Food and Design – Food and Art

A while ago I came home at night, after some drinks with some friends. At home I was feeling some kind of hungry. Not so hungry so that the rumbling stomach hinders you from falling asleep but that hungry that you are willing to stand in kitchen for an hour just to conjure something delicious. Mostly these are times, when you empty out your fridge and cupboards and try to prepare something new or improvised.

And exact that night I stumbled upon an article by one of the design blogs dezeen, a long, a very long article called “Food and Design Report“. Dezeen teamed up with the kitchen appliances brand Scholtès to create a very detailed report about the current relation between food and design.

It was a night time experience, sitting infront of your computer, eating something you just prepared with passion and reading an article about exact that thing what you have infront of yourself.

The article is full of great great projects, trends, and attitudes towards food I am honestly loving to read. But there are some things I am not really agreeing on. For example the Drawer Kitchen, or Bread Shoes and molecular gastronomy. These are things I would classify into food and art, not food and design.

That brings us to the differentiation between design and art. I want to make it easy instad of giving a great analysis about art and design. In my way of thinking the differentiation can be made by the single word purpose. Design needs to fulfill a purpose and should be used too fulfill a purpose, but art is not allowed to or should not fulfill a purpose. I know it is very reduced but the point of this blog post isn’t the exact differentiation.

In my opinion design makes things better, easier, more efficient. So in terms of food it should help preparing food, or to arrange food more nicely. And when it somes to the food itself, I love to take a look at Dieter Rams’ ten principles of design. I will concentrate on those that actually make sense:

  • Good design is aesthetic. Of course food needs to look good, otherwise the saying would not be: “You eat with your eyes (first)!”
  • Good design is unobtrusive. Yes, food doesn’t need to be decorated with an ice swan.
  • Good design is honest. Good, honest ingredients make the best food. I don’t need a square that looks like chocolate but tastes like beet root.
  • Good design is thorough, down to the last detail. In a perfect meal every single part has to fit to each other, it needs to be perfect in its own kind.
  • Good design is environmentally-friendly. Use local, sustainable and organic producers, as much as you can.
  • Good design is as little design as possible. It is about the food and nothing else.

Within the article there is a great quote of Philippe Starck. “For the organic food, the less it’s designed, the better it is” . In my opinion his design is pretty close to art, it looks good, but it’s not always very useful and mostly redundant. It’s not only me who thinks like this, but also Starck himself says it. But I totally agree to his interview:

Honestly, I don’t want the future to be like Philips Design is visioning it:

“Philips Design in Eindhoven have designed a series of conceptual products for food, including a machine that prints combinations of ingredients into shapes and consistencies specified by the user.” (via

I would love to have a device (maybe an iPhone app) that tells me what kind of nutritions I need but something like a food printer is disgusting.

But I like the idea of Home Farming!

So, basically what I wanted to say is: read the report by dezeen and Scholtès. And prepare food in order to create something that tastes pure and good. When we cook with Kitchen Guerilla, we used to say “We don’t do fancy ‘Shi-Shi kitchen’ with foams and molds. We do honest delicious food with honest sustainable ingredients.” It is that easy!

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  • ccw

    Hallo Markus,
    i’ve been sort of bouncing on the dezeen article, and commend your contribution of a thoughtful opinion on this here your blog.
    While I am mostly sympathetic/in agreement with your need to distinguish the two: art vs design in the food report, I do think that the dictum in your post could be more embracing of the various methods of expression when it comes to food. Sure, like you my personal cooking/feeding method tends to simplicity, but there is still something to be said about trying to create/design an experience evolving around consumption of food, whether it is for eating’s sake (at home/or restaurant) or for eating for art’s sake, with a different, perhaps higher purpose.
    The purpose of art is subjective, and having pondered this from a food angle in creating my production “A Tactile Dinner”, here’s how i see it: the act of eating can and should be filled with intent and thought (just as choices in the procurement of said food can be political). A lot of the projects (by Vogelzang, Sifakaki and a recent acquaintance Katharina Moebus) involving conceptual food design draw the notion of eating/food to another dimension, where food at once becomes object/subject, thus bridging form/function in its very material and edible nature and its ability to feed one’s soul and senses, as well as the stomach. To me, these projects are defiant acts of food art (which fulfill a purpose!), and yet depend heavily on design, whether in a material sense (atmosphere, tableware, serving ware) or conceptually (via food and how one should consume it, and why and what and whether it even is food in the first place). A printer churning out edible “paper food” may be disgusting if all you are hungry for is a hot bowl of pasta, but could be quite delicious if you hunger for an art experience, and (depending on the hands of the artist/cook) who is to say that it can’t be delicious and fulfilling for mind, body and soul? Honesty and simplicity in this respect doesn’t have to be compromised in such projects.
    As you can tell I’m the sort who thinks I ought to be able to have my Kuchen and eat it too. I’d love to be able to continue this dialogue if you like.
    mfg, ccw

  • M.C.

    There is a huge difference between food design, and designer food.

    And lots of designer food then gets caught up in the artsy food web, and throw around works like “conceptual” art and design without even knowing what concepts are.

    This tricky naming came up on an interesting online conversation here:

    The conversation is still open until the end of the day. Would love to know what you think Markus.


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Food and Design – Food and Art