'Food design should help in the transition to a sustainable food system' (Food Design Lab Director, Julia Kunkel)

·2-min read
Food design must address challenges posed by the need to create a sustainable future for the planet.

Food design has a key role to play in meeting the planet's future needs. For Food Design Lab Director, Julia Kunkel, this involves contributing to innovation on a range of levels, from food production to consumption and waste processing.

How can food design help foster a more responsible food system? The question is a major preoccupation for Julia Kunkel, the newly appointed director of the Food Design Lab at the Ecole de design de Nantes , France. At age 44, the native of Berlin has 17 years of experience of food product and transport design for major industry players. A passionate teacher, Kunkel advocates an interdisciplinary approach to major challenges posed by the future of food.

At a time when the planet is undergoing an unprecedented period of crisis, the question of food has become a key issue. How can food design contribute to addressing this challenge?

Twenty years ago, when people talked about food design the focus was on presentation and gastronomic enjoyment. Today, we no longer have the privilege of an art for art's sake approach. Food design has to participate in the race to address environmental and societal challenges on every level, from food production to consumption and waste recycling. All of these are crucially urgent. This branch of design must contribute to the transition to a sustainable food system, which supports resilient producers and sustainable agriculture.

What is the scope of food design?

This is a major question for us today. Our first priority is to fully understand the food system so that we can interact with it correctly and provide successful solutions. For example, we need to look at how waste is produced, and how it is processed. We even try to find new uses for it by creating something new. We also have to look at distribution: at bakeries closing in rural areas. We also want to create new channels for the distribution of local food that bypass major retailers, with direct links between producers and customers. Our work in the lab is informed by all of these goals.

What are the strategic objectives of food design?

Teaching and raising awareness among young people is one, and then there is the strategic question of what we should eat. Today, our students often tell us they worry about nutrition, allergies, new diets and cultivating children's tastes. There is an enormous untapped potential for the creation of synergies between different people to bring about change in the food system. Particularly when you consider the wide range of trades, from UX designers working on smart homes and appliances to the developers of short food supply chains. Every profession related to food opens up a new field for exploration.

This interview has been translated from French.

Mylène Bertaux