Only in Japan could the worlds of novelty plastic consumer goods, fast-food fanaticism and brand worship collide in such awe-inspiring, object-cultural absurdity.
The Japanese arm of fast food giant KFC recently released a suite of computing accessories in the likeness of their deep fried product. Whilst the Colonel hasn't yet taken to directly battering computing equipment (though that may not surprise some given recent accusations of some of their stores unsavoury contents), winners of a promotional giveaway could find themselves the lucky owners of a curious red and white keyboard, the keys of which replacing standard symbols with cryptic castings of miniature fried chicken pieces, giving users only the K, F and C to anchor to (presumedly touch-typing is second nature to Japanese technophile whiz kids). To make this branded computing experience complete, KFC also offers consumers the chance to wrap their hands around a disconcertingly realistic USB mouse and equally disturbing, as well as impractically large, USB flash drive—both novelties employing a rather questionable amount of plastic.
Collectors and fried chicken fanatics from Harajuku to Akihabara are surely to delight in these wild creations. Looking beyond the shimmering golden brown surface however, critics of the fast-food chain may well come to point out that such questionable objects only operate to abstract KFC's fried products further from the suspect reality of their production (current estimates for chickens put through the KFC machine at around 1 billion per year!).
Do such objects abstract the products they represent further from the living chicken origins that we'd rather forget?
Sam Dunne is a designer, strategist and writer based in London. Sam is founder of design strategy agency Cohere and Contributing Editor at Core77—reporting broadly on design, technology, food and object culture.