Berit Kalmar is one of a kind. One of those people that will be part of a shuttle launch on Monday and eating hot dogs with hobos on the tracks on Saturday. This sort of understanding of humanity is what has defined most of her work. She's Swedish—from a small town called Kalix up in the far north. When she was 16 she wanted to get some experience overseas and moved to Sandusky, Ohio.
Most people laugh when they find out that she moved there to work at Cedar Point, ride the coasters, and train in her own way to be an astronaut. It worked though, that's the thing. After 6 years of doing that and studying around the world, she got a job at the Trans-Continental Space Authority. One of her first assignments was to decide what object should be shot into space to help aliens understand humans. She was on a team of 50, and after several years of ideating and brainstorming they came up with the "Bear With Saxophone" or BWS. It was one of those compressed sponge creatures inside a gel cap- the same thing that you probably played with as a kid. They sent 10,000 of these capsules into space. At the same time, they sold them in grocery stores so kids and adults alike could have a piece of history. The capsules were a huge seller and helped fund the TCSA's next two missions.
While at the TCSA, one of Berit's main tasks was to use the technology that was being developed in-house for quirky products that normal people could use. Like a lot of people, she thought that the fact that humans called balls of dust "dust bunnies" was great. At the time, the TCSA was working with ink that could hold a static charge. She took this technology and created the dust bunny print-out. It was a piece of paper with the special TCSA ink and a charging stick. These were sold in the mid 1990's in Western Europe and parts of the Southern US. For a brief period they were also sold in SkyMall.
The late 90's were a hard time for Kalmar. She proposed the letter Mweh, which was ridiculed at first but has since been taken seriously and is the subject of countless research papers. Her argument was that our alphabet shouldn't be set in stone—that new letters should be added every 25 years. These new letters would lead to new words, new expressions, new ideas. Her first suggestion was the letter Mweh. Although it hasn't taken hold anywhere other than her native Kalix, it remains one of her best, but most misunderstood ideas.
in 2007, Kalmar retired from the Trans-Continental Space Authority to start her own restaurant. From her own experience, and after listening to her friends talk about how they would eat pasta in space—she came up with the idea of combining potatoes with pasta. The pasta would form a sort of hairstyle on the potato which leads to some interesting names. For example, the picture below was called the "Val Kilmer Potato". Black pasta is used for the Elvis, Whole grain pasta is used for the Reagan.
Berit currently resides in Gary, Indiana and is married to Henderson Stevens (the inventor of the Henderson Graph). She spends most of her time working on new pasta/potato varieties and taking boozy walks down the railroad tracks. Want to get in touch with her? Best way is to go to Gary and ask around.
Design Fancy is a series of short stories about fictional designers who make fictional things. The stories (and the objects) are by Matt Brown.