Can a Kid's Menu Challenge Binary Thinking?
An Infiltration Operation
A set of childrens’ menus designed infiltrate food chains and subvert black-and-white thinking.
How are “sheltered” children affected later in their life?
I conducted deep interviews with adults who defined their childhoods as “sheltered.” Due to their guardians’ academic, moral, and/or religious beliefs, they experienced difficulty making independent judgements and decisions as adults in the “outside world”.
Sheltered children observed that those raised in the “outside world” just been taught a different set of binary rules.
They thought society as a whole needed to teach all children new ways of thinking.
II. SHIFTING THE QUESTION:
How do everyday childrens’ graphics promote black-and-white thinking?
I identified several ways in which graphic design manifests itself in childrens’ lives: books, television, apps, and schoolwork. It seemed to be in classic activities (mazes, wordsearches, coloring pages) that they were most encouraged to think in black-and-white.
The restaurant kids’ menu is an common piece of design that presents activities that are meant to keep kids busy by finding singular answers.
III. REDESIGNING THE ACTIVITIES:
Can parameters encourage a multitude of solutions?
When given no parameters, people often have trouble generating original ideas. So, how can the structure of such games actually promote new ways of thinking?
When scrolling down my facebook feed, I encountered a strangely relevant clickbait article:
Children challenged binary solutions when they were given problems they couldn’t solve.
So I set out to make every menu “unsolvable” with classic methods of thinking.
IV. MAKING A MENU:
Thematic and Aesthetic Choices
To make a believable kids menu, one must choose a theme. These are often related to branding of the dining establishment. But to be fully utilized, my menus needed a theme that would work in a range of restaurants.
I came to the theme of an egg: an ingredient of most cuisines that serves as a common metaphor for “breaking free.”
To infiltrate, I borrowed the single-color, naive aesthetics of most childrens’ menus but with a "design-y" twist. In the end, I had designed three double-sided menus.
In order to work in restaurants with either place-mat style or booklet menus, they are designed to fold easily into booklets.
In Practice, and Outcomes
I presented these to my Graphic Design IV seminar where I played the part of an anti-menu advocate, and called for their wide distribution in local food establishments.
Children who were presented with the menus thought they were “really hard” and “looked weird.”