Now it is a bit out of fashion, but for years there has been a lot of talk about food design.

The fact that this issue is no longer widely debated is a mistake, because food design is in effect a systematic discipline of the project that has ample space and many fields of action.

Driven by the enthusiasm of Expo 2015, food was valued in all sectors and design was not far behind, so much so that the Association for Industrial Design dedicated that year’s edition of the international Compasso d’Oro precisely to the theme of food.

But what is food design really?

Participating as a judge of some awards, I often read product descriptions that attribute the product to the object of “food design”, when in reality it is not.

If even those who design are convinced that they are doing food design, but in reality they are wrong, I would say that we can make an attempt at clarity.

To understand better, it is enough to appeal to a document drawn up by the thematic commission on food of the ADI (Association for Industrial Design) called Food Design Manifesto.

I leave here the official definition:

Food Design is the design of food facts (Food Facts), or the activity of developing the most effective processes to make the action of experimenting with an edible substance in a given context, environment or circumstances of consumption correct and pleasant. Food Design analyzes the reasons why we carry out a food act in order to better understand how to design it and adequately satisfy the user’s needs. Food Design deals with edible products, communication, packaging, services and places related to the sale and consumption of food.

In the manifesto there are 11 points that fully describe it, I suggest you take a look, for the link just click here.

In essence, it is a question of designing something for a specific and not generic culinary experience, where industrial design instead intervenes.
I bring a couple of examples to better understand.

Amici Fork by the Big-Game design studio for Alessi

This is a well designed and modern steel table fork. The fork is a tool aimed at the consumption of food, but it has a universal standard. When designing the fork, certain characteristics are taken for granted (handle, teeth, dimensions) that characterize it and usually the role of the designer ends when he defines the style, shapes and materials.
This is an industrial design project.

Moscardino, winning project of the Compasso d’Oro, designed for Pandora by Iacchetti & Ragni

The baby octopus by Iacchetti and Ragni, which a kind of reinterpretation of the spork, does not only investigate the function of the object to collect (spoon) and fork (fork), but also re-elaborates the ritual. By imagining the scenario of use and not just giving a formal interpretation of an existing object, they reinterpreted the human-food interaction. So, not limiting themselves to giving style to an instrument, but elaborating its use contextualized with the consumption of food at certain times and with a well-defined ritual, they have created food design.

In addition to defining the rituality around food and its consumption, food design can, however, give its best around the design of food as a product. Not just packaging, but precisely evolving the experience of form, especially for industrial or serial products.

The food, especially that of companies with a very advanced research center, for example Mulino Bianco, has a study of the production chain that includes different actors: there is to look after the flavors, the textures, the slenderness of production, the reduction of scraps, the final look and much more. This process has coordinators, who harmoniously define the project and carry it out.

Macine by Mulino Bianco

Now if it’s a huge industry leader, the process is triggered by industry leadership factors. But most manufacturers develop new products from instinct and inventiveness, some more successful, some less, without trying to seek advice from a design expert.

I understand that “food-designer” is not an immediate association, due to a simple problem of roles and how these have historically been contextualized. The figure of the designer is combined with an expensive and minimal product, and obviously there is nothing more wrong, but it is understandable that those who are not in the sector framing it like this.

Design has been the key to success in some sectors that, over time, have not been able to do without it. Leaving aside the furniture sector, the tech industry, from Olivetti typewriters to Apple, when it included the designer in the process, could no longer do without it.

Iphone, Apple

By supporting the designer with key figures such as the food technologist, the production manager and possibly the marketing, a process can be triggered in which the user experience becomes a key factor for the choice of textures, textures, shapes and possibly also the taste.

Even just for research, this can be a starting point. Aiming to develop a product with a high commercial risk may not enter distribution, but it can stimulate reflections and production agreements for the improvement of the entire product range and perhaps create an innovative product.

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