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Thoughts from category: learning

the future of our country

We were sent these GCSE English revision guides a little while ago. There's a whole chunk about us in there, in a section that talks about 'Purpose, Audience, Form and Language'.

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Quite scary to think that people are learning things from the garbled use of language on our labels and what have you, but naturally it's very flattering too.

If you'd like to have a go at answering one of the questions, here you are:

"Choose something you feel strongly about. Write informatively about it and explain why you feel as you do."

Feel free to post answers under 100 words as comments. We'd love you to share your strong feelings.

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new words to ponder

Lots of new words have been added to the dictionary, including quite a few that describe our status as an increasingly obese nation.

It's also slightly worrying that not many people know what a blog is.

some tricky questions

A nice person called Alice emailed us some questions for a big piece of research she's doing. I get quite nervous when people ask us for our considered thoughts because you have to give clever answers and sound like an expert. But I thought that I would post the answers I gave in the hope that 1) it might start some debate, and 2) maybe you can supply me with some better answers so that she doesn't think we're dumb.

The questions are about our attitudes towards health and our bodies. All comments gratefully accepted.

When we eat, we put things that are not-us into us - its a moment of transformation when what isn't-me becomes what is-me via consumption. I think that to trust a brand enough to eat it is an amazing thing. Why do you think people want to put Innocent drinks into their bodies, and how did you persuade them to do it in the first place?

I think that people like putting our drinks into their bodies because they’re simple (the drinks, not the people). Finding the best fruit and squashing it into a bottle is a concept that a three year old can understand. That level of simplicity is really important in a complicated world full of duplicity and Bluetooth kettles.

As for persuading people, I think we just kept repeating our very simple message. If you say something enough, people will eventually remember what it is that you’re trying to communicate. And saying it in a straightforward and natural way helps too.

What would you say that you found out about modern relationships with the body through making Innocent drinks? What do you think characterises our relationship with our bodies today in the west and how do you think this has changed?

People are confused. They buy organic gin because they think it might be good for them. There are so many messages being chucked at us, and so much stuff to remember, that even those with the best intentions often cock things up – they get confused about whether they should eat mashed potatoes or not because a lady on the TV said that they had the wrong sort of score on the GI Index etc etc. Too much information.

But I guess that on the whole we are getting a bit better at understanding what we should and shouldn't put into our bodies, even if we don’t always actually do it. If I compare things with when I was a kid (lots of fried stuff, lots of chips, lots of Top Deck shandy), the world has definitely changed, or at least my small part of it has.

In your experience at Innocent, what have you learnt about health? What does health mean to people today, and what do you think about this?

The thing we like best is everyday health. Lazy health. There is a way to live your life that doesn’t involve getting up at 5am to go to the gym and having a macrobiotic bulgar wheat shake for lunch. A little bit of what you fancy doesn’t do you any harm, as long as you go for a nice long walk in the park afterwards.

Some people take it all a bit too seriously, and they forget to have fun in between their doses of health. They need to get lazy.

How would you define beauty today - what is the modern definition of beauty/ being beautiful?

Wow. Difficult question. To me, beauty is being natural. Nature is the most beautiful thing – everything I like most in the world is a natural object. For example, right now I am mildly obsessed with the buds on the geraniums that are sitting on the window ledge in the kitchen. Don’t get me wrong – I think that man has made some very beautiful stuff, but Nature wins hands down every time.

So I would say that being natural is my modern definition of being beautiful.

I know you like fruit. It seems to me that the fruit we eat has changed a great deal in the last decade - there are now so many different fruits, and the way they look and are presented has changed. Are there any analogies or parallels between fruit in contemporary society and culture and the body?

I think we just generally have a lot more stuff in our world. Fruit, shoes, sauces for chicken, TV channels, people – the world is approaching a point where we’ll run out of names for all of the new stuff. So maybe we’re approaching a point of reduction, where we’ll start having less, and where less choice is a good thing because we’ll have got rid of all of the banal, harmful options. Or maybe not. To be honest, I haven’t really thought this one through. Perhaps I should just stick to fruit.

How are our expectations, aspirations and perceptions regarding our body evolving? Where do you see them going in the future?

Sadly, there is still an obsession with surface over substance. It’s weird that it still pervades, but I guess it’s hard-coded in us – men are attracted to a certain type of woman, and vice versa. It’s locked in our genes somewhere. It would be nice to say that we’re approaching an era in history where people don’t have to all have to aspire to some unattainable form of beauty/body shape, but I don’t really see it happening at the moment. And this (sex, reproduction, attraction) is pretty much at the nub of our attitudes towards our bodies.

How are developments in the arts, science, medicine, technology, education, government etc influencing this evolution?

This question is too big to answer intelligently without writing a book. I’ll skip this one.

How is the role of the individual within society shaping this?

And this one.

Where do you see brands and design playing a role amongst all this? What are some good and bad examples of how branding and design seek (or fail) to connect to our relationship with our body. I think that a good example is the Dove adverts about beautiful armpits on the tube at the moment. Another example is the SUV, which is so popular because people want to protect and shield their highly individualised bodies from other people, and pretty much anything that isn't them, including society and community.

I have tried to think of some clever answers and have come up with stuff that is boring; stuff that is obvious; stuff that I’m supposed to say. Like how Apple make products that use (human) nature to inform design, rather than being obsessed with functionality. And how this makes their products and their operating system much better. But other people will be able to articulate this clever branding/design stuff better than me.

So, I think that the people who are having the most success at helping us to connect to our relationship with our body are the people without brands – all of the people who grow their own veg or sell it at the market on a Sunday morning. The people opening little farm shops and those who consciously choose to stay local. The families who are generating their own power via wind turbines and solar panels, and perhaps getting rid of one of the two cars outside on the pavement, or buying bikes or choosing to go on holiday in the UK this year. If more people do this, maybe we won't screw the environment quite as badly as we seem to be doing. Then maybe we won't have to grow gills or scaly skin to deal with the increase in sea level/sunlight that our careless ways seem to be encouraging. Maybe we can just keep our bodies looking human and pink and a bit wobbly. That would be nice.

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If you have any thoughts or can improve on our answers, post your comments like you just don't care. Thanks.