Gum: A Speculative Design Project

The Future of Current Trends

Emma Brennan
5 min readFeb 20, 2018

The use of gum is a weak signal that indicates a need for specific human desires. This product is a routine, ready-to-hand service provider. When available, it can subconsciously influence behavior.

Mindset and Replacement

In particular, gum is able to be used as a mental replacement for other desires such as eating and smoking. Although gum does not have any intrinsic value, the mechanical act of chewing is able to mentally replace other habits. It is always deliberately used to passively influence your mindset.

Everyday Ephemeral Meditation

Gum can be used to routinely pass time, occupy the mind, like a qualitative timekeeper. The lifespan of a piece of gum enables a meditative state of chewing. At last the ephemeral nature of the gum causes an end to its life and use. The lingering taste prompts desire for another piece to restart the cycle. This to me turns gum from a single product into a routine service.

Social Interaction, Status and Currency

Gum also acts as a social enabler. Gum can be used to infiltrate barriers between strangers or reconnect friends. This abstract currency can connect people and act as a symbol of trust. This ties in with chewing gum as an act of identity that communicates a specific status to others. This can then be shared so people can participate in that temporary status.

For these different qualities of gum, how will they be appropriated to accommodate future desires?

When the gum is chewed, it collects a material memory. This analysis is currently be researched in order to see if the same quality of material can act as a sensor. This makes me think that gum can act as a form of identification; it exists in an intimate and vulnerable area of the body. Also metaphorically close to the mind and core self.


Gum as medicine

Self-dissolving gum

Oral care


Future of food

Concept 01

As a response to an oversaturated world of information, where people embody multiple identities through different media outlets, the sense of self can be lost. Mental health is a daily struggle for many students in high pressure environments. What if there was a product that could enable your curated self to be embodied?

The act of chewing gum is a de-stigmatized practice that allows people to alleviate upsetting memories. Instead of replacing an active desire, this gum is able to temporarily remove/relieve passive motivators from the past. This can allow people to subtly shift an identity they want to align with.

This service can help with concentration, act as an instant stress relief, improve mental health, and take a break from the chaos of our past and present.

Questions to consider:

  • What happens if you give the piece to someone else? What is the exchange?
  • What is the experience of time while chewing this gum?
  • How is this different from smoking?
  • How is trust established of people are not their true selves?
  • What is the framing / brand of the service?
  • What are the interaction details, does the gum collect memory as well?
  • Who is the target audience? Is this meant for everyone — what does it say about you to chew this gum?
  • What is the new metaphor of gum? Is is a crutch, an rush of endorphins, a mask, a craving, a glass of water, a diary, an escape…
  • Through backcasting, what events influenced the arrival of this product?
  • Why does it need to access memories?
  • How can it be extremely personalized and social?

Mental State as an Environment

The medium of gum is able to reframe how we perceive our identity — as something stable and unchanging. In a world where people need to constantly adapt to their changing environment, people need to remove their emotional attachment to their past and embrace the self in flux.````

Gum as a Collective Identity

In a world were the individual can get lost, and their is a need to connect with the oversaturated network. People contribute to the larger community. Use it to connect with others — a common ground, reliability. Social currency. Does it tap into ideology? Is the gum an added intelligence?

Maybe to purchase there is an exchange of data — you accept you data to be used in the collective. Maybe it’s not influencing your brain — or maybe it releases endorphins when you do certain behavior, to


  • What is our current relationship with craving, addiction and desire?
  • What is the scope of this — what would you think of people
  • Would this be illegal?

What would the variables be? Is the feedback a color change? Would there be differently branded gum. What would the flavor be as a response? Maybe it’s a way to support brands — the gum is used to display which companies you support and give your data to.

“it’s normal to be continuously chewing — the default practice” Khat