Want to design positive? Go bananas.

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  • Date January 16th, 2011 12:20
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  • True story; at SGTH we compare the final outcome of any design project with a banana. It is actually my studio's professional goal to one day deliver another banana. Twenty years in the business, I have yet to deliver that one. Nor have I seen any design that compares. Here is one piece of fruit that teaches us nine demanding design lessons, for those who truly wish to design beyond just green. Its form fits its function and identity. You did not look at the photo above and recognize anything but what it truly is. It is both its logo, brand, product and packaging in one go. No need to put a label on it, you already know what is inside. It does not make you care about calories nor does it need to list any synthetic preservative or artificial coloring it used - because it didn't use any. The handling action you do with it is dictated and conditioned by its form. And that form is ergonomic to its function. The packaging is optimized for opening, while needing the least amount of space to dispose. It has but a skin and a content, nothing else. And yet it is undeniably a perfect banana. And nothing else. Color it differently and it is still a [now colored] banana. Which gives you something to use when discussing unique 'brand colors' for a client's logo. The form made it what it is. The color added the extra confirmation, but had I used a black, purple, or Coca Cola red silhouette banana shape instead of the photo above, you would still have thought 'banana'. Produced using sunlight. With a touch of wind energy for ventilation and humidity control. It is 100% renewable, recyclable, compostable, bio degradable, and nutritious to both planet and human. Anything it used to become a banana meets that same criteria. 'Dowh' I hear you think, 'I knew that!'. Well good. Now, shall we check if your designs are made the same way by you and the producers you use? Uses only the energy and resources it needs. It did not waste anything it did not need, and stopped using what it needed when it is no longer in need of it. It did not claim anything other than what it had to have to become a banana. You do not even need additional resources or energy to consume it -not counting the human handling, shipping, or distribution. Nor the paper, plastic or eco bag you carry it in, or cooking method we humans came up with. Think about that one the next time you head home leaving your computer or printers on overnight, or give in to a client that wants an extra 1000 booklets to be printed 'just to be safe'. You can recycle and reuse everything. Be it there is no real oil to be harvested out of a banana [Banana oil, or Amyl Acetate (C7H14O2),  is not made of banana at all or any part of a banana. instead it is a man-made liquid chemical with the odor of bananas only], there is a host of applications for your banana, beyond eating it. From the plant to the tree to the fruit; everything is not only optimized for recycling, but reuse as well. From using its fibers to highly sought after, high quality silk alternative thread for kimono and kamishimo making, to alternative hand or industrial paper production. From biodegrading it to harvest its methane to extracting its sap for adhesives. Wherever the tree grows, locals use the leaves as umbrellas or as cooking containers to tenderize meat. There is a variety of household or gardening tricks you can do with its peel, and the cosmetic industry can use it for high potassium masks. If you have fifteen minutes of downtime, google alternative uses for a banana or what it can be used for other than snacking. It does not harm anyone or anything. And that includes fruit flies. Nothing that is inside or outside of it is toxic, polluting or destructive. It does not differentiate, discriminate or declare itself better then others. Okay, so you can put the peel on the floor an watch someone slip over it. That then is still you using it -aka the design- for a purpose it was not designed for. In fact it does more good than you may think. If its alternative reuses and recycling did not impress you, know that a banana counters anaemia, blood pressure issues, stress, heartburn, depression, PMS, morning sickness, constipation, ulcers, strokes. The high potassium content of the fruit even makes it an alternative medicine for warts, ulcers and - fellows - hangovers! Taps the power of limits. Grows under challenging conditions, upside down, with a whole bunch of competing neighbors. Only has limited resources available. Cannot afford to drain its hosts (the tree) nor its community's (forest) for their resources or to be destructive towards these. Follows the same rules and gets the same conditions as every other piece of fruit in its neck of the woods and has successfully thrived under these conditions for thousands of years. Practically speaking, it does not need batteries, adaptor, charger, manual, assembly or disassembly. Its packaging does not stay together because of clam-shells, wires, staples, glues, metal strings, bolts or nails. You do not need additional tools to open or enjoy it. Not even a plate, a tissue (the peel dubs as one) or utensils. Atop; nature never hurries, yet everything is accomplished on time. Curbs excesses. Pun intended. That banana curb is the result of growing upside down, with only one side exposed to the sun (making that side grow bigger). Curbing its excess made it what it universally is recognized for, without having to advertise it. That said, consider how its packaging allows for personal, one-to-one retail communication - without ever needing to add anything to it. Its packaging will tell you when it is a good time for you to eat it, regardless whether you like it ripe, slightly spotted or border line mushy. Same goes for its harvesting, distribution or disposal. The bare-minimum packaging can meet all these requirements without any additional element. Needed local expertise. That tree it grew on, forest it lived in, rain that fell on it, sun that warmed it, clouds that shaded it, the soil it stood in and drank the nutrition out of, insects that helped along the way. Birds and apes that picked the occasional fruit that fell on the ground to biodegrade on top of its or other tree's roots. You get the idea. Banked on diversity. Without the above combo of very different elements coming together, it would fail to become what it is, what it had to be. Despite needing all this diversity, it still realized its maximum potential of what it could become given its given circumstances. So then… how do your designs measure up?
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