Designers don’t shop for groceries

One of my new favourite sites is That’s Flawsome where Carl and Zheng critique and criticise the kind of designs that get coverage at co.design and Yenko and, infamously, are featured in the Electrolux design competition. They’re not afraid to turn their critical eye on themselves, too.

Earlier this year at CES Samsung showed a fridge with an Evernote client built in. Evernote themselves said: “Some people thought it was a good idea and got the benefit. Others saw it as ridiculous excess.”

I think internet fridges are flawsome.

The main use-case for an internet fridge is supposed to be that it keeps track of your ingredients and reminds you when they’re expired or running out. Then the fridge either orders you some more or puts the item on a shopping list. The Samsung Evernote fridge abdicates this automatic list-making and makes you do it yourself. Which is the least-bad version of this I’ve come across.

In general, though, we learn several things from Internet fridges.

Designers of internet fridges don’t have a lot of imagination. Why are people with Internet fridges always running out of milk and eggs — who are these obsessive custard-eaters? Why don’t people with internet fridges run out of bacon?

Designers of internet fridges might think everything perishable in the kitchen belongs in the fridge. But there are a great many things that simply don’t belong there. Not to mention all the things that you could buy at a supermarket that aren’t for the kitchen at all. Toothpaste? Shampoo?

Designers of internet fridges might think everything comes in a barcoded or RFID’d package that can be programatically tracked. However, many products don’t come in packages, and even packaged products sometimes don’t include individual barcodes or RFID tags.

Designers of internet fridges probably don’t go grocery shopping (or haven’t paid attention to people getting ready to go grocery shopping). Preparing a shopping list isn’t only about noting what’s gone but what will be gone, given future use, before the next shopping trip. That is, it requires understanding patterns of previous consumption and anticipating future use of ingredients and products.

To construct an internet fridge, first reconstruct the reality of domestic life.

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