From Singapore to the USA and all around Europe, Edible Innovations profiles food makers that engage in improving the global food system at every stage, from production to distribution to eating and shopping. Join us as we explore the main trends in the industry from a maker perspective. Chiara Cecchini of Food Innovation Program — an ecosystem with a strong educational core that promotes food innovation as a key tool to tackle the great challenges of the future — introduces you to the faces, stories, and experiences of food makers around the globe. Check back on Tuesdays and Thursdays for new installments.

In the average American household, young ones are raised with a “clear your plate” mantra. Most of us have heard that we must finish all our food because there are starving children elsewhere. The Great Depression and malnutrition at home and abroad taught us to not to waste a single piece of food, leading the average American to over eat.

However, consumption in the age of plenty is two-fold. While some of us are overeating to avoid waste, others are taught that it is okay to throw food away if we can’t finish our meals. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a statistic that says the average family of four will toss $1600 a year of unused produce. Most of the time it goes straight into a landfill, creating 50 million tons of waste.

Too Much Food Waste

Organic waste is the second largest component to landfills. While most people believe that it will just naturally decompose, that is actually not how the average landfill works. Organic waste decomposition is stunted by the sealing processes of landfills. It locks the waste underground, or in the water, for centuries. How does one company solve such a diverse issue, with two conflicting origins?

Sally Ng is an industrial designer & product developer with a B.F.A in Industrial Design from the California College of the Arts, a background which allows for both critical and creative thinking. Born and raised in San Francisco, Sally finds inspiration in the ever diverse and eclectic city. Her special emphasis is on psychological design, where she digs deep into understanding the human psyche and ultimately utilizing design as a tool for change. Aiming to enable a change, she designed Progress Ware, an hardware product that attempts to reverse both over-consumption and excess waste.

Not Too Big, Not Too Little

Progress Ware is designed specifically to help people realize their portion sizes. The concept came from the Okinawans, who are credited as being the longest living peoples on the planet. Part of their longevity is attributed to only eating until they are 80% full, or, in their own words “Hara Hachi Bu.” Rather than parents teaching their children to finish their plate, Sally is changing the plate to help make it easier to eat the right amount. This will help change eating patterns that lead to health issues and prevent food waste.

When you are eating, you may not always feel full right way. It takes about 30 minutes for your body to even realize it is full. You could be overeating without realizing it. Progress Ware’s 9” plates are raised 20% where consumers are ideally not supposed to place food. There is also a written reminder on the back of the plate.

From cabinet to table to dishwasher, Progress Ware is a reminder that consumption and portion size is all about control. The 12 oz cup is also sectioned off to visually remind consumers how much they are choosing to consume. The idea is that the consumer will incorporate the plate and cup size into their diets. The habit of consciously consuming less doesn’t happen overnight, but Progress Ware is a new way to help reinforce these behaviors over time until they become second nature.

Designing Progress Ware

What is interesting about Sally Ng is her methods of fabrication and design.

She assembled paper, glue, and wood to realize the very first prototype to be tested. The following phase was to print out 3D models (that turned out to be generally expensive), using the design she sketched down before creating some cheaper molds. Using the 3D plate file she created negative recess of the plate split between two square blocks in 3D. The files were then sent over to the CNC router, where molds were made.

Silicon molds turned out to be the best choice in her case, both for price and for their flexibility and ease of removal. The perfect silicon mold was made out of one part silicon, one part catalyst, and a few hours waiting. The prototype in this case was made out of Polyurethane resin. The final prototypes are made out of ceramic. Sally experimented different sizes, weights, and heights to see different levels of usability of the product.

Rapid Prototyping

From a human-centered designing prospective, Rapid Prototyping is an incredibly effective way to make ideas tangible, learn through making, and quickly get key feedback from the people you’re designing for. There are mainly four steps to go through once you prototype.

First of all, determine what to prototype. Secondly, build prototypes with different techniques: Storyboards, Role Plays, models, mock-ups. The goal here it to make something tangible that conveys the idea you want to test. No need to make it perfect, just make it good enough to get the idea across. The third step is to take the prototype and test it with people you’re designing for. Put it in their hands and ask them what they make of it. Finally, it is necessary to integrate feedbacks and iterate. Once you’ve quickly built another prototype you’ll do it all over again until it’s just right.

Just Getting Started

While Progress Ware is just in its beginnings, Sally has presented at both Maker Fair and Milan’s Design Fair, and received positive feedback from medical personnel and families.

Researching and educating youth and adults about consumption can not only help reduce diet based health issues but also tackle the massive waste problem the United States faces. Designing and prototyping user-friendly solutions allows Sally to carve useful and effective solutions out, meeting specific needs and creating an impact.