Friday, September 4

A Coalition of Compromise

We discussed the Food Pyramid today: the strange Masonic attachment to pyramids, the 70s graphic treatment, and the questionable presentation of its guidance. One questions whether or not this is an effective tool for our country and its problems with obesity, health-care, and education. Though MyPyramid does have a web site, check it out at .

I want to find out more about how this abomination came to be. As a designer I have had to defend good design from irrational decisions made by highers-up, and then try to balance some well-intended but esoteric decision that makes you wish they had scuttled the project. MyPyramid smacks of such cringe-worthy compromise. In addition to other crimes against the people, someone has been robbed of a portfolio piece!

The group responsible for the updated Food Pyramid calls itself the Nutrient Rich Food Coalition. The NRFC's website says it is a "Coalition of American Commodity Organizations" whose mission is to "make it easier for consumers to build and enjoy healthier diets by getting the most nutrition from their calories consistent with the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans." This is from the NRFC's member page, . This page also shows from what interests their funding comes from.

If they just want to make things clear, then why is the pyramid update a retrograde maneuver in terms of usefulness? I'm hungry for the inside scoop. To answer my questions, and hopefully yours too, I'd like to invite someone who was involved with the project to speak to our class, either during class or at lunch afterwards. Dan Kraemer is the principal of IA Collaborative, a Chicago design studio who consulted on the project.

I don't know if IA was involved with the MyPyramid. What I saw at a lecture he gave at Northwestern was before he went out to DC to make his pitch to NRFC. He presented a clear solution that steered away from the pyramid towards a circular presentation of information. To me it had the promise to be useful to everyday Americans. Based on ethnographic research and focused on the food shopping experience as a place to best guide decision-making towards an idea of balance.

The Masons are a shadowy group that are especially powerful in Washington: any solution that did not feature a polyhedron was probably considered hopeless. Hopefully Dan will be able to tell us what went wrong.

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