‘SEMINAR IN A FRUIT SHOP’ by anne zhou

Anne Zhou’s curatorial research investigates how design relevancy can be achieved in an ever-changing world through co-creation, culminating in the eclectic ‘Seminar in a Fruit Shop’ exhibition in a Shanghai fruit shop. Zhou proposes that design relevancy in our time can come from designers sharing their ownership of design. For her research, she organised a series of collaborative workshops where participants were tasked with creating off-the-shelf domestic products in conversation with their intended end-users, to investigate how design education can respond to the evolving world. The resulting off-the-shelf objects demonstrate the result of this experiment in sharing ownership of design.

‘Design briefs, now more than ever, are centred around the idea of uncovering innovative versions of existing products,’  Zhou notes.‘However, if we continue to race for versions of similarity, we pose the risk of the industry losing track of our rapidly evolving world. Though perhaps what we need is not a more noticeable object with a new trendy color, adjusted forms, and unconventional materials. ‘

anne zhou’s ‘seminar in a fruit shop’ exhibits off-the-shelf objects alongside watermelons in shanghai fruit shop
all images by Zilu Wang, unless stated otherwise

Shanghai store converts into an exhibition space

The Shanghai-based curator’s live research exhibition offers models for expanding design practice to non-traditional design audiences as a way to democratize design. ‘Seminar in a Fruit Shop’ sees an unassuming local fruit store bursting with watermelons, double as an exhibition space to showcase the final products of the workshops. The display at the store entrance invites the diverse mix of locals and expats who pass through the place daily, to experience and discover design ideas in an everyday setting that is full of life.

Objects are placed alongside film and process journals to explain the co-creation process to visitors, and initiate conversations around the topic of shared ownership of design – an avenue for the industry to benefit from public involvement to expand the capacity of design. One of the products, Susie Yang’s ‘DIYer’, is a DIY hook kit which invites users to consciously make and reuse, to address the issue of material scarcity in an age of mindless consumption.

anne zhou leads a series of workshops
Anne Zhou led out a two-month workshop for recent design graduates | | image by Henri Zhang

designers and end-users design off-the-shelf products at anne zhou's design workshop
workshop participants created off-the-shelf domestic product that would give end-users more creative agency