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visual communication practice



Description of idea

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

I began my research inspired by "Our Daily Bread" and its ability to offer a perspective which does not force a negative or positive perspective on the audience. I soon realized that the first step to democracy is an informed decision and I felt that those that are the least informed are the ones over powered by the advertisements, packaging and the carefully designed experience of the modern supermarket in western culture.

The alternatives are available to us western society but for most of us that participate in the consumption of this regulated food industry, our decisions can be dictated by our daily routine and habitual behaviours. As Sally Miller(2008) explains in "Edible Action - From Voices to Power", that the challenge is how to recognise and persuade behaviour toward these alternatives. I believe this persuasion comes from intervening into the daily habit of those that use the convenience of supermarkets in order to encourage a change in behaviour and direction.

Within the walls of a supermarket there are thousands and thousands of decisions to be made. It is from our experiences which guides those individual decisions. In many ways those experiences are cultural and social but they are also guided by the design powers of packaging, advertising and interior layouts. I observed that (for most people) there is a disconnection between the individual choices we make and the collective sum of what those decisions add up to. In other words, we as consumers are great at making individual choices because we have experiences like packaging to guide us, but we often don't realise our own consumer habits because there is nothing to help us to reflect upon our own behaviour.

The concept I propose is how these individual choices can be combined to visually communicate a person’s consumer behaviour. Thus allowing the consumer to reflect upon their own behaviour in order to encourage them to change it.

I took inspiration from Kenya Hara around the concepts of 're-design'. I decided to approach an object in our supermarket routine that is "so overly familiar to us that we can no longer see it" Hara(2007). My piece of visual communication is focused on re-interpreting the supermarket receipt to bring together those individual decisions and offer an immediate and personal representation of our consumer behaviour with the use of information graphics.

By arming people with the information about their own consumer behaviour, we can encourage a change in the routine that dictates their decisions.

What kind of communication approach do you use?

My approach to communication is a conceptual one. I look to define the problem and this definition creates the framework for approach.
Our university tries to teach us that we shouldn't have a particular style but we should try to be flexible enough to approach any problem. I do my best to maintain this approach.

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

In my opinion, society can benefit from my communication because it will be a more informed one. Like "Our Daily Bread", my design aims to reveal information about our daily lives so that an individual can make a more informed decision about their own behaviour and choices they make as a consumer in this food industry.

What did you personally learn from creating your submitted work?

I have learnt that as a designer you should not tell people what to do or how to think. It is not my place to force my views and ideals onto others.
I have also gained (through research) a greater understanding of the food industry. I no longer see myself as a passive consumer but as an active voter in the democracy of food.

Why is your work, GOOD communication WORK?

I believe my work is good communication because of the medium I chose to use. By using the supermarket receipt I feel I have directly targeted the intended market and exposed an opportunity to intervene our daily routine. The visuals I have designed are bold and can gain the attention of the audience as well as having a subversive nature in order to interrupt our daily routine and perceptions.

Where and how do you intent do implement your work?

It is my intention to implement this concept and visuals in small to medium sized supermarkets.

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?)

This intervention has not effected or gained attention from other media.

Curators comments More info on Curators & Editors ›

I enjoyed the simplicity of this entry, good clear graphic design with a straight forward educational angle that speaks directly to the consumer.

The point of contact at the till is a good place of discourse and debate with the public, directly relating to what they have just bought, i feel people would respond well to this interruption and it was carefully design to not be too forceful in its message.

Along with other uses of info graphics on packaging to inform the public of sugar, fat and salt content, this opens up the possible link with other social issues such as; fair trade, social wages, pollution and locally grown produce which are often left off food campaigns aimed at the supermarket.

The simple graphic form the the receipt takes meant that you had a fun visual language to focus on and the graphics works well in this limited pallet and dot matrix form.

View other works commented by Tony Credland  ››

I recently came across a visual experiment run at a US supermarket chain - Whole Foods. At a store in Providence, RI, the produce section removed all fruit and vegetables that would not exist without bees. The effect was stark, immediate, and said more about the issue of declining bee population than any information graphic ever could...because it fundamentally changed an environment we 'no longer see'.

The occupation of the receipt is a sound conceptual move, and as you rightly diagram (p.6), everything in a supermarket is already tagged, and adding the type of information you're after is definitely possible. At output as well, the printer that handles the receipt is certainly capable of providing a quick visual summary of the tagged information gathered at check-out.


The concept does not need to end here - working from the standpoint of physical, not just information space, and in some ways pushing Kenya Hara's basic views on retailing to a critical not just consumerist end, a small, local market might just go for a physical demonstration of your largely virtual idea. What about re-organizing, literally, an entire market by the distance-travelled by each item? Or by percentage weight of packaging? Or by time since harvest? Its taking your concept and making the harder visualization in physical reality.

It takes what is critical on a receipt, and potentially disposable as a visual, and confronts a buyer with the difficulty of a new physical experience in a space that they must now 'see' through your way of viewing a supermarket.

The concept in the end is sound, as is the thinking, but extending it into the physical, perhaps in addition to the virtual/informatic would give you another level of influence and communicative impact altogether.

View other works commented by Roderick Grant  ››

I think this particular design strategy is on the right track- in thinking through behaviors and influencing them rather than relying on what could become an ironic deconstruction of a particular label or other comment on a marketing strategy.

The idea of the receipt is good- the information context sets up different expectations of user behavior that can be expanded on with a critical social evaluation of a kind of 'total'. The key here is in working with the user/consumer and somehow getting past the obvious response of breaking down the rhetoric of advertising by confronting it through design directly (and which has little hope of ever actually getting implemented).

It would be great to develop this further. The labels are a step, but what communication methods and channels could be followed up with outside of the limited behaviors in a store, in a larger examination of behaviors over time and in different daily contexts of your audience?

View other works commented by Scott Townsend  ››

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Curators comments

This work has been commented by 3 curator(s):
Tony Credland Roderick Grant Scott Townsend go to comments ›

Entry details




The medium of the supermarket receipt.

Concept author(s)

Scott Burns

Concept author year(s) of birth


Concept author(s) contribution

Scott Burns has researched, conceptualized and designed this proposal of visual communication.



Competition category

visual communication practice

Competition subcategory


Competition field


Competition subfield


Subfield description

University of Technology, Sydney.