Success: Pencap Utensils

The natural evolution of office dining.

The natural evolution of office dining.

“Turn your favourite office tool from your desk in a common cutlery…this is din-ink.”

Dream to Reality:

Those were the words with which the team known as Zo-Loft presented their project to the world in 2008. It was their winning entry into the Dining in 2015 competition and after their success and publicity, little was known about what happened to their project and I worried that they’d fall into obscurity. Thankfully, their brilliant idea was picked up by Fifty-Two Ways and has become an actual product.

Bad Habit or Alternative Habit?

I rediscovered Zo-Loft through a featured story on Design Boom and I read the comments to see how other people felt about the pencap utensils. Surprisingly, there was an interesting mix of people who liked it, people who hated it, and people who thought it should have remained in the realm of social commentary.

Some people pointed out that it was created as a reminder to make time to eat meals properly and they felt that putting the design into production was betraying the message by encouraging people to engage in the behavior. Others hated it outright on the basis that they hated how the design attempted to influence people’s actions. To quote one mildly incoherent rant, “they like it because they feel like GOD… This big and famous creator!!!”

That argument puzzled me because to my understanding, design has always been about influencing the user. It sounds positively sinister when described in that manner, but the gist is that people create and design various things, from tools to computer programs to laws, to influence people’s lives, hopefully for the better.

Of course a designer can get drunk off of the perception of power but that’s true for just about any other profession where control of others is possible. To say that design shouldn’t attempt to influence someone is functionally ignores the fact that people are capable of deciding for themselves if something appeals to their lifestyle. If someone does not like how a product influences them, he/she drops it in favor of something more appropriate. People decide what fits their lifestyle best, not designers.

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