Projects

Food for Thought Truck

When O+A co-founder Verda Alexander first imagined an office on wheels she thought of it as a co-working space for laptop nomads and far flung commuters. Only later did the idea of a mobile design studio emerge. Food for Thought Truck’s principle purpose is to spark creativity among O+A’s young designers and “give back” after 27 years of working with some of the most powerful companies in the world. Austerely functional in design, ever-playful in spirit, Food for Thought Truck travels to communities around California and engages with local stakeholders on site-specific projects. Part social outreach program, part design crusade, part radical art lab, the truck’s itinerary is project-driven, exploring how design can be a force for good, particularly in localities where it hasn’t been a factor.

When O+A co-founder Verda Alexander first imagined an office on wheels she thought of it as a co-working space for laptop nomads and far flung commuters. Only later did the idea of a mobile design studio emerge. Food for Thought Truck’s principle purpose is to spark creativity among O+A’s young designers and “give back” after 27 years of working with some of the most powerful companies in the world. Austerely functional in design, ever-playful in spirit, Food for Thought Truck travels to communities around California and engages with local stakeholders on site-specific projects. Part social outreach program, part design crusade, part radical art lab, the truck’s itinerary is project-driven, exploring how design can be a force for good, particularly in localities where it hasn’t been a factor.

  • Team Verda Alexander, Kristina Cho, Nikki Hall, Marbel Calderon, Paulina McFarland, Al McKee, Chase Lunt, George Craigmyle, Elizabeth Vereker, Liliana Lewika, Rachelle Meneses, Lisa Bieringer

  • Photographer Photographer credit Lex & Ev

Outside the Comfort Zones

In the brainstorming meetings that hatched Food for Thought Truck one idea emerged forcefully: that the benefit design can bring to under-served communities is matched by the benefit under-served communities can bring to design. From the beginning the project was conceived as a learning exercise. Moving outside the office, physically taking the office on the road, FFTT’s design team sought to step outside its comfort zones and expose its principles and processes to new scrutiny and new influences. An often-repeated refrain during these planning sessions was, “We’re not going out as experts. We’re going out as students.” 

An Idea, But Also a Truck

O+A bought a van from a gelato entrepreneur and set about turning it into a design lab on wheels. While early sketches tended toward fanciful transformations—roofs popping up and walls popping off—spatial economy and versatility proved more important in the final design. With a canopy that opens up and a platform that pulls down the truck has enough structural dexterity to support public presentations, while preserving an interior austerity that lends itself to lab work—and naps. 

“Food for thought Truck is going to be a two-way street for O+A. We’ll be able to take what we learn and bring it back to our interiors practice”

Verda Alexander, Studio O+A 

Who Was That Masked Man?

A bare stage does not foretell a bare evening. The flights of imagination this austere design studio sparked became apparent first in the book commissioned by a London publisher to document its progress, next in the graphics created by O+A artist Paulina McFarland to brand the project and finally in the variety and playfulness of the partnerships the programming team devised for the truck’s first expeditions. From the beginning Verda was attracted to the idea of the truck as a mysterious presence, a vehicle that would roll by on its way to some worthy destination while people on the street wondered, “What was that?” 

Instigator, Facilitator, Park on Wheels

Every trip Food for Thought Truck has made thus far has been a unique project. For PARK(ing) Day 2018 in San Francisco the truck turned into a mobile mini-park complete with a carpet of real grass. At San Jose Farmer’s Market it worked with pop-up retailers on their storefronts and in Fremont with a local non-profit building a miniature golf course. In Bakersfield Food for Thought Truck coordinated and facilitated a week-long exercise envisioning a new neighborhood downtown. In Los Angeles it will join River LA to help raise awareness of the Los Angeles River. Every trip has been a voyage of discovery, every project a new lesson in design.