply be there, be local), empathic investment (show your personal and emotional stake), and pervasiveness (create an ecosystem instead of a tree).

And this is exactly what Alice did in this story – she moved to the Planet that she wanted to design for, became a local, and helped them through well-designed and impactful social projects.