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visual communication practice

DIY High Fructose Corn Syrup



Description of idea

Describe your idea and concept of your work in relation to the festival outlines:

The DIY High Fructose Corn Syrup Kit (DIY HFCS KIT) begin as a journey to uncover the mysteries of processed food. Often times at the grocery store while reading common food labels one cannot distinguish what certain ingredients are or where they came from. The DIY HFCS Kit is a way to visualize as well as interact with the food science behind industrialized ingredients, it is citizen food science for everyone, everywhere. The ingredient chosen for this particular kit is one that is seen a lot in processed and pre-made foods, it is pretty much everywhere, and it goes by the name high fructose corn syrup. The interesting thing about high fructose corn syrup is that the ingredient pops up in so many foods; from cereal to bread, yogurt to ice cream, frozen dinners to canned soups; but high fructose corn syrup is never actually seen on its own. One of the main reasons for this is because it is a highly processed industrialized ingredient created in large factories behind very closed doors. The method for making for high fructose corn syrup was not easy to uncover, nor were the ingredients, but with a little help from some friends and a whole lotta research and testing the Kit was finally created. The DIY High Fructose Corn Syrup Kit contains all of the ingredients you need to make high fructose corn syrup at home along with an instructional video, all you need is a stovetop or crock pot and I’ve provided the rest. I strongly believe in learning through experience and making. With this Kit and future DIY Processed Foods Kits we are all citizen food scientists armed with an increased knowledge about what goes in our food.

What kind of communication approach do you use?

A handmade kit that is translated to a website with accompanying videos. The website has all the information about the kit and its ingredients. I have one demo video on the website showing exactly how to make high fructose corn syrup at home. I have one other video describing the content of the kit and the concept for kickstarter, it is also on the website. I also have information regarding why I chose high fructose corn syrup displayed on the site

What are in your opinion concrete benefits to the society because of your communication?

an opening of communication regarding an ingredient that is typically made behind closed doors. Allowing people to visualize both the ingredients and the process behind one of the most widely used processed food ingredients

What did you personally learn from creating your submitted work?

I learned a lot about processed foods, about the extent of science and technology that goes into producing them. I learned that simple sounding ingredients can be much more complex than one might originally think. I learned that corn is used to produce everything from sugar to fuel to animal feed and much of it is genetically engineered.

Why is your work, GOOD communication WORK?

The DIY High Fructose Corn Syrup Kit communicates the ingredients and process for making high fructose corn syrup at home. The combination of the kit, video and website make sure that the information is accessible to everyone, everywhere

Where and how do you intent do implement your work?

I am currently working on a kickstarter to fund the creation and distribution of the kit

Did your intervention had an effect on other Media. If yes, describe the effect? (Has other media reported on it- how? Were you able to change other media with your work- how?)

Not yet but it's really only just begun. I would like to create more kits in the future - DIY bleached enriched white flour, DIY monosodium glutamate, DIY red #40, the list goes on and on...

Curators comments More info on Curators & Editors ›

I found the form of this project very appealing and educational, the box and layered information was an interesting learning tools to show the industrial nature of producing High Fructose Corn Syrup.

I was not so convinced by the additional video, as the presentational nature was quite stilted and dry and i was not so sure of the actual benefit of actually making the syrup myself.

Where as I found the box itself a clear rhetorical devise that along with some instructions would explain the issue clearly and elegantly. A well made prototype that could form the basis of a discussion about why this substance has found its way into many of our food stuffs and what its effect is on the body.

I guess what i felt was missing was the information for a debate, there is plenty of information available about the health risks of HFCS and you seem to have deliberately avoided pointing to any of it, this could be because you feel that is not your place but a clearer critical position on your part would have been interesting.

View other works commented by Tony Credland  ››

The demonstration of concept is cohesive and informative, while retaining a critical stance, quite a dance around some very challenging issues regarding industrialized food production. The 'ingredients behind the ingredients' as a basic premise sounds simple enough, but here it is handled with a form, straightforward tone based in consumer education.

The kit, in and of itself, can function in many contexts, from an actual DIY activity, to a potential exhibit that could, as the author states, deal with other processed food ingredients - bleached enriched white flour etc. It is in the repetition of the model hatched here in the first set of outcomes around HFCS that a systemic critique or 'lab food' becomes a useful tool in consumer education.

A potential avenue of exploration within this project could be to map the energy-intesive nature of these industrial food processes. I had no idea the corn would need to be simmered overnight - that's a HUGE input of energy into a type of corn that obviously does not want to be turned into food. In a basic comparison to truly edible corn that we grill, boil, heat to cook, what's the difference in energy input?

As for where this project goes, and what it becomes, the website itself could be more appropriately delivered as an animation? The serial nature of several investigations could greatly enhance the communicative effectiveness in the form of an exhibit or other type of installation - 'cooking' classes? It may be a more pointed form of communication to consider this and future kits to be 'one-offs' - functional prototypes used for demonstration/education, not manufacture and distribution.

View other works commented by Roderick Grant  ››

I don't know if this was supposed to be funny, but it was in the best possible way. Visualising hidden industrial processes and ingredients via the conceit of DIY and home crafting has a lot of critical/comic potential.

You're playing it very straight, and it works, but is there room there for some unapologetic satire - projecting these corporate food frankensteins through some a hybrid home cooking / Heston Blumenthal style molecular gastronomy filter?

And I like the idea of a cookbook and youtube cooking show - my mouth is already watering... grandma's favourite monosodium glutamate, uncle George's rustic red#40! It would be a sensation!

View other works commented by Jason Grant  ››

This is an interesting, but slightly perplexing project.

I love that you have conducted your own research to uncover the production process, and shared it through strong and clear visual communication. Your graphic design and the production of the prototype kit are excellent. The videos are clear and informative. You've clearly explained that you wanted to understand what HG corn syrup is through the process of making it – excellent, thinking through making is a great approach to learning, especially for visually inclined people who can then visualise the process and results to help others learn.

What I don't understand is why other people would want to make this at home, using a DIY kit? I think perhaps you have positioned the communication aspect of this work incorrectly. The value of what you have done is in a documentary-style exposé of what goes into an ingredient present in much of our food, that we actually know very little about. This is an important message to communicate – I'm appalled by the chemical make-up of corn syrup, and I certainly wouldn't want a vial of sulphuric acid floating around my kitchen! There's something quirky and great about they way you've produced this essentially awful ingredient in a way that makes me want to buy the kit based on the aesthetic qualities of it (it looks fun!) but there's also something sinister about allowing home cooks the means to make an ingredient we should be trying to eradicate from our diets entirely. The DIY kit is the way you are able to show us what you did, but it should stay a piece of 'speculative design' – existing in theory but not put into production. The last thing the world needs is more people cooking with chemicals.

Keep up your investigative experiments into food, it's a great ongoing project and it looks like you're having fun doing it, which is an inspiration to makers everywhere.

View other works commented by Dr Zoë Sadokierski  ››

Other comments

9 years, 1 month ago

Thank you for the feedback! Tony, yes I did purposefully leave out any information about health risks. I do have very strong opinions about HFCS but it went against the purpose and tone of the project. I wanted to present a very nonbiased look at HFCS, processed foods and their ingredients to allow the audience to form their own opinion and thoughts based on what I was showing them. When speaking of obesity and health risks it is easy to turn people off prematurely, I wanted everyone to see this project and decide for themselves how they feel

Curators comments

This work has been commented by 4 curator(s):
Tony Credland Roderick Grant Jason Grant Dr Zoë Sadokierski go to comments ›

Entry details


DIY High Fructose Corn Syrup


citizen food science for everyone everywhere

Concept author(s)

Maya Weinstein

Concept author year(s) of birth


Concept author(s) contribution

Concept from research to making


United States of America

Competition category

visual communication practice

Competition subcategory


Competition field


Competition subfield


Subfield description

The New School for Design