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MA Eco-Social Design: Project 2 by Carola Kurz, Janine Vorfeld, Simon Barthmuß | SS 2020

+da. Fair and Local Groceries: Persuading Consumers of the Immaterial Benefits

Circular economies have a problem: while generating lots of abstract benefits, they still remain unclear for end consumers. How could they be explained more understandably? A creative endeavour for the Upper Vinschgau region.


Future model with an image problem

The da cooperative maintains a collaborative food producer network in Upper Vinschgau which yields many immaterial values for the region. However, end consumers often fail to see the benefits of local modes of production. Nevertheless, they are undeniable—and difficult to explain in a concise manner.

Understanding the abstract

To penetrate all the layers of added value was key for our design of a communication strategy. After several revisions of the underlying value system we identified four clusters of benefits: future, cooperative, personal and environmental effects. The local food economy contributes to these aspects in various ways, e.g., by fostering societal cohesion through a vivid exchange between small farms.




How to valorise consumer choices?

We aimed for making the network and its consequences tangible for end consumers by placing different objects directly at the cooperative’s points of sale. They aim to communicate the added values of locally sourced food: a signpost as an encounter object; price tags visualise the flow of money; receipts and paper bags explain the practical activities of the cooperative.


The fundamental communication concept is based on four clusters of additional values: future (“wege+da”), cooperation (“wir+da”), personal (“du+da”) and environmental (“natur+da”). A common visual language connects all objects.


The signpost explains value-creating aspects and processes of cooperative production. Its slot-insertion system allows an easy swapping of the signs to showcase different businesses.


Price tags show the proportion of revenue streams and are a display area for hand-written price information. They also give an overview of spent resources for the goods.


Using the lower part of the receipt allows communicating activities of the cooperative in relation to a concrete purchase and value cluster. Learnings from the process behind for the future of +da
The here presented (visual) language and artefacts are outcomes of a process to find a successful communication strategy. During the three months of development of +da we discovered many possible paths to achieve a constructive result. Some of them proved to be dead ends. However, there were approaches we considered that seem ever more relevant in hindsight.
One of the explored directions involves a more antagonistic language towards consumers. Together with our partner, we decided that the future +da would benefit from a more humorous language which dares to challenge consumers. The project should be enriched accordingly and speak in a more activating tongue. This ought to result in a less conservative appeal and would pay tribute to the experimental reputation of the cooperative. 
Another goal we pursued was to create a bond between the producers and consumers. To attain it, our artefacts could still use a layer for personal display for the consumers. During our design process, we saw a possible solution in +da as a medium for a reciprocal connection between producers and consumers. How +da could be made more experienceable in this regard should be a focus question of future prototyping and testing.
When looking back, we must not ignore some aspects of our failures. Other than the learning process, they can be reprocessed to add to a more daring vision of +da and act as signposts on the pathway of implementation.


Carola Kurz, Janine Vorfeld, Simon Barthmuß

Teaching Team:
Corinna Sy  (Object–Spaces–Services)
Kris Krois (Communication–Interaction–Services)
Jennifer Schubert (Social Interaction Design)
Secil Ugur Yavuz  (Design & Production)
Alastair Fuad-Luke (Design Research)
Lisa Borgenheimer (Counsel for Info Design)

da – Bürger*Genossenschaft Obervinschgau

Supporters & Stakeholders :
Armin Bernhard – da chairman and educationalist
Günther & Karin Wallnöfer – local farmer couple
Anna Folie – da board member and local farmer
Michael Hofer – da vice chairman and economist