Design has a unique way of bringing people together. Whether it is through locally produced food served at a large inviting dining table, or taking place in our city’s public spaces. Furniture plays a essential role by bringing groups together who otherwise would not connect. As designers, we can use food, furniture, and architecture to curb a crisis of social disconnection by designing objects that inherently encourage meaningful interaction. Designing with people in mind is essential for the success of any product or service and will add to the quality of life for the user.
Every culture has rituals and traditions behind their food and how they prepare it. It is a constant reminder of our reliance on nature and each other. In his book, The Pleasure of Eating, the farmer/poet Wendell Berry says that “eating is an agricultural act.” He links the act of eating meals to the wider context of those who work the land, grow the food, prepare it, and eventually eat it. He is a part of the Slow Food movement, which began out of a desire to move back to the roots of an agrarian society. Families would buy or trade locally produced ingredients to make their food together, eat together, and leave time after the meal to develop more meaningful relationships with one another.
A well-designed system, however, can be used against our quality of life by exchanging a timely process for instant gratification, as exemplified by our fast food culture. The convenience of the drive-thru replaced many experiences such as gathering ingredients for a meal by walking through a public market, or preparing meals to be enjoyed in the home. The trade offs are striking. What one gains in time and money is lost in the quality and enjoyment of the experience. A solution to prevalent disconnection from our agriculture industry and society is to shorten the gap between producer and consumer. By tracing the product back from the store, to the distribution centre, from the farm or forest, one can truly appreciate the end product, not just for the food itself but the work that goes into bring food to the table.
Nearly all social interaction happens in and around furniture. Whether its a tree stump placed around a campfire or a solid walnut boardroom table- design plays an important role in everyday life. It can be seen in a much loved alcove in a park, a welcoming bench at a bus stop, or a large dining table to host friends and family. Design can serve to remedy our disconnected society by bringing those who produce the products closer to those using them. Along with community comes collaboration, and with collaboration, ideas and solutions one may never develop on their own. Design can promote social interaction and improve quality of life as we begin to value being together more and more.
Tables shown were made by Azuza for Kit and Ace at their Calgary location.
Photo credit: Kit and Ace