The Soft Machine

The Soft Machine


I scream, you scream, we all scream for sweetcorn & tomato jam flavoured ice-cream! Just one of the adventurous flavour pairings served up by concept caravan The Soft Machine.


Conceptualised by ideas agency Cow Africa, The Soft Machine is a food/design collaboration between experimental chef Kobus van der Merwe, product designers Thingking and illustrator/graphic designers Radio.


Often, soft serve consists of a powdered or liquid mix containing a concoction of E-numbers, artificial flavours, mono- and diglycerides, calcium sulfate and polysorbates. It also regularly contains magnesium hydroxide, a common component of antacids and laxatives that interferes with the absorption of folic acid and iron. In addition, it can be used as deodorant or whitener in bleaching solutions and it even has smoke-suppressing and fire-retarding properties, according to a story in the National Post.


In contrast The Soft Machine’s craft soft serve is made from natural and quality ingredients only real spices, quality milk from local farms, free-range eggs, and fresh produce.


About the product:


Donald Swanepoel from Cow Africa says, “We liked the idea of taking the trailer-park cousin of gelato and breathing new life into it. Kobus is an old friend and he’s been doing some really exciting things at his bistro, Oep ve Koep, in Paternoster, on his blog Sardines on Toast, and as one half of food-design duo Saboteur. He got really excited when we started thinking about making pure soft serve from scratch.” Kobus van der Merwe added, “When we first started, we did a lot of research about soft serve. We had to deconstruct the current commercial formulas to get a feel for what goes into a basic mix. We looked at original custard and gelato recipes and started tweaking and refining them to work in The Soft Machine.”


About the illustrations:


Radio was responsible for creating the illustrations and logo of The Soft Machine and the rollout of all collateral. Brad Hodgskiss from Radio says, “The soft serve was the ultimate inspiration behind the design. We wanted to capture the happiness associated with our childhood memories and bring that to life in various characters. We preferred the use of softer line work to keep things light and breezy.”


About the caravan:


Thingking conceptualised and produced The Soft Machine caravan. The aim was to create a mobile unit that was visually open and inviting to customers. The soft serve “drips” on the side of the caravan opens up to reveal a soft serve bar with space for customers to sit around. Inside it’s finished with pine counters and wood trim and bespoke wallpaper. Lyall Sprong, Thingking: “The natural, textured cladding echoes the quality of thought and ingredients that go into making the soft serve. We wanted the caravan to feel polished and considered but with a sense of something real or tactile. We used soft colour backed by wood grain to convey this message.


The product is fun but there is a sense of thoroughness and we feel that the stylized drips and structured pattern convey this idea. We imagined the caravan parked near the beach and in this sense felt that opening the sides as much as possible would sort of pull people into experiencing the caravan; enabling a sea breeze to flow right through. In this sense the space around and in the caravan feels light and welcoming and we imagined people hanging out for a bit at the extended counters around the caravan rather than moving off instantly.”


The Soft Machine launched at Design Indaba last weekend and will now be found at the Neighbourgoods Market at The Old Biscuit Mill every Saturday.



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