There is a phrase “it looks so good you could eat it”, but are there times where this idea goes a step too far? Or are there lessons to be learnt when it comes to product design? In this post I take a look at the force that is food.
There is a lot that can be said about the world of food today. It is mega. In writing this article I have found that I could go on and on, and that others could probably say it better (and have), but there are a few points that I wanted to highlight here and discuss with you.
As food increasingly becomes a form of entertainment, it, in itself, is becoming more beautiful. If I compare the LV fashion shoot below, with this image of popcorn (above), it seems to me that there is a similar air of construction and styling. Colour, light, depth all handled with precision. Food has become fetishised.
Let’s eat everything!
And then there is the whole world of edibles – what is the obsession with eating everything?! As if we weren’t already eating enough! On a serious note though, the current research done into edible packaging is interesting, take a look at Wikicells
and start to envisage a world of reduced plastics and paper. Even Victor Vetterlein’s Bite Me lamp makes an interesting foray into transient objects, considering a product’s decomposition after use. Soak his lamp made of biodegradable plastic derived from vegetable glycerin and agar, a gelatin made from sea algae, and you have yourself a plate of jelly. Or just stick it on the compost heap.
Promotion – designer collaboration
As discourse around ‘design’ becomes more mainstream, it is not surprising that brands start clambering to collaborate with the latest creative geniuses. IBM did it with Will.i.am
, Marks & Spenser with Marcel Wanders
, and food brands are no different – Glamour magazine partnered with Krispy Kreme
and Hagen Dazs Japan joined forces with Nendo
. Interestingly, Nendo’s brief was to design an aromatherapy candle holder giveaway to Japanese consumers as a premium gift. The act of eating Hagen Daaz is typically marketed as something of a special occasion, for when you need a treat, or perhaps wanting to impress a potential suitor. Creating an aromatherapy candle, with the scent of creamy vanilla reinforces Hagen Daaz’s brand reputation surrounding luxurious experiences, while retaining Nendo’s classic and simple design ethos.
Food has so many meanings in our lives – the self-indulgent moment, the social facilitator, the romantic first meeting, the nervous comfort, the apology… It is no wonder then that it becomes a powerful vehicle for artists and designers, as well as cooks, to connect with audiences in any culture.
Construction – information design
Food’s power to convey interesting contradictions, celebrations and opportunities is perhaps why it had been fully adopted in information design.
Often you may be wondering if the food is the communication or is the communication actually food. This blurred boundary is what spurred me to write this post in the first place, I am interested to see that food as become a form of entertainment and ultimately a new way to construct identity… to become part of the cool gang.
Entertainment – new social currency
I blame M&S for starting the whole ‘sexy food’ movement. Before, we had normal food and artisanal food, but after that advertisement – you know, the one with the piping hot chocolate pudding and crispy roast potatoes – everyone got a bit more sensual with their food. Since then, brands have understood that to really excite our taste buds they need to show movement in food, to make it less two dimensional. Cue dripping sauces, wafting steam and bouncing Brussel sprouts.
And what makes experiences so great – the moment of discovery, being the first, the chance to tell your friends that you were there… and it was amazing. In the last year the number of apps rose dramatically, offering smartphone users social platforms for capturing food and even photoshopping tools to beautify their pics, helping thousands of people show off their latest discoveries.
[Image credit: Caviar Mani by Ciate]
Allure – tempting the senses
Of course, I could go on – cooking blogs, food-bots, chef communities, artisan take-away services, food trucks… but what really interests me is what this all means for product design? I am in no way advocating that TV’s should look like beef wellington or respiratory devices look like Cornettos. But what can we learn about the allure of food and create products that are just as appealing to consumers?
Good lighting might be one thing, but also to understand the importance of the senses; touch, smell, sights and overall the need to create mouth-watering expectation. The macaroon bakers Laduree branched into beauty last year, using all their skill and branding for food and applying it to make-up. Whatever your design taste, the above example of packaging pulls on all the brand’s heritage and glamour and entices with a glimpse of something special within. Anticipation is a key word to consider.
P.s… Novelty – why not?!
Of course, there is the plain and simple novelty side of things. Who doesn’t want a pitta pencil case?