13 October 2006

Slow+Design: experience design, the Slow Food way

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putting people first
by experientia

Slow Food logo
I have to admit: I am a fan of Slow Food. I am also one of its 80,000 members. It is an international ethical movement about good, clean and fair food. They “believe that everyone has a fundamental right to pleasure and consequently the responsibility to protect the heritage of food, tradition and culture that make this pleasure possible.” They organise lots of events, give quality labels to restaurants, have their own publishing house and university, and are branching out into new fields such as urban planning (“Slow City“).

Slow Food is the most clever conceptual innovation that I have seen coming out of Italy in the last decade. Through its emphasis on local produce and local production, Slow Food pulled it off to globalise the local, not an easy task in a world where the opposite prevails. In a few weeks they will organise the sixth edition of Salone del Gusto, their international fair, this year concurrently with Terra Madre, Slow Food’s colourful international food communities meeting. Slow Food also has by far the best looking members magazine of ANY movement I know of, printed of course on recycled paper, with a photo selection that is just stunning. Slow Food is seriously cool, Nussbaum might say.

Now Slow Food is getting into design.

On 6 October Slow Food Italy and three Italian educational institutions organised a one-day Slow+Design seminar on the “slow approach to distributed economy and sustainable sensoriality” in Milan (Italian press release).

The event sought an answer to two clear, concrete and complementary questions: what can design learn from the Slow Model? How can design contribute to the success of the Slow Model (both inside and outside the field of food)?

The Slow Food head office, located in a town just south of Torino, just sent me several English-language documents that provide some background on this new initiative, which is still in an embryonic phase. However, if you read them carefully, you realise that it is all about experience design, the Slow Food way. They even talk about co-creation, which they call “de-intermediation”. I quote:

“Our departure point is the Slow Food experience. Slow Food has met with great and growing international success which, contrary to dominant trends, has demonstrated the real possibility of linking food quality research to the safeguarding of typical local products and to the sustainable valorisation of the skills, expertise and organisational models from which such products originate. In so doing it has played an important role on two complementary fronts: firstly, in regenerating such a precious collective good as the biological and cultural diversity of local food production and secondly, in proposing and initially setting up new food networks.”

“However, though the specific scope of Slow Food lies in these new food networks, its experience is of more general value and is significant for those working in other fields and addressing other problems. Its experience is encapsulated in the new meanings that, thanks to its activities, have been attributed to the adjective “slow” and that we can refer to as the “slow approach”.”

“Above all, the slow approach means the simple, but in current times revolutionary, affirmation that it is not possible to produce and appreciate quality if we do not allow ourselves the time to do so, in other words, if we do not activate some kind of slowdown. However, slow does not only mean this. It also means a concrete way of actually putting this idea into practice. It means cultivating quality: linking products and their producers to their places of production and to their end-users who, by taking part in the production chain in different ways, become themselves co-producers.”

Download Slow+Design backgrounder (pdf, 2 mb, 27 pages)

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