Week Six: MA Project

Updated: Apr 6

Images: Micro plastics at my local beach

Tutorial with Céline

Discussion points:

• Contribute to teaching on plastic pollution.

• Research into existing pedagogy methods; role/immersive play (video games) successful / lecturing less successful.

• Traditional packaging methods vs. modern non-sustainable methods.

• Plastic pollution in which area? Rural area of Taiwan.

• What aspect of plastic pollution; reasons and process, consequences, solutions? All three. This is too broad.

• How can the message communicate affectively? What are the anchor points to build connexion and create interest?


1. Focus / narrow down; Specify a targeted audience, age group, area to start with. Pick a ‘problem’ to focus on for now and test out. Examples of very specifically focused problem for illustrative purpose only (you don’t have to pick this particular ‘problem’); How can 8 to 12 year old students transition from plastic bags to sustainable packaging to transport their lunch to school? How to design a how to guide on good recycling practice for 14 to 20 year olds?

2. Research local traditions and history of tools, material and usage (packaging, transport, daily usage items etc).

3. What language and imagery is the target audience confronted with and what are their visual references when it comes to plastic and packaging? What is it associated with? Start collecting references of visual material in the local area that either depicts / illustrates / communicates / advertises / promotes plastic or packaging (traditional and ancient, or contemporary mediums). E.g advertising, public role models promoting specific plastic items, but also basic guides and how to, historical figures and traditions.


• The Natural History of Architecture, https://www.pavillon-arsenal.com/data/expositions_fbcdd/fiche/10633/english-dp_671e9.pdf

• The Green Imperative, Victor Papanek

• Look into the work of Bernard Chadebec; He designed posters for National Research and Institue of France to prevent accidents in factories, and shaped the education of workers on safety. His work was revolutionary in how you can create engaging designs to talk about boring/lecturing topics.

After my tutorial with Celine, I refined my project question further. We discussed how the broad topic of plastic pollution can be split into three sections: the history of plastic, where we are now, and future action. Before this conversation, I had been eating at a local restaurant and received rice wrapped in a leaf. I was told this was a traditional way of serving some foods, which intrigued me.

Image: Rice wrapped in a leaf at a local restaurant

Of course, plastic hasn't always been around; however, as Celine mentioned, for some children, it has. For some children growing up now, plastic on the beach and in the environment is normal. With all this in mind, I began thinking about the importance of understanding what plastic has replaced. As mentioned in a previous post, plastic bags had replaced paper bags to benefit the environment by reducing the number of trees being felled. In some communities worldwide, bamboo straws have always been the norm, such as in Baga Dima, a village in Northeastern India.

Image: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/article/village-india-sustainability-rooted-tradtion

There are many shops where I live that sell a whole variety of objects, furniture, utensils made from bamboo, usually by an elderly lady or gentleman, which made me question what skills and knowledge will we lose once these older generations are no longer here? We still have a generation of people who lived pre-plastic, which needs to be taken into consideration.

I then began refining my question further:

How can we use local history and traditional skills within modern education on plastic pollution?

Looking Back to the Past: Revival of Traditional Food Packaging

  • As early as the late years of primitive society, packaging had already started.

  • Due to social changes and human bartering of goods in large quantities and often faraway places, containers were needed.

  • Certain societies looked at nature to provide 'natural' packaging - like gourds, shells, and leaves.

  • Later, containers were created using other natural indigenous materials, such as hollowed bamboos, tree bark, woven grasses, reeds and animal organs.

  • Modern packaging has different packaging principles - used as reference within the design packaging manufacturing. Among them are aspects of form and type of packaging, illustrations and photos, and determining the colour, typeface, and composition layout of a product.

  • It is interesting that the earliest food packaging using natural indigenous material is still visible in rural villages in Malaysia and Borneo today as it is is still highly regarded as an important packaging technique.

  • Many industries and businesses are dependent on plastic containers and abandon the safety impact of materials used by them.

  • Many of the methods of food packaging and preservation used today are of ancient origin.

  • Sustainable packaging is becoming a fact of life for companies that seek to remain competitive. Companies employing sustainable packaging report cost savings, improved environmental footprints, brand image and company reputation among other benefits. Those businesses that take the lead now will be ahead of the curve and enjoy the benefits in the future.

  • An understanding of the performance of packaging materials, and the application and development trend of rational use of traditional packaging materials whilst expanding the use of localised sources is significant.

  • The introduction of new packaging and processing technologies using traditional materials, creating new packaging containers and packaging techniques using natural resources, must be explored and developed to improve the level of packaging technology to achieve far-reaching impact.

The Green Imperative: Victor Papanek

Papanek outlined some traditional packaging methods which dated back to the 17th Century which included Spanish moss, other dried mosses, sand, sawdust, crushed and dried leaves or dried grasses, thin cotton bags filled with down or feathers, wood chips, and much else.

Images: https://booktherapy.pl/products/green-imperative-ecology-and-ethics-in-design-and-architecture

He also mentioned how he, himself, as a boy used popcorn as packaging whilst working at MOMA. Popcorn used as packaging could make a comeback as researchers at the University of Göttingen in Germany, who have developed the plant-based packaging (below), are already in talks for its commercial use. Popcorn packaging would take the place of polystyrene-based packaging (like styrofoam) which takes centuries to break down and is made from nonrenewable fossil fuels.

Image: https://www.fastcompany.com/90641461/this-styofoam-like-packaging-is-made-of-popcorn-not-plastic

My Local Environment

Images: My local environment


This week I began looking into traditional/historical methods of food packaging. It has been really insightful as I haven't considered food and other objects being packaged in leaves and other natural resources. However, up until fairly recently, this was the norm. Through globalisation and the rising population globally, our shift from these natural, sustainable forms of packaging moved dramatically with dire consequences. With this in mind, this shift is once again changing back to the natural and sustainable. Popcorn, moss, leaves and wood chippings could once again become packaging essentials.


www.researchgate.net. (n.d.). (PDF) LOOKING BACK TO THE PAST: REVIVAL OF TRADITIONAL FOOD PACKAGING. [online] Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/274075774_LOOKING_BACK_TO_THE_PAST_REVIVAL_OF_TRADITIONAL_FOOD_PACKAGING [Accessed 3 Apr. 2022].

Toussaint, K. (2021). This Styrofoam-like packaging is made of popcorn—not plastic. [online] Fast Company. Available at: https://www.fastcompany.com/90641461/this-styofoam-like-packaging-is-made-of-popcorn-not-plastic [Accessed 6 Apr. 2022].

Papanek, V. (2021). GREEN IMPERATIVE : ecology and ethics in design and architecture. S.L.: Thames & Hudson Accessed 6 Apr. 2022].

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