Life Imitating Art?

Kebab ShopAccording to my site stats, one of the most frequent search terms leading people to this site is “Kebab Shop Design“, or slight variants thereof. In fact such searches are responsible for about 50% of my unique, none-repeat hits.

I suppose I’m glad to learn that in this tough financial climate at least one type of local trader is enjoying booming trade, but I am slightly irritated by the fact that the most popular post on this graphic design blog is my six month old piece featuring a spoof kebab shop. It’s annoying to know that the majority of hits I get are by those with no interest in the subject I write about.

But it does beg the question – how many potential kebab shop owners look at the post without seeing the irony and think, on some level, that it contains some good ideas?

By producing a piece of dystopian design to act as a commentary on what I perceive as the ever dwindling sense of community brought about by society’s blinkered and ill advised dedication to capitalistic ideals at the cost of natural human interaction and common sense, could I at some level inadvertently shape the future of fast food vending?

I shall be pissed off if one day I find myself laying in a grazed heap on a filthy pavement having been ejected from a takeaway by one of my own ironic conveyor belts.

“CURSE ME!” I shall cry, waving my fist at myself.

Designing a Better Kebab Shop

I’m a graphic designer by trade, so my main focus of attention should be on the printed page and moving screen. Thing is, if you’re the sort of person who has a design mind you tend to find yourself looking at all aspects of the world and trying to think of ways to improve it. I find it really hard to switch off that part of my brain so I’m not really one for accepting rubbish design of any type, and I quickly get frustrated when things don’t work as well they so obviously could. So although my design training never took me much further than typography, layout and colour considerations, my design mind can’t help but look a bit wider.

That, I believe, is what proper design is. It’s certainly not (as most people derisively assume) simply about making things look pretty. It’s about trying to improve the world we live in. Be it the clarification of a bus timetable or the ergonomics of a suitcase handle, be it the most insignificant alteration to the dot of a lower case i or a fundamental overhaul of a mutlinational’s manufacturing practices, the process is generally the same. You look at the subject, consider the problems, look at the current solution, examine where it works and where it falls short, dissect every detail then translate all the collected information into a new solution. The solution is always in the problem; you just have to know where to look.

So though I’m a graphic designer who’s bread and butter is in page layout, visual communication and compelling copywriting, I do feel reasonably qualified, and I know this will probably sound a little bit arrogant, to design just about anything. To prove this beyond all doubt, allow me to share my design for a kebab shop, which should link you to Flickr upon clicking, where you can view it nice and big.

Kebab Shop

An old friend of mine used to work in a late night kebab shop and frequently had to deal with drunk northerners fighting, throwing things around and generally behaving in a rowdy fashion. Occasionally he had to resort to ejecting the worst offenders which is not without risk. The ensuing furore often necessitated a panicked phone call and rapid riot van deployment, and many trading hours were lost while statements were given, windows were boarded and floors mopped.

Looking at the trouble they used to have, I decided there was a better way of doing things, so I designed a system that automates the event. My solution allows the staff, from behind the safety of a bank style glass partition, to simply press a button which ejects all customers from the shop with minimal fuss and bother and little to no risk of litigation following bodily harm. In addition to this, I thought perhaps it might be wise to integrate a cleaning system into the design which could remove all traces of trouble, from exploded kebabs to bodily fluids. My system allows the whole job to be performed in one quick efficient sweep, minimising down time and so maximising profit.

It would even be possible to manufacture the whole thing as a custom prefabricated unit and simply slot the lot into the vacant shop front. That way you just attach the electrics and plumbing and you’re ready to go. Security shutters wouldn’t even be needed as the moving wall can simply be left in the extended position overnight to seal off the entrance.

So there you have it. I hope my sharing this turn-key retail solution provides some evidence that designers from any discipline can turn their minds to just about any problem.

Having said that, I must be honest with you here and also share a little nagging doubt. Though I’m pretty sure I’ve ticked all the boxes in my quest to design a better kebab shop, I do wonder if I’m not taking it far enough. It does its job, but perhaps I could do even better. You see, if I’m being honest my design is only addressing a single symptom of a much wider issue. It’s good, I’m proud of it, but really I must concede that it fails to address the root cause. Maybe if we look at the bigger picture we could get to the bottom of why such a kebab shop might be required in the first place.

Actually, no, scratch that. Great Britain didn’t get where it is today by addressing root causes. I mean, where’s the money in that?

Right. Off to the patents office.

UPDATE: a follow up to this post can be found here.