food design


Designing the Future of Food



We can learn something – actually quite a lot – about our culture by looking at how we imagine the future of food. Are we all going to starve, as Malthus prophesied back in the eighteenth century? Or will we find ways to feed the growing humankind? And what kind of resilience will we embrace? Will it be based on science and technology, or will it rather rediscover the ways of our ancestors? As Warren Belasco indicated in his masterly Meals to Come: A History of the Future of Food, these scenarios are far from objective and neutral. They are rather the expression of ideologies and political negotiations that are solidly rooted in our present and our evaluation of the societies in which we live.

As I have already discussed in this space, a relatively new voice has joined this conversation: food design. Design as a discipline is very much focused on the innovation we can introduce in our daily lives. As designer Todd Johnston observed, “A design marks out a vision for what can be; the act of designing is to move with intent to close the gap between existing conditions and that vision.” Back in 1999, design theorist Tony Fry famously considered design as a weapon against defuturing, that is “the condition of undermining viable human futures through our contemporary modes of habitation.”

As food becomes increasingly central in how we imagine ourselves and the world, it is inevitable that design expands its sphere of interest and practical applications to food. Food design, as the founding document of Food Design North America states, “includes any action that can improve our relationship with food individually or collectively. These actions can relate to the design of food products, materials, practices, environments, systems, processes and experiences.” The relevance of the reflection about what’s coming is highlighted in a Kickstarter campaign that is raising funds for MOLD: The First Print Magazine About the Future of Food.

Food Design, the book written by design critic Ed van Hinte on and in collaboration with Katja Gruijters, is a stimulating addition to this conversation. Its subtitle, “Exploring the Future of Food,” excludes nostalgia and luddist perspectives from being considered as effective tools to make our food system better. Technology is not considered an enemy, but rather a possible collaborator, even when it is not necessarily at the center of Gruijters’s work.

The volume follows a well-proven approach: an issue in food systems is identified and discussed, and then Gruijers’s projects dealing with it – directly or indirectly – are presented, illustrated by photographs of events and objects. Among the topics, we read about seaweeds, flowers and insects as underused sources of nutrition, proteins from plants, the need for surplus reduction in Western food production, obesity and health. While the narrative structure is quite effective in introducing many hot topics, the authors do not claim to have any final solution. They are actually quite self-reflective about it, musing: “Another weakness in some of our prophecies is that they themselves can cause changes. They can enhance conditions or hamper them.” Debating the future is, in fact, highly political.

Changing the way people eat, their preferences and their outlook is not supposed to be easy. Food design is not about coming up with quick fixes. Van Hinte and Gruijters underline that “it is important for designers and food providers to be aware that their work is never a one shot deal, certainly not when it comes to ecological interventions. Balance is not a fixed state.” However, looking for viable solutions does not necessarily mean renouncing pleasure. “The new field of food design is emerging as a way to shed light on the development of food values in terms of nutrition, enjoyment, and seductiveness to all the senses.”

Food waste inevitably looms large in the pages of the book. It has emerged as one of the most glaring problems in post-industrial societies, becoming increasingly unacceptable in terms of food justice, environmental impact, and long-term sustainability. For that reason, at The New School we decided to partner with the Institute of Culinary Education to organize Zero Waste Food, a two-day conference that will take place on April 28 and 29 in New York City. Aspiring to bridge the separation between theory and practice, the conference will connect academics with practitioners, designers, chefs, and the business sector through panels and hands-on application. We are particularly looking forward to the keynote address by Massimo Bottura, whose restaurant Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy, reached the no. 1 position on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list and whose non-profit Food for Soul aims to empower communities to fight food waste through social inclusion.

Food on Show: Two Exhibitions in Rome

By Fabio Parasecoli, Associate professor and coordinator of food studies, The New School.

foodnews 8.11.2015 shroomsfabio

Not to be outclassed by Milan, where the Expo 2015 – with more or less success – has turned the spotlight on food and nutrition as one on the most urgent issues of our time, Rome has now its own food-themed exhibitions.

A show called Food: dal cucchiaio al mondo (from the spoon to the world) is gracing the gorgeous spaces of MAXXI (the National Museum for the Twenty-first Century Arts) until November 8th. The theme is the relationship between food and space, examined through increasingly wider frames of reference: from the body to the world, and from the home to the street and the city. The exhibition showcases works from artists, photographers, and architects that exemplify the complex role producing, cooking, and eating food play in our lives. Short videos illustrate projects in urban agriculture from Florence to Nairobi, with ample consideration dedicated to the social and political aspects of food systems, as well as to their impact in terms of sustainability. The concept of landscape – and in particular agricultural landscape – emerges as a lens to examine the connection between human communities and their environments, not only in the rural world but also in the growing metropolises around the world.

Rich in content and dealing with extremely complex themes, the MAXXI show is engaging. It avoids excessive abstraction, and parses the information to make it easily accessible to specialists and non-specialists alike. Objects of daily use, architectural sketches and models, as well as pieces created for the exhibition, all guide viewers to look inward at personal daily habits and to consider their place in the food system.

The other show, which will occupy the magnificent structures of the Markets of Trajan, right next to the Imperial Fora, until November 1st, is L’eleganza del cibo: Tales of Food and Fashion. The exhibitions sets to illustrate the interesting and very little explored connections between food and fashion, both primal human needs as well as major domains of consumption and self-expression in contemporary societies. The show is visually stunning, using the architectural spaces and details of the Roman building to highlight dresses, foulards, and accessories from renowned fashion designers that include food (like a dress with transparent pockets full of popcorn) and kitchen tools (notably a necklace that represents spaghetti and a fork). The majority of the pieces, however, simply use fruit, fish, or other ingredients and dishes as motifs in the textile or in the shape of the dresses.

From this point of view, however, the exhibition is a missed opportunity, limiting itself to the surface of both food and fashion without going deeper than their visual aspects. For instance, there is no mention of any attempt to use the leftovers from edible crops as textile materials, or to employ edible, non-toxic dies in the industry. Any reflection on the similarities and differences between food and fashion as global phenomena is absent, as is meaningful dialogue around food and clothing productions as artisanal, utilitarian crafts, often considered inherently removed from high-brow arts.

Decoration, luxury, and necessity are deeply intertwined in both fields, and an exhibition like the one at the Markets of Trajan could have become an opportunity to convey some of these themes to the public in an entertaining and stimulating way. Maybe the desire to preserve the aura of glamour of high fashion, an important sector for the Italian economy, has narrowed the content of the show preventing it from starting more fully developed conversations about material culture in Italy.

Republished from the Huffington Post with permission.

A Brief Rundown Of Graphic Design And Fast Food


foodnews fooddesign 8.5.2015

When Danny Meyer opened his first Shake Shack kiosk in New York’s Madison Square Garden, Pentagram’s Paula Scher designed the environmental graphics, striking an admirable balance of Coney Island scale with sophisticated letterforms. Since its expansion, Paula has designed new iterations of the identity, maintaining its clean, modern aesthetic and applying it to menu boards, tables, T-shirts, hats and watches.

Shake Shack’s identity corresponds with its take on fast food. Functioning in a new, particularly current category of burger chains working to a high level of quality, its clean, modern aesthetic is instantly recognisable and widely imitated. We thought we’d use the excuse of its latest redesign to take a look at some recent and historic examples of quality and occasionally questionable fast food branding.

Take the fast food graphic design tour with It’s Nice That.

Gallery: Food Design North America at The New School

On June 9, 2014, a group of designers, media professionals, academics, chefs and museum curators met at The New School to discuss what has now become Food Design North America, a group that connects people interested in the theory and practice of Food Design. With the help of the Dining Services of The New School, a living table was created with grass and edible herbs. Each guest was asked to choose from the ingredients prepared by chefs and designers in various geometrical forms, textures, and colors, and to compose their own meal on a wood board. These are the results, each expressing a guest’s unique approach and point of view.

—Fabio Paresecoli

Photos by Lucia Reissig


The Cultures of “Fresco”: Food Design in Latin America

By Fabio Parasecoli, Associate professor and coordinator of food studies, The New School.

Graphic art by Juliana Serrano Pérez
Graphic art by Juliana Serrano Pérez

For a few days, Bogotá turned into the South American capital of food design. The second annual meeting of the Red Latinoamericana de Food Design (the Latin American network of food design) took place at the Industrial Taylor, a state-of-the-art food business facility, from October 20th to the 24th, under the auspices of the Universidad Nacional and the Universidad de los Andes. The opportunity allowed scholars and professionals from countries as diverse as Mexico, Colombia, Uruguay, Argentina, and Brazil to gather and discuss the present and future of their field.

One of the main goals of the meeting, which was structured in a two-day seminar about pedagogy and a live-streamed series of public talks and debates, was to identify the characteristics of food design in Latin America in terms of themes, approaches, and stakes. Many participants were experts in industrial, product, and packaging design, while others focused on the impact of design in the kitchen and on all kinds of creativity processes connected to food. I will discuss the conversations about how and why to teach food design in an upcoming post. For now, I will focus on what emerged as very urgent topics: To what extent is food design relevant in Latin America, with all its dazzling variety of cultures, populations, and complicated histories? What does it mean to be a food designer in that region? What unique peculiarities shape food design, its practice, and its theoretical exploration in Brazil, Mexico, or Colombia?

The discussion was spirited, emotional, and at times anarchical, allowing all the participants to contribute their point of view. One of the elements that surfaced was the influence of natural, human, and political diversity on the work of food designers. Colombia and Brazil, for example, boast the most impressive biodiversity on Earth, and both have large native populations that maintain traditional knowledge of plants, animals, and culinary techniques that are only partially known outside their communities. Reference was made to the culture of “fresco”, all that is fresh and ready to be gathered and enjoyed. This staggering abundance clashes with issues of malnutrition, discrimination, and oppression, while highlighting opportunities for building new kinds of relationships around food and its rituals.

The scars left by centuries of colonialism and the struggles for independence, followed by decades where projects of national construction were highjacked by violence and political turmoil, have left a heritage that participants variously indicated as “lack of self esteem”, “subordination,” and “doubts about one’s value.” At any moment, this painful baggage risks hindering cultural and social advancement. However, the citizens of South American countries seem to have recourse to an inordinate amount of vitality and creativity, which tends to express itself in forms of extreme individualism and suspicion of politics. At the same time, solidarity and a shared sense of community often counteract these tendencies toward fragmentation. Everybody admitted to the fact that Latin America is a place of blatant contradictions, which nevertheless can constitute powerful engines for transformation.

These promises and ambiguities cannot but deeply shape the work of any designer, and in particular food designers. They are called not only to have people reflect on their relationship to food and its consumption, but also to introduce change to make food production and distribution systems more equitable, efficient, and sustainable, balancing technological innovation with community needs and cultural priorities. It is a very tall order, but the enthusiasm was palpable, especially among young up-and-coming designers, both still in school and already working. Latin America has a good chance of becoming a powerhouse in food design, in radically different ways from what we see in North America and Europe.

Republished from the Huffington Post with permission.

The Future of 3D Printed Food

Chloe Rutzerveld

Using layers of edible plants, seeds, spores, and other microorganisms, Edible Growth creates intricate small meals that combine living mushrooms and greens with the mechanization of the most industrialized foods. In a nutshell, the Edible Growth products are composed of a nutritious base, or “edible matrix,” of nuts, fruits, agar, and protein (which can even come from insects) that are extruded by a 3-D printer. That matrix becomes the soil, more or less, for sprouting seeds, yeasts, beneficial bacteria, and mushroom spores to grow in over the course of five days. Finally, there’s a crust layer composed of carbohydrates and more protein, to hold everything else like a little superfood pastry.

Although it’s years away from going to market—in fact, the prototypes show here were made by hand—it’s the type of innovation that will undoubtedly inspire future food designers to expand beyond the current limitations of 3-D printed food.

Read the rest on Munchies.