(Reversed Volumes. Image credit: Mischer'Traxler, http://www.mischertraxler.com/projects_reversed_volumes.html)

Welcome to the Design and Food journal!

In this Research-in-Progress blog series, I’ll be testing ideas and sharing what piques my interest around design and food, part of early ongoing research I’m undertaking here at Cooper-Hewitt in preparation for an exhibition. I view this space as an important part of the process, pulling back the curtain, if you will, on initial thinking that will shape the exhibition. Consider it your special backstage tour. This journal will therefore get messy, but that’s precisely the intention – to have a space where ideas can emerge, develop, be thrown out or be enriched. I’m thirsty for suggestions and feedback, so please do share.

For starters, what comes to mind when you think of design and food? When I’ve mentioned this to others, their initial response is often about the design of the bites themselves – sushi, with its elegant balance of rice, seaweed, and colorful raw fish; pasta, designed in varying shapes to best accommodate a particular sauce; molecular gastronomy; hand-crafted local cuisine. No doubt, the design of food is one of the oldest, creative, and most spontaneous of human activities. But what about design and food?

Design certainly plays a critical role in food production, from the design of efficient delivery systems to packaging, but over the past decade design has taken on a more expansive role than simply as a tool deployed by the food industry. Designers themselves are engaging with food as a subject. Moving beyond the shape of food, they are creating the contexts, content, and background of our experiences with food, enriching the dialogue between those who provide, prepare, and consume it.

Mischer’Traxler’s Reversed Volumes from 2010, for example (see image above), is a collection of ceramic bowls cast from vegetables, demonstrating how designers are using food to give form to objects. Ceramic powder is packed around vegetables and hardens, leaving the imprint of the parent vegetable such that each bowl becomes a unique, customized piece. The collection is evocative of the preciousness and beauty of food, and of our desire to sharpen our connection to food not just as fuel, but sustenance. Reversed Volumes is certainly not alone in achieving this, but as I plant the flag with this first Design and Food journal, it at least helps to illustrate the expansive approach I’m (currently) undertaking around the subject.

Follow my Food board on Pinterest to see lots more of what I’m exploring, and stay plugged in to this space to dialogue. I would love to hear from you!

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