Obesity has always been a growing problem, but now it’s firmly on the rise. A possible ‘fat tax’ could finally see the UK put its money where its mouth is. But can design help us lose the right kind of pounds?
According to recent research by Mintel, one in four of us (or 13 million people in the UK) are already trying to lose weight ‘most of the time’. Mintel reports that women are more than twice as likely to be attempting to shed the fat as men, with 37 per cent of women reportedly on a diet, in comparison to 18 per cent of men.
These figures seem to reveal that the adult population is not completely ignorant about issues of weight control, though habits like skipping meals still affect some 18 per cent of women and 11 per cent of men, according to the research report. In contrast, the problem is at its most serious among the young population.
Fast food chain McDonald’s announced last week it plans to introduce more effective labelling on its food products in the UK, to help improve nutritional awareness for its customers. The chain also announced it would be ditching some of its larger meals, to allay criticism that it was not doing enough to keep customers informed about the food they eat.
Designers are also taking steps to help counter younger children’s dietary problems. Last week Beswick design completed an innovative project to create the branding and interiors for a physical activity club called Kidsports.
The man behind the scheme is ex-pro tennis player Chris Lane, who appointed Beswick Design in September last year. Lane acquired the worldwide rights to US-based Kidsports, before deciding to launch it anew in the UK. Beswick Design then designed and developed the brand.
‘We took a lot of time to learn about the crux of the thinking behind the brand. One of the things we didn’t want to do was patronise the children, so there won’t be any murals of clowns on the walls. What we didn’t want to do was create something that feels like a children’s ward,’ Beswick explains.
‘What we’ve also done is try to create an environment that didn’t alienate the older kids,’ Beswick continues. ‘But we haven’t created this for the “games console generation” either. There’s no “wow factor” to the design; it’s almost regressing in terms of what children want, but it’s clear that what they do want [the games console look] isn’t what they need. What we have are several zones that occupy children and stimulate them as well.’
The initiative has been created in consultation with child behaviour specialists to boost the learning aspect of the scheme. But the focus is very much on activity, with Crayola and Lego in talks to decide whether to put their products into the zones. Futuristic playframes are also likely to be introduced by the Softbrick Company.
The scheme also includes the Kidsports CafÃ©, which will offer deliberately healthy versions of contemporary food. ‘There won’t be chicken nuggets and fizzy drinks,’ says Beswick.
The first UK Kidsports venue, featuring Beswick Design’s branding, opens in Watford on 5 April and will then be rolled out in the UK across 12 sites still under negotiation, but centred around the South East of the country.
Mintel’s research confirms that young people (15- to 19-year-olds) are less likely than other age groups to avoid fats and sugars, or actively consume vegetables. Perhaps it is telling that 49 per cent of this age group also feel they should be doing more about their health.