“RecreAte” is a website that I developed last year in BCM206, which began as a project to help first year students who have moved out of home find creative and simple ways to use up the leftover ingredients in their fridge. Since then, it has developed into a food waste initiative, which has become focused on helping people “fight the war on food waste from home”, tagging onto the very organic, sustainable and frugal trend which seems to be infiltrating many parts of society currently.
I made the site initially because I identified an issue that students who are straight out of home, including myself, struggled to cook for only one person and ended up wasting excess produce. Through my research, I found that according to the NSW Food Waste Avoidance Benchmark Study (2009), the broad-ranging demographic of students (ages 18-24) is the single greatest contributor to food wastage in Australia, while The National Waste Report of 2010 revealed that as a whole, Australia discards an estimated 4.06 million tonnes of food every year. Whilst these figures were certainly alarming, they didn’t really surprise me. Quite often, students like myself find they are ending up with leftover ingredients or meals that are difficult to use.
With the ability to choose a specific ingredient that the user is trying to expend, the site is specifically designed so that the recipes are simple, cheap and easy, and use ingredients which are commonly found in the fridge or pantry. I initially drew inspiration from the site “MyFridgeFood”, however wanted to create something that was a little more user friendly and which specifically emphasised leftovers and zero waste cooking. Last year, the website was noticed by local Illawarra food waste organisation Hidden Harvest. Astoundingly, I was offered as position as head of Communications and Media for this not for profit organisation, and through my time working with them I identified a niche market which I adjusted my website to reflect. As a result, the project underwent a regeneration, to really specify the target demographic and work towards this audience (demonstrated below)
I began this semester with the projected goal of continuing to post regularly to the website, with a further generic aim of attracting more traffic and receiving more engagements. As this contextual essay will demonstrate, the rapid prototyping and “iterative cycles” which constituted a process which Brown has labeled as “design thinking”, were imperative in its growth and success (Brown, 2008). As Brown explains, design thinking is “a discipline that uses the designers sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity” (Brown, 2008). As will be further discussed, I believe I have effectively met this criteria by proliferating this project across multiple media platforms and consequently engaging a multitude of audiences.
Initially, this artefact began as an opportunity for me to build an online portfolio of work and practice my media skills across multiple platforms. Now, it has grown and developed into a very exciting project which has opened many doors and created opportunities which are highly motivating.
Early on in semester I began by purchasing the domain name “recreatefood.com”, in order to give my site more credibility. As outlined in my beta slides, I received feedback from both my classmates and other users that there was a need for the ability to select two or more ingredients at once when selecting tags. I agree with this, and feel it will be a much more efficient use of the website and will set it apart from other websites which are already similar. After multiple attempts with the Wix capabilities, I concluded that on the current platform this was almost impossible, and so decided that looking ahead, migrating the site to another platform would be my best option. If looking at Ward’s “Simplicity Cycle”, I found my project to be happily sitting in the “Region of the Simplistic” where here, both complexity and goodness are low (Ward, 2006). In general, the website views have been steady. Unlike last semester, I had not focused so much on website promoting through sources such as reddit, and instead focussed on growing the site in other areas.
My first experiment with this project was the formation of a Facebook page for RecreAte. Here, I shared photos and videos from related pages, as well as posting unique content with links back to my website. I conducted some academic research into this area, however found the resources were limited. As Ramasharn-Fowder and Fowder explain, “with the explosive popularity of Facebook as a social media, there has not been much research that examines Facebook marketing and its implications for businesses” (2013).
I found that even though I was posting quite regularly, my engagement was low. Without paying for Facebook promotions, it is very difficult to have your page seen. Instead, here, I had to work off the feedback of my users and classmates. Particularly when looking at my target demographic, I decided that Instagram would be a much more suitable platform to pursue, especially with aesthetic nature on food related images.
As demonstrated in Brown’s model of “design thinking”, experimentalism is a crucial factor in a “design thinker’s personality profile”. He states that “significant innovations don’t come from incremental tweaks. Design thinkers pose questions and explore constraints in creative ways that proceed in entirely new directions” (Brown, 2008).
I kept maintaining the Facebook page, but my next experiment, Instagram, as predicted, received much more interaction, with an average of 71.25 impressions per image. I was initially concerned that it did not look as professional or curated as other food based Instagram feeds in the similar field. Popular feeds such as Skye McAlpine, Lindsey Silverman Love and Eva Kosmas Flores have highly curated and beautifully aesthetic food related feeds, and RecreAte is by no means comparable. However, according to feedback from my classmates during the seminar curation, they liked the organic look of the feed, and thought it gave it a much more authentic feel. This makes sense when considering the initial ‘starter-pack’ I developed. Considering I am working without a professional camera and with a limited budget, I think this has been a positive start which can easily be developed. The 67 followers are all organic, and I have not placed a lot of time into promoting the feed through external sources, however this is something that would be worth looking into.
All three of these experiments with RecreAte ended up becoming, more or less, amalgamated, allowing for rapid prototyping across multiple platforms and instantaneous feedback to work towards improvement. As Brown and Wyatt argue, “the design thinking process is best thought of as a system of overlapping spaces rather than a sequence of orderly steps” (2010). Each of these three platforms could, essentially, exist without the other, however when operating together they are most successful. Brown and Wyatt encapsulate this in one particularly insightful statement:
“The reason to call these spaces, rather than steps, is that they are not always undertaken sequentially. Projects may loop back through inspiration, ideation, and implementation more than once as the team refines its ideas and explores new directions. Not surprisingly, design thinking can feel chaotic to those doing it for the first time. But over the life of a project, participants come to see that the process makes sense and achieves results, even though its form differs from the linear, milestone-based processes that organizations typically undertake” (Brown & Wyatt, 2010).
Mid way through semester I was looking at ways I could take this project even further. So far, everything had been steadily progressing. In terms of Ward’s simplicity cycle model, the gradual introduction of new elements to the project saw the movement up a gradual “complexity slope”. As Ward states, “as you learn and develop, new elements are introduced, and complexity increases. Fortunately, these new elements add utility, functionality, or maturity, so goodness also increases. This corresponds to movement from the bottom left quadrant towards the middle of the chart” (2005). In terms of social utility, I felt as though the website was successfully addressing a need required by a particular demographic, and alongside the Facebook and Instagram pages was steadily gaining traction. Ward explains that “progress along this slope—the complexity slope—can be described as learning and creating…travel along this path involves adding new pieces, parts, and functions” (2005).
When considering “integrative thinking” and the potential for a project to grow, Martin uses the analysis of an “opposable mind” (2007). Much the same way as humans have opposable thumbs which give them the ability to achieve “marvellous things no other creature can do”, our minds are arguably of the same nature (Martin, 2007). That is to say, we are not limited to accomplishing only one task at a time and instead can “pursue innovation while maintaining the continuity that large organisations need to function effectively” (Martin, 2007). “Integrative thinking shows us a way past the binary limits of either-or. It shows that there’s a way to integrate the advantages of one solution without cancelling the advantages of an alternative solution” (Martin, 2007).
I went back to my original starter pack and started to think where I could further extract this demographic. In September, I found myself at the Wollongong Yours and Owls Festival, surrounded by the exact type of people my project was targeting. One trend I noticed emerging is the chunky, laser cut earrings in all kinds of shapes. I only had to do a quick search of Louvisa, Sportsgirl, Bardot and other popular brands to observe this emergent fashion style.
This was where I came up with the idea of making laser cut ‘wonky veggie earrings’. As described in my beta slides, the idea was that it would help celebrate surplus food products and food that normally goes to waste because of its poor or unusual appearance. This would further the work I had been doing with RecreAte, but also through using reclaimed wood and being homemade in their nature I felt it tapped into the whole sustainable and eco-friendly market I began with.
Feedback from my peers encouraged me to put some of these designs into an Etsy store, and as well as the food themed items I’ve also been experimenting with some more genetic designs that reflect the current trend. So far, I have so far had a very positive reception. I have made 12 sales in the past two weeks, and have also been approached by a local boutique store from my hometown who will be buying 10 pairs initially to sell through their shopfront. Considering the cost of making these earrings is extremely low, this is a positive result which I will definitely keep working on. I hope to include more wonky veggie designs as well and get these up onto the RecreAte website store to further link together all of these digital projects.
In conclusion, this semester has been a busy and exciting time for my digital projects, with the original idea emerging and growing into new pathways for future development. What began as a hobby has now expanded to have extensive social utility, contributing to a positive cause and creating many opportunities for me. Beyond a great digital portfolio of work, the project has allowed for monetisation which is a fantastic bonus. All in all, it has been a valuable experience to practice my media skills across multiple platforms, as well as encouraging me to listen to the feedback of my target audience and develop my project based on what they desire. I look forward to pushing the trajectory of this project as far as possible in the future, and discovering which opportunities may arise as a result.
Brown, T 2008, Design Thinking, [ONLINE] Harvard Business Review, hbr.org, [Accessed 20 October 2018].
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EPHC Australia, 2010, National Waste Report, [ONLINE] available at: http://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/af649966-5c11-4993-8390-ab300b081f65/files/national-waste-report-2010.pdf [Accessed 19 October 2018].
Martin, R 2007, The Opposable Mind, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, Massachusetts.
NSW EPA 2009, Food Waste Avoidance Benchmark Study, [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.eccnsw.org.au/getattachment/What-we-do/Love-food,-hate-waste/120437LFHWBenchmarkStudyColour.pdf.aspx, [Accessed 10 October 2018].
Ramsaran-Fowdar, R & Fowder, S 2013, The Implications of Facebook Marketing for Organizations, Contemporary Management Research, Vol. 9, No. 1, pp 73-84.
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