Product design as a tool for social change? It's a possibility unleashed by the first senior projects coming out of a new Drexel design program.
Drexel student Alexa Forney's low-cost sustainable food kits may help make self-sufficiency an attainable goal even in so-called food deserts in impoverished urban areas — farms and cows optional.
Forney developed her product in the first senior design class of the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design's product design program, alongside classmates working on ideas as diverse as an asthma inhaler that can be tracked by mobile phone and a pair of glasses that provides light therapy for Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Over the course of the three-term class, Forney researched, created and presented her food kits, which provide basic instructions and tools for users to become more self-sufficient by producing bread, butter and lettuce.
"Drexel has really taught me a lot about interpersonal skills, about reaching out to other people," says Forney, who spoke with to farmers, activists, politicians and urban agriculture experts for feedback.
Forney's work was inspired by her experience on farm sites in the Kensington and West Philadelphia neighborhoods, and by a project she completed on Philadelphia's local food scene for a previous class.
"That passion for food, for the local environment, has really carried throughout my time here," she says. After her graduation in June 2014, her project was accepted for further development in a six-week business course sponsored by Drexel and the University of the Arts.