Blog (Team No Money)

Design a product or service that establishes a system of value that 
doesn’t rely on financial transactions.

Week 1:
Money - Pink Floyd
The brief of the unit seemed extremely interesting. We had to think about the nature of money, the cultural impact that it makes and how people value things in general. Money is a concept, it can be physical, digital; it may have million of forms and it changes and disappears just depending on people's opinion. At first glance we were a bit scared by the wide set of answers that we could offer, but after some brainstorm sessions we considered the whole affair rather really pleasant and enjoyable.  Unfortunately I wasn't there all the time this week (good way to start a team, I know), but I tried to do my best even if I was not physically there. Our process of creating started from a deeper research into the concept of value itself, from its philosophical meaning to its physical nature in theories like Schwartz Theory of Basic Values or the ones of John Dewey, connected with feelings of desire and interest. Then we explored all those cases where a financial transaction was substituted by material valued more then money (such as exercises for the non well shaped citizen or goods to exchange like noodles in a prison). We tried to discover as much as we could about all those hidden and peculiar ways of transaction, as our goal was to be as creative as possible.

Week 2:
Earth Song - Michael Jackson
The week we needed to choose a specific topics, so after the research part we had some brainstorming sessions. Among the initial ideas we had crypto currencies, influencer based value, information value and environmental friendly transactions. We stuck to the last one, as we thought that people are degrading natural capital at an unsustainable rate because accounting for economic output does not include the costs of degradation to the natural capital on which much of our economic activity is based. We then proceeded with the interviews, where we split in two groups to get different kind of people. I went with Reina at Selfridges in Bond Street where we interviewed people all around, from Chinese tourists to senior women doing fancy shopping.  The findings were interesting, as we found out that people are not really aware of the environmental cost in products and that is not much to be done to change their minds, as "it should not be up to them but to the big companies". After this, to triangulate the research we did a couple of tests involving people and their reception to value and nature (i.e. hidden cameras to see people' reactions to ads related to climate change and natural production costs). In the end the results we find were: 

Environment was considered as a macro issue with little change an individual could make
Most of people are not aware of the environmental cost in products
Knowing the environmental cost could change people’s behavior to some extent
Different ways to show environmental cost of the products could influence decision making 

This week I learned how important interviews are, especially how quality is more important than quantity. Having the right point and interesting outcomes can change everything.

Week 3:
Live Like Animals - Nothing But Thieves
As we went further with the project however we realized that even if the findings were interesting, they were not narrow and specific enough. So we dug deeper and we focused only on animals, and in particular endangered species. We realized that a system of value that does not rely on financial transactions could be the one where humanity as a whole has to decide which endangered animal to save and which one to leave behind (for reasons revolving around budget, utility and historical value). We have to decide who to include in the next Noah's Ark. So we researched on all those value system where companies, countries and scientist used to determinate this list of animals, like the Department of Conservation (DOC) in New Zealand with its Threatened Species Strategy algorithm or the Zoological Society of London’s EDGE scheme that prioritizes phylogenetically distinct mammals, which have long branches of evolutionary tree. We also created a physical model based on a reconstruction of what are the chain reactions that the lack of a species could bring in an ecosystem. We focused on the rabbit crisis in Australia and the Bee collapse in Europe. So we created a Rube Goldberg Machine with paper, plastic cups and anything we could find. Luckily the presentation was ok and the complex machine worked ( after many, many failed attempts). Feedback were positive even if some of our class mates did not really got what exactly was the system of value. I think everybody just expected a simple substitution from coins and cash to something else. 

Week 4:
Sugar, Honey, Honey - The Archies
This week started with some creative block. we did not know what way to proceed and sometimes we felt we might just as well take a step back. Finally we decided that it was better to narrow our topic even more, so we focused solely on bees. So we stepped back a little and we researched anything we could on bees. However after a couples of days with our faces glued on a screen we realized we needed some field research. We had to see bees and beehives with our own eyes, we needed to understand how the honey process worked and how we could make it into a system of value. So one morning we took a brake and we all went to the Bee Urban Centre at Kennington Park and we joined a volunteering session by making cells for the beehives. I am so glad that we went there as it was extremely helpful to have a chat with this organization. They taught us about everything: from how bee prefer certain flowers and trees to what are the different problems that beekeepers have to deal with. All things that I would have never discovered just by looking at a screen. We then moved the idea to a more honey-related value. Would it be possible to get paid with honey? Does a bee-less society still have any meaning?

Week 5:
Sugar Honey Ice & Tea - Bring Me The Horizon
The week started roughly. We just didn't know how to proceed. The meeting with Made by Many was incredibly useful but also a bit disheartening. I feel I could have done better and I didn't. We did not know hot to proceed, we had problem just by connecting between ourselves, sometimes caused by a language barrier, sometimes by different ways of thinking. Sometimes just cause. We also had problems meeting between us, leaving a couple of us with a 4 people problem . Maybe I'm carrying a weight too heavy, but I can't fake that it doesn't matter for me. It does, a lot. I could have killed to be where I am some times ago and now I'm wasting this opportunity. Not every team is made in heaven but that does not mean that a collaborative project is impossible to carry out. If I want to keep doing what I love I will probably have to face much harder situations. So let's get back to work and hope for the best. After a lot of  second thoughts and perplexities the path was a bit clearer, but we still had thousands of ideas for the final design. In the end we narrowed to just two of them. The one I came up with was basically a scenario where honey was at the centre of everyone's attention, as it was rarer and rarer. So people started to use it as a luxury currency, with particular bags for carrying it around and to show off. The second idea consisted of a digital intervention on a platform like Instagram or Facebook, as the design focused on people's need for attention and social. Basically if you wanted to log in on those platforms more than a certain period of time you had to make some goods for the bees.

Week 6/7:
Flower - Moby
Those 2 week were spent trying to advance our ideas. After a couple of days trying to improve them we had some chat with our tutors and realize that maybe the best way to move on is to merge them together, as both ideas had some serious lacks. The "honey as a value" idea was a bit shallow and it did not permit us to get more creative, while the social idea was basically an all-digital app with nothing creative in it. We spent the rest of the week trying to merge them in the best way possible, so we could have a full experience. The first thing to do was to define our audience. We narrow it down to just the university and focus on teaching students the high value of bees and honey. We then decided to focus on the act of planting flowers, taking photos and getting rewards (considering that that is the fastest and easier way to help bees for a student). However we then realized that some details were off ( like how to define the rewards, what technology to use to decrypt images of flowers and how to better involve people into the rewards) so we promptly changed things here and there to make everything more real and grounded. Then we tested the experience and the app to some students and changed the design based on the feedbacks: too many logos, more honey-points, better designed buttons,  etc.. We also added a add dystopian elements, as it seemed less as a speculative piece of design and more of a final, frictionless product.

Week 8:
March For No Reason - King Crimson
In the end we developed (absolutely not at the last second I swear!) the idea to a designed framework of services that promotes bee friendly actions and products through certified organizations, as our aim is to highlight the hidden value exchange between humans and bees. We did not want to establish a new value system as much as making people aware of an already existing one: bees create value through pollination and products while humans can create value through sustainable and bee friendly actions. We also told a story: what would happen if bee populations keep on decreasing. The story ended with the disappearance of beehives and a Ministry of Pollination created specifically to make humans pollinate flowers (as bees are not longer available). Our framework of services consisted of the Bee Stewardship Council, a non-governmental, non-profit organization which aims to protect the bees: if your product has this logo, it would mean that no bee has been harmed. It also provides settings, trademark assurance, accreditation services and market access for responsible bee-interested companies and organisations like the UAL itself. The outcome of this collaboration can be seen in a welcoming box kit, now updated to contain a flower seed kit (correlated with the previous designed App), note books made of recyclable bee-friendly paper and brochures to show all about helping bees and what to gain from it. In conclusion I am proud of our final design. The difficulties encountered among the way were the necessary push to dig further and further until we were happy with what we got. I am satisfied of the work we did and for what they said it looks like the guys at Made by Many are happy as well. I feel I have learnt how to work quickly and under pressure and learned a great deal about the importance of collaboration with other people. If I were to do this project again I would push more on a research level to develop a more technical final design and a more detailed framework of services, with multiple examples and simulated scenarios.