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The fifth FoodFeature highlights the different roles of food designers and the different food sectors that intersect and cooperate. Italian food design researcher Dr. Francesca Zampollo focuses on issues of systemic thinking and circularity. She introduces the Food Design Thinking methodology to answer the question "How to Food Design?"

Food Design for Businesses

When we think of food design we might only think of restaurants, chefs and food scientists. Can foragers, beekeepers and maybe even musicians be part of the food design process? For Francesca Zampollo, the short answer is yes. She challenges what the modern food industry has considered a food business, and opens up the potential for collaboration and intersections across sectors. Central to her work is how food businesses can go from designing for the individual to designing for the benefit of society. 

Zampollo argues that it is through food design thinking that food businesses have the potential to bring forward something innovative. Before going further, she asks the important question of what is food design? “There is no one definition for food design, it is a process” she says. In her venn diagram, What is Food Design, she visualizes six sub-disciplines of food design. The sub-disciplines are then encircled by three larger circles, critical food design, food system design, then finally, sustainable food design. The diagram is crucial as it emphasizes the multifaceted nature of food design, while also providing an important set of considerations for food designers and businesses.  

Although she defines each subcategory, she maintains that the crossover between them is crucial and necessary. Supper Club, is an example of a project that reveals the intersection between eating design, and food space design, the dinner happens in a former food waste facility, and the eating experience is also designed out of food that would have otherwise gone to waste. Food space design, an overlooked yet important discipline, is the design of the space where cooking and eating happens. While eating design, a field pioneered by designer Marije Vogelzang, has to do with designing the act of eating. 

The most familiar category of food design, what Zampolla calls design with food, is where chefs and food scientists come in, pushing the boundaries of culinary arts. Whereas designers such as Martí Guixé, work within food product design, creating edible objects capable of being mass produced. Such as, Alessi, a seed jar that approaches seeds as products of food storing information. Design for food, on the other hand, has nothing to do with edible objects, and everything to do with designing objects that have to do with the preparation and process of creating food, such as tableware.

The last subdiscipline, food service design, is where Zampollo urges us to think beyond restaurants. “Design is not always consciously designed,” she says. Bakeries, food trucks, and even supermarkets engage with food design, sometimes unconsciously. But, when it is engaged consciously it can bring about innovation and impact. Milena Glimbovski, an entrepreneur, is the owner of one of the first zero-packaging supermarkets. While the Real Junk Food Project, sells out of date food with a pay as you feel system.

Through what Zampollo calls critical food design, designers and businesses are able to challenge perceptions, roles and the culture of objects in relation to food. For example, ill designed packaging can represent both a challenge and an opportunity for food businesses. Performance artists, or critical designers Sonja Stummerer and Martin Hablesreiter also known as Honey and Bunny, raise important questions on the waste produced from improper labelling at supermarkets at the intersection of art and design. 

Critical food design also offers the chance for food businesses to evaluate the potential impact they can have on food system design. Namliyeh, intervenes within the current food system to bring together a group of agri-producers in a complex but short supply chain, through a jar of jam. Through the creation of an immediate connection between production and consumption of food, Agropolis reveals the importance of not only intervening in a food system, but also supporting a circular economy. Their product is simply a vertical garden that can be installed anywhere to grow whatever produce is needed. 

It is by thinking of what a circular economy means, that we usher in the possibility of design being more than just “take, make and dispose” as Zampollo says. It is, for her, as Dieter Rams’s commandment states, “good design is as little design as possible.”  That means thinking about sustainability not as an afterthought, but as a core criteria. 

Zampollo pushes food businesses to utilize design thinking to consider how they can sustainably address some of our biggest food challenges. She leaves us with a fundamental question, what could it mean for the future of food, if businesses were to stop designing for the individual and instead design for society?

About the speaker

Francesca Zampollo

a Food Design researcher, consultant, and teacher. With a PhD in Design Theory applied to Food Design, she is the founder of the Online School of Food Design. Francesca has developed the Food Design Thinking methodology, as a food-specific branch of Design Thinking, and organised several International Conference on Food Design. She taught at London Metropolitan University, Auckland University of Technology, and now at her Online School.