cM Donald’s (2022)
cM Donald’s (2022)
Food Design (Fast Food) / Critical and Speculative Design
post-colonisation of Western culture and worldwide homogenisation of food
cultures are becoming increasingly problematic due to globalisation and global
McDonaldisation, where all our societies seem to adopt the characteristics of
McDonald's restaurants. Meanwhile, in the post-pandemic era, with growing
tensions between China and the Western world, widespread hostility and narrow
nationalism veils the planet.
McDonald's is 69 years
old now, and COVID-19 is fading away. It is a great time to think about how we
can critically reflect on the prevailing cultural norms and challenge the
current Western hegemony. Besides, it is crucial to probe a possible food
industry and envision an alternative fast-food culture.
Donald's reimagines the
McDonald's franchise through a speculative, counterfactual lens of Traditional
Chinese Medicine. It aims to challenge Western dominance by constructing an
alternative world to bring heterogeneity to the fast-food culture. cM Donald's
also embodies the concept of "food remedy" from Traditional Chinese
Medicine and other practices in Chinese culture (such as Feng Shui, Qi, etc.)
This project depicts a
parallel universe where the Opium Wars acted as a cultural turning point for
this counterfactual timeline. Instead of China being defeated disastrously, my
counterfactual history imagines a civilisation where there is a balance between
Chinese and Western cultures. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), a
conventional medical practice in China, rather than being viewed as
pseudoscience, becomes held in parallel to dominant Western medicinal
practices. "Food as medicine", as one of the fundamental principles
in TCM, would bring about a shift in food practices and our bodies'
relationships with food in cM Donald's world.
McDonald's is chosen to
be the space where cultural collisions happen. There are mainly two reasons why
I have chosen McDonald's as the experimental site. One is about the metaphors
of McDonald's. Having a burger was even a luxurious event, which usually
happened on my birthday when I was little. However, as time went by, the rates
of visiting McDonald's increased, which could represent more household income.
My family's financial improvement can be a microcosm of China's rapid economic development
during these 30 years. The other is that McDonaldization has become more
problematic. All our societies seem to adopt the characteristics of McDonald's
restaurants. Sociologist George Ritzer developed McDonaldization to describe
this phenomenon. The essential characteristics of a McDonald's restaurant are
efficiency, calculability, predictability and standardisation, and control.
These characteristics allow me to invite "Food as medicine" to break
the rules and imagine what TCM can do to shape the modern food culture.
In my project,
McDonald's is shifted from a restaurant that represents efficiency,
calculability, and predictability to a place where people seek "Qi",
balancing the quality of vital energy and pursuing every individual's
compatibility with food. I've designed some artefacts from cM Donald's as
tangible glimpses of this alternatively present McDonald's. They are a series
of maps, trays, and utensils.
In this project, I used counterfactual history as a tool to raise a series of what if?questions and construct a fictional narrative for cM Donald's. Here are my counterfactual history narratives. What if China didn't lose the Opium War? What if China didn't become remoulded by the West from this point onwards? What if Traditional Chinese culture parallels Western practice and comes together to form modern food culture? What if McDonald's is based on Traditional Chinese Medicine concepts and theories?
The full counterfactual history timeline
In this project, there
are three dietetic prototypes to visualise and materialise this fictional
McDonald's, cM Donald's. They are a series of maps, trays, and utensils.
In this parallel
universe, these cM Donald's restaurants are distributed according to Feng Shui
theories, also known as Chinese geomancy. Based on Feng Shui, the chosen
locations are places that accommodate better energy. There are two Feng Shui
rules. One is that all the cM Donalds face the river and mountains on the back,
in the North. The other is all the cM Donald's restaurants are located near
vital prosperity like forests and parks and facing the rivers.
I found a similarity
between the behaviours of how people hold the tray to look for where they sit
and how a Feng Shui practitioner holds the feng shui compass to look for the
proper energy in time and space. Therefore, I chose the tray to raise a
question about how customers decide where to sit.
The tray paper kept the
essential components which are the compass, diagrams and aesthetics of the Feng
Shui compass. The concentric rings on my tray paper illustrate the relationship
between the Qi, food and our bodies.
Drinking and Burger Utensils