1) How did your journey in Food Design start? What first attracted you to Food Design as an area of study?
2) What is your definition of Food Design? Would you describe Food Design and its practical applications?
3) What is Food Design Thinking?
4) What is the difference between Food Design Thinking and Food Design?
5) What is the difference between Food Design Thinking and Design Thinking?
6) What drew you to the idea of editing an academic journal?
7) Where do your personal research interests and background lay?
8) What is the role of sustainability within Food Design?
9) In what jobs can you apply Food Design Thinking?
10) Do you have any examples where food and design can be combined?
11) What are the most important skills if I want to work in Food Design?
12) What made you start applying Food Design Thinking?
13) Were you able to convince companies about the importance of Food Design Thinking?
14) Why do people need Food Design thinking?
15) How can business improve their way of working?
16) What advice could you give to companies that hesitate to jump into Food Design Thinking?
17) What impact can food design have today for the design of the menu, the interior design of a restaurant or a product?
18) Why is it important to think about food design in a sustainable and meaningful way?
19) Based on your experience, what are the most important factors to consider in a Food Design Thinking process?
20) What is the biggest challenge in the Food Design Thinking process?
21) How has your experience been talking about creativity in the food industry?
How did your Journey in Food Design start?
What first attracted you to Food Design as an area of study?
This is a good story actually. I was in my second year BA in Industrial Design at Polytechnic of Turin. We were designing washing machines and blenders, and typical “industrial stuff”. Looking back I now see that I was going through my studies a bit numbed I think. I never complained, but I sure didn’t love it. I still didn’t know that I didn’t love it. I found out soon enough, when one day I went to a workshop in between semesters; not knowing which of the different options available to choose, I chose "the one with the least boring title”. It seemed like a good strategy. The first day a chef came in… A chef! With his white chef’s shirt, and he started talking about Food Design. He did not talk about cooking food, he talked about designing food… In that moment my life changed forever. That chef was Davide Scabin, chef and owner of the two Michelin stars restaurant Combal Zero, in Rivoli, Italy. The time of washing machines and blenders was over for me. From there on, every project I did was related to food and eating, and in 2006 I did my internship at Venchi, a chocolate factory in Cuneo, Italy, where I designed a chocolate snack called Unico, which has been in production for about 10 years. From there I moved to London where I continued with my postgraduate studies, of course on Food Design, and in particular on food experiences considered from a design perspective. What captured me so much, that day at that workshop, what opened my eyes and made me fall in love with Food Design, is that fact that I started thinking about the possibility of designing with and for food. Food, a material of similar qualities to those I was more used to (like polymers, glass, etc.) but at the same time very different, and here is why: food disappears. Food doesn’t last. Designers often think of making your mark in the world through the products you put in the world: a furniture designer might make a chair that lasts decades, and an architect might make buildings that last centuries. As a food designer you most likely will design products that last a few hours to a few weeks. Eating designers design events that last a few hours, and then disappear. Chefs design food that last minutes on that plate, and then disappear. This to me is the most exciting aspect of Food Design: we don’t really design products, we design memories. Only the memories of that experience, of that meal, can last forever.
What is your definition of Food Design?
Would you describe Food Design and its practical applications?
What is Food Design Thinking?
Food Design Thinking is the process that triggers creativity and leads to innovative, meaningful, and sustainable propositions for new dishes, food products, food events, food services, food systems, and anything in between.
Restaurants, cafes, and other food businesses fail... All the time. Why? Most articles you’ll find list these reasons: location, lack of people management, lack of accounting skills, bad food execution, poor promotion, poor inventory, etc. While these causes are all true, nobody talks about the number one reason why food businesses fail: lack of good ideas. Food Design Thinking is the process that helps you generate ideas and final food concepts that are grounded in research, meaningful, and sustainable. Food Design Thinking is a complete process ideated by Dr. Francesca Zampollo. It consists of 52 methods most of which have been designed specifically for this process.
More on this article.
What is the difference between Food Design Thinking and Food Design?
Food Design is the Design discipline concerned with everything around food and the act of eating.
Food Design Thinking is the process that leads to generating new and innovative ideas for any food and eating related project.
What is the difference between Food Design Thinking and Design Thinking?
Food Design Thinking is a food-specific branch of Design Thinking. What makes Food Design Thinking, is a series of specifically designed tools and techniques. These are designed to trigger creativity for projects around food, and could not, for example, be used in a general Design Thinking process. While it is appropriate to use a Design Thinking process for food projects, I argue that when designing food and around the act of eating, adopting a Food Design Thinking process will lead to better and more cohesively designed propositions.
What drew you to the idea of editing an academic journal?
Simple: there wasn’t an academic journal on Food Design, but I started feeling the need for people to have a space where to publish their research with the possibility to call it Food Design. Food Design is a discipline that has always existed, as we have always been applying the Design process to food products and services. The term Food Design though, was probably used for the first time about 20 years ago. Awareness of this discipline has been growing since, mainly amongst professionals. Research on Food Design has been slower to develop, but in the last 8 years we have seen a growing interest: undergraduate and postgraduate courses have started to emerge, and researchers have started to respond to various conference calls. I have pioneered this area with the First International Symposium on Food Experience Design (London, 2010), the First International Conference on Designing Food and Designing for Food (London, 2012, and the Second International Conference on Food Design (New York, 2015). The conference in 2012 in particular was the first international research conference on Food Design, and the interest it generated was the proof that within the research community there was plenty of people wanting to contribute to this field. So the International Journal of Food Design was the obvious second step: creating a place where these researchers and practitioners could publish academic papers. The International Journal of Food Design is the first and only academic publication on Food Design, and it is definitely one of my proudest achievements.
Where do your personal research interests and background lay?
As I’ve mentioned above my background is Industrial Design, and with my Master and PhD I moved towards “less tangible” aspects of Design: food experience, and Design theory applied to Food Design. In particular, during the past few years I have been investigating and developing a branch of Design Thinking I call Food Design Thinking: a branch of Design Thinking that is specific to the food and eating related design process, where the design methods themselves are specifically designed to investigate or generate ideas related to food and eating. With regards to my design approach, on the other hand, I aligned to Design-Driven Innovation in the past, and I still use some of its principles like designing for radical change in meaning and the figure of the interpreter. Nowadays my design approach is more and more influenced by research into Ethical Design and Sustainability, mainly environmental and social Sustainability. All of this is reflected into the Food Design Thinking methodology, its methods that I have designed so far, and those that I will release in the future.
Another area of my research interest relates to meanings, and designing for meanings. This triggered my interest in starting a research project that aims at understanding meaningful food: this project is called In Search of Meaningful Food, a collection of video stories where people tell the story of their most meaningful food. The goal is to accumulate descriptions and triggers of meaningful food, so that I can design Food Design Thinking design methods that can better help designing meaningful propositions.
What is the role of Sustainability within Food Design?
Sustainability plays in Food Design the same role it plays in Design. Or better… Sustainability should play in Food Design the same role is should play in Design, because too much design is still done today without taking into consideration any aspect of this. But things are going better and better. Therefore, Sustainability to me should simply be the standing ground on which to build any design process, or the goal around which to design any product, event, service, or system. Sustainability shouldn’t even be a design approach, because it would imply that some might not used it in favour of other approaches. Sustainability should the standard goal… in addition to any other ambition or objective embedded in the brief of any design project.
For more on what is Sustainability and for more on how it relates to Food Design please see this article.
In what jobs can you apply Food Design Thinking?
Food Design Thinking is used for research and idea-generation in projects around food. Therefore, Food Design Thinking is used by any professional needing to better understand a food context and/or a food target, and needing to come up with ideas to design or re-design products, events, services, or systems around food and eating. For example, Food Design Thinking is use by food companies (ceos, project managers, designers, etc.) wanting to create new and innovative products while gaining a deep understanding of their food design context and their target user/consumer. Food Design Thinking is for chefs, restaurateurs, bartender and people in the hospitality industry who understand that there is more to an eating experience than what is on the plate (or on the glass), and who want to use a creative process to create new dishes and drinks and cohesively design the food vessel, the environment, and the service staff interaction with customers. Finally, Food Design Thinking is for eating designers and catering businesses who want the tools to always generate new and innovative ideas that are meaningful to their clients as well as sustainable.
Do you have any examples where food and design can be combined?
Food and design have always been together… But it depends on how you define Design. If Design is the process that brings you to solve a problem or improve aspects of live, then the first act of Food Design was probably placing a piece of meat on a fire. And from there any act of improvement around what and how we eat can be called Food Design. So, wherever you are right now, it’s likely that you can see, or at least be in close proximity, of such an example. The better question I think is to find example of conscious combinations of food and Design (because following the definition above Design can be done by non-designers too), or even better, of “good” combinations of food and Design, where the proposition has really made an impact for the betterment of society or the environment.
Please see my YouTube channel for examples. Here are some videos to start with:
What are the most important skills if I want to work in food and design related work?
In my opinion you should be familiar with food or Design. This means that upon approaching this discipline it is very useful if you have received training and acquired skills on either a food related discipline (gastronomy, food science, hospitality, etc.), or a Design discipline (Design Theory, Product Design, Service Design, etc.). Besides the Online School of Food Design, nowadays there are a few institutions that offer training in Food Design, but most food designers today have either one or the other of its two halves: food and Design. I believe that this is perfectly ok. Because it is very important to acknowledge that Food Design (like any Design) is not a solitary action. We should make sure that young food designers today know that Design (and of course Food Design) is done by a team. In this sense your skills, whatever they are, they are a section of the overall skills present in a Food Design team. I believe it is not a necessity for one person to have all skills about food (familiarity with food transformation and processing) as well as be trained in Design, or the actual process of designing. Moreover, when “doing Food Design” you will need a how. For this I believe that Food Design Thinking is needed (other Design Thinking process are useful too of course, but the purpose for FDT is to give more chances to reach food propositions that are meaningful and sustainable). Again though, you don’t need to have acquired skills in Food Design Thinking. You call in an external Food Design Thinking facilitator, who is an expert at facilitating Food Design Thinking processes, or you could learn by doing, little by little. In the Online School of Food Design you can find the methods and their explanations. You can use the methods, and the more Food Design Thinking processes you do, the more you acquire the skills needed.
What made you start applying Food Design Thinking?
It has been a seamless process for me. During my Ph.D I studies Design Theory related to Food Design, so I started asking the “how to” questions related to designing food. And I answered some of those questions too. That was the beginning of Food Design Thinking, realising that a food specific Design Thinking process was better and more efficient - within the Food Design discipline - than a general Design Thinking process.
Were you able to convince companies about the importance of Food Design Thinking?
Again this was quite seemingness, because companies approached me asking to help them design food. Therefore, what they needed was Food Design Thinking. When companies ask you to bring Food Design to them, they don’t mean “come and explain to me what Food Design is”, because that can be done with a one or two hours lecture. Companies need to know how to design better food, and that’s what Food Design Thinking does.
Why do people need Food Design thinking?
This is an excellent question. During my studies, I found that food designers would simply use Design Thinking for their creative process. But I found myself needing more and more specificity, so gradually I started modifying existing Design Thinking methods to make them fit my needs. With my Ph.D. project I started putting together such methods, until I realised that a food-specific Design Thinking process could be created. And so I did. I have created the Food Design Thinking methodology for the Food Design world, while I wait to see the emergence of Fashion Design Thinking, Graphic Design Thinking, Interiors Design Thinking, etc. I argue that a discipline-specific Design Thinking process, where the specificity is given my the methods themselves, gives designers more chances to create meaningful and impactful propositions. Therefore, individuals and companies working on Food Design projects can consider adopting Food Design Thinking because its food-specificity gives them more possibilities for designing dished, products, events, and services that are more meaningful for people and for the planet.
Watch these videos to learn why Food Design Thinking is unique:
Depth & Breath - Designing for the Experience - System Thinking: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGrS5XnC3Vc
How can business improve their way of working?
Businesses can improve in as many ways as there are disciplines that apply to businesses: from employees satisfaction to customer satisfaction, from office interiors to system design, from environmental sustainability to social sustainability, from the choice of the printers’ ink to the choice of their brand name. This is a huge question. Even if considered from the perspective of Food Design and even Food Design Thinking, this remains a huge question, whose answer can be found anywhere in how the creative process works.
My first advice to a client who came to me with such an open and complex question would be: decide clearly why you want your business to improve. There are three huge areas I think that can categorise any change you want to make: Do you want to increase your profit? Do you want your business to have a more positive effect on society? (All of it, from your own employees to clients and/or customers, to the whole world) Or do you want your business to have a more positive impact on the environment? (These three happen to be the three components of Sustainability…) If it’s the first you’re after, I’m not the person for you. If it is the second or third, great! Now, let’s start narrow it down a bit into a manageable and achievable goal. What is important at the beginning of any creative or problem solving process, is to have a clear idea of what impact you want to have on the world, the planet and its inhabitants. Often companies have a brief or a specific problem they want to solve, but to “improve their way of working” (and here is an initial answer to your question), I believe it is important for them to step back, think about the bigger picture, and decide how they want to change the world. Literally. Because any action does change the world, in one direction or another.
What advice could you give to companies that hesitate to jump into Food Design Thinking?
“You dom’t have to jump!” :) It is perfectly fine for companies to take their time! In fact, with something like Food Design Thinking, companies can walk little steps first and decide if it’s something for them or not. Food Design Thinking is scalable and customisable. Which means that companies (as well as individuals, and professionals) can start from smaller projects, using only a small number of Food Design Thinking methods. This needs a short time and a smaller budget. The more familiarity is acquired and the more Food Design Thinking is understood and considered a valuable resource, the more methods can be used and bigger the projects can become. Moreover, individuals and companies can take one of the courses presented in the Online School of Food Design and see independently is this is for them.
What impact can food design have today for the design of the menu, the interior design of a restaurant or a product?
Since Food Design is the discipline that applies Design to anything around food and the act of eating, then the impact it can have on menu design, restaurant design, and food product design is intrinsic and essential. Design, as the process of bringing innovation to a certain context, by carrying a set of principles considered important by designers themselves, is applied to any products or services. Therefore, products like menus and any product or element of a restaurant's interior (i.e. tables and chairs, textiles, lighting and music, cutlery, plates, glassware, utensils, etc.), as well as whole services like restaurants, cafes, food trucks, etc. are all designed. The impact of Food Design when used as a conscious process and when implemented following ethical principles, can be world-changing. Food Design can produce products and services that support environmental and social sustainability, and that embrace regeneration, resilience, sovereignty, and circularity.
Why is it important to think about food design in a sustainable and meaningful way?
Because it is important to think about everything in a sustainable and meaningful way. Food should be no exception. Food Design, like Design itself, is a word used to describe a discipline but also a process. Design, and therefore Food Design, are a creative process that brings innovation into the world, that makes improvements on what is already there, or creates what was not there before. Anytime we alter what is already existing we have the responsibility of making it better not worst, clearly enough. Better for people and for this planet. Anytime we create something new we again have the same responsibility. Sustainability is a big and misused word that can simply be summarised as the awareness of the choices we can make in our design process to innovate respectfully to Earth and its inhabitants. The key to sustainability, and what is most misunderstood in my opinion, is that every single design choices, from the most minuscule to the biggest, can and should be taken following our sustainable principles: to sustain the livelihood of everything that lives on this planet, to regenerate that on which we have've had a negative impact in the past, to leave no trace, and to help one another live in physical and emotional comfort. But in my view there is another aspect of sustainability, besides the environment, society, and finances. The designer is not only designing for what's "outside": people, society, the environment, etc. Every creative act designers do is an act of self actualisation, and in anything designers do they fulfil their own lives through the creative act they're offering, whether it's a logo, a visual, a product, a service, an event, a system.
Based on your experience, what are the most important factors to consider in a Food Design Thinking process?
When approaching Food Design Thinking process there are a few things team members need to be aware of, and these are also skills they’ll develop as they practice this process. I will summarise only a few here. Firstly, we should let go of the concept of “the right answer”. In Food Design Thinking there is not one right answer. There are many right answers. There are many possible alternatives, many different insights and inputs, some of which might end up being more useful than others. Still, each insight, each sketch, each discussion, each proposition, is fundamental to how things unfold. If something is not said, proposed, or discussed for fear of not having the “right” answer, things will take a different path.
Secondly, we should let go of the concept “to err is wrong”. Food designer’s biggest asset is the ability to accept their own mistakes, and those of others. The correct mindset is that there are actually no mistakes, because there is no such thing as “the right answer”, as we just saw.
Thirdly, we should let go of the concept “play is frivolous” and “don’t be foolish”. This is, in my opinion, the most problematic mental block someone can have when approaching Food Design Thinking. Some people think that playfulness does not belong in the work environment, or does not belong in the adult world in general. Some people think that being foolish is... foolish. Some people are not able to loosen up, so they condemn the act of loosening up and think nobody should act all “loosen”. Well, I am sorry to say that such thinking is not ideal in Food Design Thinking. Food Design Thinking requires playfulness because creativity LOVES playfulness, foolishness, and weirdness.
What is the biggest challenge in the Food Design Thinking process?
The biggest challenge for people and companies approaching the FDT process is to understand the importance of the people who will actually actually go through the process itself: the food design team. Those participating through the creative process will influence the outcome of course, but also the overall journey, the decisions, and of course the work atmosphere. That’s why I always spend time with my clients making sure that team members are accurately resulted because of the aptitude as well as their attitude.
How has your experience been talking about creativity in the food industry?
During my studies, I found that food designers would simply use Design Thinking for their creative process. But I found myself needing more and more specificity, so gradually I started modifying existing Design Thinking methods to make them fit my needs. With my Ph.D. project I started putting together such methods, until I realised that a food-specific Design Thinking process could be created. And so I did. I have created the Food Design Thinking methodology for the Food Design world, while I wait to see the emergence of Fashion Design Thinking, Graphic Design Thinking, Interiors Design Thinking, etc. I argue that a discipline-specific Design Thinking process, where the specificity is given my the methods themselves, gives designers more chances to create meaningful and impactful propositions. Therefore, individuals and companies working on Food Design projects can consider adopting Food Design Thinking because its food-specificity gives them more possibilities for designing dished, products, events, and services that are more meaningful for people and for the planet. Food Design Thinking generates a positive impact in the food industry because it provides a structured and replicable process to trigger and foster creative thinking for any project related to food.