The specifics of food design: Insights from professional design practice

Hendrik N.J. Schifferstein, Marielle Bordewijk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


What makes food design different from other types of industrial product design? Based on over twenty years of professional design practice and food experience research, the authors present a variety of insights – clustered in five overarching themes – that provide an invaluable view on the specifics of the food realm for practicing designers in this field. First of all, foods are based on materials that used to be alive, which makes them highly perishable. Before the widespread introduction of mass transportations systems, foods were usually produced and consumed in the same region. But food technologists continuously try to improve the ways to preserve foods and invest in packaging that protects them in order to increase shelf life and to make them more widely available, while consumers seem to demand more and more freshness. The second challenge is presented by the need to make the food system more sustainable, addressing agricultural production and its impact on biological diversity and the quality of the living environment and also focusing on the amount of waste generated in terms of food or its packaging material. Third, the food people eat is absorbed and transformed into the building blocks of their bodies. Food fulfils a basic human need, and thus, there is a challenge to provide people access to the right amount of safe and nutritious food, in order to keep them healthy. Fourth, food is a source of sensory stimulation that enriches people’s lives. This provides a new sensory spectrum to design for – including flavour and
mouthfeel – and it challenges designers to trigger appetite, rather than aesthetics. The fifth challenge addresses preparation practices and the associated cultural
differences. Because food stuffs can be prepared in multiple ways, many different products can be created, varying from raw to highly processed, and addressing
multiple consumer needs, eating occasions and market segments. These five themes provide interesting challenges for designers that should be tackled in order
to provide a healthy and sustainable future for the next generations on this planet. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (CC BY NC-ND), which allows users to copy, distribute and transmit an article as long as the author is attributed, the article is not used for commercial purposes and the work is not modified or adapted in any way.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-138
Number of pages38
JournalInternational Journal of Food Design
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • food design
  • Design practice
  • Packaging
  • Sustainability
  • perishability
  • Health
  • Sensory


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