Transmission 23.2: TIME TRAVELING RESTAURANT II
Here come insights and behind-the-scenes from our futures practice! A glimpse into our uncommon perspective and approach, to keep updated or to know what to expect when time traveling with us.
This transmission is about Catacumbias, the first time traveling restaurant in the world, located in downtown Chicago. Part 2 out of 2.
We are breaking this case into 2 transmissions, to be broadcasted as follows:
23.1 Thursday June 8th - Published (read here)
23.2 Wednesday June 21st
If you read TIME TRAVELING RESTAURANT I, skip the intro below and start at #4.
As part of the Interactive Arts and Media (IAM) curriculum at Columbia College Chicago, The Time Travel Agency alongside Lauren Liss taught a semester of futures design, rapid prototyping, and experience design to a group of newcomers to the discipline.
The goal of our partnership was to welcome IAM students to futuremaking and to experimental methods of design, so they could see possibilities of implementing futures design in their chosen fields of work. Together with Lauren we imagined 12 weeks of theory, games, rapid-prototyping of experiences, and working towards exhibiting our creation during Manifest, Columbia’s annual festival that showcases graduating student work.
Opening the first time traveling restaurant in the world was a wonderful–unknown arrival, yet the most interesting aspect of the Columbia case was how learners became acquainted with the discipline, including obstacles to entry. Their acquaintance is what we’ll look into the most in these two transmissions.
In both transmissions we’ll look at what was created alongside lessons, insights, and discoveries. The transmissions can be read sort of like journal entries about the time when a few newcomers to futures design faced an unknown discipline as a team, and experimented with it until they created something that mattered to them.
Of course, anyone interested in dining at Catacumbias could also find something for themselves here ;) Off we go!
Catacumbias is the first time traveling restaurant in the world, located in downtown Chicago.
Once in downtown Chicago, you have to go underground to time travel. This also means you have to go “underground of yourself”, which is a poetic way of saying that both time traveling and futures design are quite introspective activities.
Last time, we went over conversation as a method of working during pre-design, how rapid prototyping includes the production-oriented, and accessibility and other invisible elements of design. Here we go.
4. Menu, dishes, cards, and other restaurant elements
Sensory research, app design, and game design were ongoing work tracks alongside documentation. We were on our way to onboard others to our creation, which is a sensitive step in implementation.
It was decided that dishes of the restaurant would be placed in cards and loaded onto an app. A guest could arrive to the restaurant, plan their menu, and start tasting dishes. Once a dish was sampled, its corresponding card could be collected into their account. (Future use: unknown).
Here are some of the gorgeous cards:
The menu would be a playful celebration of the many flavors and experiences that time travel has to offer (“From stuff you taste to stuff you feel”, someone said).
Here is early research for dishes, all studied against how much game/app development would be needed as well as experience design:
Appetizer: Deconstructed Chicago-style hot dog: a playful take on the classic Chicago sandwich (or snack?), this dish would feature an activity to deconstruct oneself in public.
Main Course: Future-Steak: At once savory and innovative, this dish would be made from a plant-based scent that mimics the memory of a traumatic moment in the past, but it evolves into something pleasant as it is sampled.
Dessert: Time Traveler's Ice Cream Sundae: An indulgent and whimsical dessert featuring a variety of ice cream flavors and toppings from different generations of one’s family.
Onboarding others to an innovation is special because “nothing makes sense yet” and because the inventors know everything there is to know about a freshly made world but the first guests are needed to add to its development too. The selected, tiny stories we share with new people happen in an order designed specially during (and for) onboarding. These stories will expand or change later. Think lore and canon.
5. Experience design
Imagine a game of your making that keeps refreshing every minute due to a bug. Now imagine using this glitch–outcome, by deciding to have a one-minute limit to solve every stage of the game (you can read on “Silent Hill Snow Particles Glitch”).
Inspired by how bugs or tech limitations become features of design, one more element was quickly added for opening night:
To account for sudden shyness from first-time designers, we decided to alter the gameflow and let our audience decide how to engage with our creations. QR codes were created, each pointing to dishes that could be ordered without a human present. It was deemed ‘Surprise Menu’ because without a descriptive card, there was no order in which to taste dishes anymore.
You can give three of them a go here:
Here is the final menu for opening night (dishes are purposely underdescribed so Catacumbias can be experienced by other travelers, just get in touch!) –
Amuse-bouche: Prohibition-Era bracelets
Starter: Chicago Blues Salad
Soup: Time Traveler's Soup
Main Dish: Future Farm-to-Table Fake Chicken
Dessert: Time Warp Cheesecake Photobooth
6. The journey
Service and process designers were in charge of documentation. The journey was as follows:
Aware that this journey is another custom time travel that may not say much to an outsider, here are similarities between this team and other teams after trying the discipline for the first time:
Design was carried with an open mind and a willingness to learn. They took the time to research and study different design styles and techniques. We kept in mind that design is a process, and that making mistakes along the way is expected. They embraced the iterative nature of design, and used each iteration as an opportunity to learn and improve their work.
Making art, making conversation, and making tests were activities adopted early on, regardless of the person’s profession or skillset (and regardless of outcome).
Futures design was seen as a tool to envision potential futures and designing solutions that are adaptable. It was seen as a discipline requiring an understanding of current trends, societal changes, and technological advancements, as well as an ability to think creatively and critically.
This was an innovative and imaginative approach to design and innovation.
Time travel is seen not just as a way to explore the past and future, it's also a tool for building confidence in the present. We learnt that we are capable of overcoming obstacles and adapting to new situations, just as those who came before us did.
The process was “a machine that encouraged creativity, imagination, and introspection”.
Experimentation was key; there was a willingness to experiment with new ideas and techniques. Failed experiments still provided valuable insights and inspiration for future projects.
Collaboration was essential. We worked with other artists, designers, and scientists, recognizing that different perspectives and areas of expertise lead to more innovative and effective solutions. We embraced the awkwardness of collaboration too.
Everyone took breaks to recharge, which allowed for reflection and inspiration. Taking a step back and engaging in activities that inspired each of us (some favorites were: reading, listening to music, spending time in nature), helped recharge the creative batteries to land on fresh insights and ideas.
Catacumbias is available as a pop-up restaurant or dining experience whose purpose is different every time: whereas this team wanted a menu with dishes to feel better about themselves and the future, others have asked for dishes to ignite collaboration in multidisciplinary teams or to invite their stakeholders to a meal that showcases the Future of Food.
This transmission wraps up our Spring content! Thank you for joining us in our expeditions to Japan, California, Chicago, and Southern Sweden.
On the next transmission: Summer.
See you in July!
Time travel with us
We are a speculative design and innovation studio helping to build futures where people feel happy to be alive. Our services in discovery and front-end innovation allows us to develop and implement new products, services, and processes; help organizations of all sizes to be at ease with a changing present or future; and facilitate imaginative experiences that drive growth.
If what we do resonates with you or one of your peers get in touch through this form and let’s explore dreaming and building together.