Eatwell, Live Well

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Sha Yao, an industrial designer, was volunteering in a local senior care facility, and noticed that patients with dementia had difficulty eating independently, due to the mental and physical restrictions of the disease. Normal silverware and flatware was too challenging to use, and so inspired by the problem and her grandmother’s developing Alzheimer’s disease, Yao designed Eatwell. Eatwell is an easy-to-use line of plates, bowls, and eating utensils specifically crafted to make eating cleaner and hassle-free.

The project also won first prize at the Stanford Center of Longevity design contest for its clever product design: dementia patients are often confused by food that is the the same color as their dishes, hence the blue color of the insides, and the cups have low centers of gravity to prevent tipping.

Yao has since launched an Indiegogo campaign for the product, raising over $92,000 to date.

Although manufacturing issues have pushed delivery dates back, order should be back on schedule in a couple of months. Pre-orders are available on the Indiegogo campaign page.

What Sparks Our Fire: Inventions that help Alzheimer’s and dementia patients with simple, everyday tasks

Kid Food Gets a Makeover


You may recognize Kraft Mac N’ Cheese by its distinctive blue box, bright orange color, or the multitude of commercials that air on television during every family sitcom. However, due to concerns about health and safety, several major companies are switching to all-natural food coloring, which means that many of your childhood favorite foods will look a little different in the future.

Among these are the bright-yellow banana peppers at Subway, Trix cereal, and now Kraft Mac N’ Cheese, which will now use tumeric and paprika coloring instead of Yellow 5, which may slightly alter the flavor. Part of the reason for this change can be attributed to a popular food blogger called “The Food Babe,” who pointed out that at least one scientific study in the past has linked Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 to hyperactivity, ability to learn, and “long-term problems” like skin rashes and asthma.

The push toward natural dyes and flavorings and away from overly processed foods has been a gradual movement that has gained traction in the past few years. However, there is still research that suggests that we eat with our eyes, and thus lies the problem of maintaining the appeal of food with bright, inviting colors but keeping the ingredients all-natural.

What Sparks Our Fire: Brands catering to consumer demands and finding healthy alternative to classic childhood foods


Under Pressure: How to Make Diamonds in a Microwave


While diamonds are revered for their rarity and status, they may soon become both more affordable and more accessible. Man-made diamonds increasing in popularity, especially with raised awareness of the existence of blood diamonds and rising costs due to inflation.

According to an article in Bloomberg Business: “Unlike imitation diamonds such as cubic zirconia, stones that are “grown” (the nascent industry’s preferred term) in labs have the same physical characteristics and chemical makeup as the real thing.”

They’re grown in microwave chambers from carbon seeds, superheated into a plasma ball, which causes the crystallization. The process can take 10 weeks, but the payoff is real–the stones are physically and chemically identical to organically mined diamonds.

Around 45% of Americans from ages 18 to 35 still say they prefer real diamonds. However, it’s worth noting that man-made stones still comprise only a very small fraction of the $80 billion global market (less than 0.25%). But the growing demand may spur a change in the market very soon, and as consumers become more conscious of their purchasing decisions, a conflict-free, lab-grown diamond may soon be the way to go.

McWhopper for World Peace


Burger King released a video proposal on Wednesday as an open letter to its No. 1 competitor McDonald’s, calling for the two burger powerhouses to bury the hatchet in honor of World Peace Day on September 21st.

The fast-food chain proposed a pop-up shop at the halfway between its headquarters in Miami and McDonalds’ headquarters in Chicago, in Atlanta as the middle ground. The shop would exclusively serve “The McWhopper,” half-Big Mac and half-Whopper, designed to “settle the beef” between the two companies for a day. In addition, to the video, the company also created a website illustrating the logistics of the proposal, even featuring an endorsement from nonprofit Peace One Day founder Jeremy Gilley and the recipe for the proposed hybrid burger.

However, the advertisement was seen by some as both a not-so-subtle challenge and a cheap marketing stunt, namely, by the face of McDonald’s himself, who released a public rejection letter of the proposal. “We commit to raise awareness worldwide, perhaps you’ll join us in a meaningful global effort?” wrote Steve Easterbrook, CEO of McDonald’s. “And every day, let’s acknowledge that between us there is simply a friendly business competition and certainly not the unequaled circumstances of the real pain and suffering of war.”

Despite what is clearly a highly-publicized branding move, Burger King seems sincere in its efforts to contribute something meaningful using its status as a popular fast-food chain. McDonald’s seems a little more reluctant to do so, at least in partnership with Burger King.

So who “won”? McDonald’s is making it clear that they refuse to play the game, and in terms of tactics, what was doled out to them as a friendly curveball was slam-dunked over Burger King’s head. But the circumstances of the offer should be taken into account as well. Was it smart or snobby for McDonald’s to reject the offer given that it was for a good cause, especially considering McDonalds’ struggle to stay relevant as of late? You decide.

But all things considered, McDonald’s had better come up with a really great campaign with all this talk of “global awareness.”

What Sparks Our Fire: Creative inter-brand collaborative marketing campaigns (and a little beef)


living things“Living Things,” currently displayed in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Pittsburgh, imagines bioluminescent algae as home decor, creating an eco-friendly and sustainable living space.

The exhibit, which features a kitchen, living room, and a dining room, envisions a future in which the designers, Jacob Douenias and Ethan Frier, envision “photosynthetic furniture,” or pieces that contain glass vessels of algae. These vessels are wired to heat and light, which causes the algae to grow, making them a source of oxygen.

This living, breathing display is not the first that has used algae as a material; however, the designers say it could become more common in the future, because the liquid suspension of the organism makes it malleable and therefore easy to manipulate.

What Sparks Our Fire: Designers harnessing the power of nature to create homes that homes that boast both aesthetics and sustainability.