Creating ritual meaning in the future
Academic | 2021
Collaboration with Wei Zhang, Thao Ha, and Fanny Chavanne
As a speculative design exploration, we explored a future where humanity faced a fungal pandemic that went a different route, leading to a smaller, more agrarian lifestyle. We imagined a people who, having witnessed so much death, have a very different view of their relationship to living and nature. Creating prototypes in this low-tech, grief-stricken world, we learned how to build an in-depth understanding of our characters and their lives and ultimately created a funerary kombucha ritual, complete with a hereditary tea set.
Starting with a futures cone exercise, we mapped current trends to their logical ends and began mapping out a wild card post-pandemic future where humans did not bounce back so well. Exploring this future, we began making 2x2s to understand how different themes might shape this world and the people who live in it.  We then created characters, first as archetypes of different human responses to the traumatic events that created this future, then wrote a fictional narrative and produced a video collage (previous page) to conceptualize their daily lives.
Concept Design
We then sought out to devise objects that might exist in this world. Paying a visit to the British Museum, we explored the Egyptian wing to gain inspiration from historical rituals and practices around death. We then brainstormed ideas based on materials and technology we knew this world could have, and became interested in the kombucha fermentation cycle as a process that might fill a cultural spot similar to tea in this world, and provided a set of touchpoints to build a ritual
Design Outcome
Our final outcome was a communal grieving ritual (mapped out on previous page) that would use a deceased person’s kombucha set and mother (a byproduct of the fermentation cycle that is reused to start each new batch, thus growing and evolving as it links cycles together) to share that person’s unique brew with their loved ones over the few weeks of the fermentation process. This was one of my favorite outcomes, personally - I loved the way we managed to pair materials with an emotional narrative.