[ This store will send shivers down your spine. An intriguing case of speculative design ]

Have you ever heard of speculative design ? These are ideas that take shape in the form of unusual, surprising art or utility design. The Drop Store is an example of such an undertaking. This online store offers products that depress with their symbolism.

A bottle of water is worth the same as the entire basket with groceries. Two tiny pieces of cheese packed in plastic for the price of a bluetooth speaker. Tablets with the taste of “real food”. Sounds like unreal reality? Unfortunately, we are getting close to it every day. 

The climate catastrophe not only leads to a water crisis (especially in the poorest countries), but also contributes to the fact that basic food products are no longer easily available. Cultivation of grain, rice or even tomatoes is becoming more and more challenging. It is highly propable that in a few decades a large part of the globe will not have a chance to drink bottled water or will forget the taste of a real pizza.  

The creators of The Drop Store project decided to pay attention to this problem in an unusual way. They have created an “online store” with products that show where we are as humanity and to illustrate how the deepening water crisis may affect the lives of each of us.

Behind the initiative is the Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which has established cooperation with the advertising agency Publicis Groupe.

As Eduardo Marques, chief creative officer in Publicis Groupe, says: We need to understand the upcoming water crisis; we need to know that water is valuable. We want to talk about people’s wallets, the money we spend, or the way we consume things, about the fact that [items] will be scarce or unavailable. That is how we reach average people. 

Part of a bigger project. About speculative design

The Drop Store fits into the assumptions of speculative design. It is a term  coined in the 1990s by academics Anthony Dunne and Fiona Rab. Behind this notion lies the practice of making hypotheses about future products, systems and services in order to conceptualize the way they might affect the societies of the future

That is what researchers say: [Speculative design] is an activity where guess is as good as knowledge, where futuristic and alternative scenarios convey ideas, and the goal is to highlight the implication of “mindless” decisions for humanity.

Speculative projects often take forms of designs proposals, in the form of exhibitions, films, novels, product designs and sketches. It also includes various kinds of performances, including those carried out in the digital space. A perfect example of this is the Dutch proposal. 

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