Philips Design Food Probe


Sharing Diner by Marije Vogelzang


Chocolate lightswitches byClover Robin


Raw Colour Project


Bread wall and Sugar necklace by Greetje van Helmond



Food: A future Material

4th June 2009

It seems for a growing number of designers that food and the possibilities afforded by edible design is resulting in them embracing food and its tactile quality as a new design material.

Looking at how we engage with our food and how we respond to it in our day-to-day lives, designers are playing with its relevance beyond just for satisfaction and nutritional purposes.

As well as looking at new ways of eating and ingesting food, designers are also looking at food as a new material with which to design on both a physical and more emotive level as well as using it to create new forms of experience.

The Senses
With sensory design being a key trend offering up more than a visual experience, it was only a matter of time before designers began to reshape and redesign the way we think about food and its relationship with us rather than our relationship with it.

One such person is self-titled "eating designer" Marije Vogelzang, who questions what food means to a designer. Highlighting the fact that her designs "go inside your body. They feed you, they become a part of you…" and underpinned by societal trends towards food, she reassesses our opinion of food and our sensory responses to it.

Sharing Diner was a meal choreographed for Droog Design by Vogelzang. The experience incorporated plates cut in half so that diners had to pass plates around to complete a full meal. Vogelzang also suspended a tablecloth from the ceiling with holes cut out for diners' heads and arms - thus eliminating the view of each person so that any level of status, such as clothing, was hidden. Finally she adopted unusual eating utensils, further playing with the participants' perceptions and senses.

Clover Robin is another designer who is pushing the boundaries between food and the senses within her design experimentation - her work includes zips and light switches made from chocolate. By exploiting new and existing materials and processes, Robin tranforms familiar and well-known products and manipulates our perspectives and perceptions.

New Material
"Did you ever knit spaghetti or embroider lettuce leaves?" are questions asked by Marije Vogelzang in her book Eat Love. It's likely that the answer to such a question is mostly "no", but nevertheless designers are using food as a material with which to design.

At the Milan Furniture Fair Daniera ter Haar and Christoph Brach showcased their Raw Color project, an ongoing visual research project about vegetables and their colours. Their work takes vegetables and purifies them, transforming them into natural inks and using them in modern printing processes by filling inkjet printer cartridges to create a vegetable colour palette.

Another designer using food for colour and as a design material is Andere Monjo. Using water to evoke ideas of experimentation for others to be inspired by, she has collaborated with a chef and food stylist. Investigating innovative recipes, together they have captured the flow found in water through food design, resulting in an alternative experience in look, feel, taste and smell for a dessert. Using agar, a high protein seaweed, liquid chocolate and different types of colourful antioxidant berries, the results are both beautiful and nutritionally balanced.

Taking a more product-driven approach, designers are playing with food in a witty and playful way. Some are also working from a more responsible perspective and are on the look out for new eco and sustainable materials.

Greetje van Helmond creates products that appear valuable, yet are made from basic everyday materials such as sugar and flour, while offering up a new beauty in the rawness of their design. Her beautiful sugar jewellery and wall made from bread demonstrate beauty and tactility, as well as fitting into the debate about sustainability and the drive to find new materials with which to work.

Industrial design engineer Cheryl Lyn Bauer takes a different approach using the raw materials/ingredients to create a new material. Her "recipe", concoted in collaboration with a professor at London's Imperial College, has resulted in a new plastic made from everyday cooking ingredients such as cornflour, salt and oil. Her project, entitled Blanc, offers up a new material akin to a biodegradable plastic.

WGSN Comment

Posing questions such as what is food for a designer and what will the future of food be, these future thinkers, artists and designers are offering a fresh view on how we percieve food both from a future nutritional perspective as well as from a sustainability and design perspective. What it does begin to question is how will food exist in our near and far future and how will food, if at all, change our perceptions about our material choices, products and packaging.

© WGSN 2009