Design Student Aims to Change the Community

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If you live in a city, you may have noticed that in some areas, access to fresh produce is lacking. In many neighborhoods, local food shopping means a minimart or a small ethnic grocery store. When Lindsay Kinkade was a graduate student at the Rhode Island School of Design, she often had a difficult time finding healthy foods without spending a fortune on transportation. When she had a chance to enter a design contest, this seemed like an obvious problem to tackle.

The design contest was part of a student-led conference at RISD and Brown University, intending to connect students with professors and other members of the design community. Called ‘A Better World by Design’, the idea behind the conference was to use principles of design to solve some of our world’s most pressing problems. Together with fellow students Erika Tarte and Beth Weaver, Kinkade proposed a service called “The Grocery Loop.” This brightly painted bus would travel a loop around town that exclusively included grocery stores and other types of food shop. The bus would have a logo design and a color palette that stands out from other types of public transportation, preventing confusion and making the service easy for users to identify.

Because the main goal of the design conference is to connect people who create ideas and people who can implement them, this was the perfect place to make such a proposition. With an attendance of around one thousand people, one of the conference’s main contests this year was to improve inner city nutrition. Access to fresh fruits and vegetables, a problem encountered by the RISD graduate students, is a lifelong struggle for many people living in impoverished areas of the city.

To develop their idea, the students rode local public transportation and talked to other riders about their challenges in obtaining fresh food. They also surveyed eating habits and identified common dietary problems. The students then mapped out a route that would take patrons to nearby food stores. Being design students, they also had the idea to use design and branding to distinguish the bus from other types of public transportation. With a catchy name like ‘The Loop’ and a logo design combined with a bright color palette for the bus would make this easy. Further, the students suggested a Grocery Loop website and smartphone apps to help people track when and where the next bus will be. A feedback app is also part of the program, as it would likely take ‘tweaking’ to get the idea running optimally.

Like all buses, those in The Loop would follow a standard route including supermarkets, farmers’ markets, ethnic food stores, and even spice shops. Patrons could get off at a stop, do their shopping, and then get back on the bus to go to their next stop until they had finished all of their marketing.

This service would solve a huge problem for the graduate students, but also for inner city residents who may have problems finding fresh fruits and vegetables throughout their entire lives. First Lady Michelle Obama has noted that a lack of access to nutritious foods is a key challenge in the inner cities of our nation.

Kinkade’s winning idea has yet to be implemented, but it represents an interesting design solution to one of the problems that plague our nation.