Boston University, Graphic Design Senior Thesis, 2019
Bone Folders + Blue Gloves, named in honor of objects I use on a daily basis, is an ABSURD shopping experience that explores data collection, consumer culture and OCD in a new way.
For most of my life, I’ve considered myself a germaphobe, and over the last year I’ve been working on lessening my anxiety around germs. The thing I’m most scared of though is germs in food. I even spoke to a therapist about it and she advised I try cooking classes. I never did, but maybe in the future. I like to believe that these classes were prescribed because it meant I would be handling my fear directly in an artistic fashion. Perhaps tangibility could make my ill notions surrounding food less scary? Who is to say, but it is something I explored in my thesis projects.
I chose to tackle my fear of food, formally know as Cibophobia, in my thesis. Cibophobia to me is the condition of being afraid to eat different foods because of the possibility that it could make you sick with a stomach virus. Personally, I avoid eating many foods altogether — anything raw or not well-done for instance. Perishables don’t last long in my fridge either. This isn’t because I’ve eaten them, but because I fear they’ve gone bad. Even when the expiration date is far away, I suspect food is infected.
Pathogens and Claw Machines
Besides being on everyday objects that we touch, virus pathogens lurk in the foods we eat. Ew. Yep, you got it, food poisoning. For my fellow cibophobes, this a nightmare: always aware of everything we eat in fear of something being bad or infectious. Through my thesis, this fear manifests itself through products you would normally find at a market — reusable bags and produce — but with a weird twist.
My obsession with viruses, arcade claw machines, and my Aunt Chrissy’s desire for me to make clothing using virus microscope imagery inspired me to make my own plush toys that could be “won” from a claw machine, but with a twist — they would be foods covered in virus patterns. I also decided to screen print bags that have infected fruits and vegetables on them as a piece of abstract functional design.
Silkscreen was the dominant vehicle for my voice during thesis. I learned many screen printing techniques in the last semester of my college career and felt that they allowed me to best show my tactile skills and fear of food in an interesting manner.
By recontextualizing shapes and patterns of pathogens to fit into consumer culture vernacular of arcades and supermarkets, my seemingly invisible fear was made to be visually inescapable.
Since the initial idea for my projects came from the parallel of arcade claw machine imagery to virus pathogen shapes, I decided my that supermarket would also take on the conventional architecture and decor of arcades—having a fence with prizes. I chose to stick to a five color palette with five fruit and veggie plush toys and four different bag designs on the five color palette bags (for a total of 20 bags).
While this thesis will not cure anything, my hope is that it will lessen some of the fear surrounding the “invisible” and create a better understanding and dialogue of germaphobia.