The four Food Design pillars
by Francesca Zampollo, Ph.D.!
Online School of Food Design - onlineschooloﬀooddesign.org!
published on academia.edu on December 15, 2017!
When we think of “food designing”, of designing food or anything around eating, what are the
aspects of knowledge we should consider? What are the areas we should investigate, and the
information we should include in our project? We can think of such knowledge, such areas, as
being divided into four main pillars that together make the whole Food Design discipline. These
four pillars are food, society, technology, and environment. These are the four areas that food
designers should investigate when designing anything related to food and eating, regardless of
whether they are designing a dish, an event, a food service or a whole food system: every dish,
every product, every event, and every food service is part of a system, and each food system sits
on these four pillars. Each food system is made of elements from these four pillars, and within any
Food Design project one should design aspects (or considering aspects) from each of these four
Visualising these four pillars allows food designers, chefs, and food innovators to possibly using
them as a guide in any Food Design project; they can be a guide to executing a more exhaustive
project that brunches out into a deeper research, and to implementing a solution that is more
deliberate, thoughtful, inclusive, sustainable, eﬀective, forward thinking, and possibly radical. !
The ﬁrst of the four pillar has to be FOOD. Being this Food Design, not fashion design or graphic
design for example, food is indeed at least one quarter of everything food designers think about in
their projects. For example, whatever they design in the area of food and eating, they mush think
about the types of food needed, the source of this food, its nutritional aspects, how it interacts
with all senses, what its vessel will be, whether this food is available, and how it will be available
to customers, the commercial implications of acquiring this food, how it has been or should be
produced, how it has been or should be distributed, how it has been or should be prepared, how
it will be consumed, what type of cuisine it represents, issues of food safety, as well as
considerations on diets and allergies. When designing anything that has to do with food, food
designers much consider at least a few of these aspects. The more of these are considered, the
richer the Food Design project will be. !
The second pillar is SOCIETY. It is likely that the food element of a project, as well as the service
in which it is given to customers, and the overall system in which it sits, will impact, in various
ways, individuals, communities and society. For this reason the food designer should consider
issues related to class, gender and sexuality, values and beliefs, needs, behaviours and
interactions, ethnical relations (food is identity, so it can have an impact on ethnical identity),
leisure, education, health, social policy, communication, and family. The food designer will also
think about issues related to money: the money people will need to acquire product or use the
service, the money needed to make this project into reality, the investments that should be asked
of stakeholders, and the proﬁt that should be made. When designing anything that has to do with
food, food designers have to consider at least a few of these aspects of Society. The more of
these are considered, the richer the Food Design project will be. !
The third pillar is TECHNOLOGY, or in other words, everything man made that is designed, or that
is needed to design something. Food designers must think about materials (in this case we
should consider inorganic materials, because food too, in its raw form, is considered a material,
but food itself as a material is part of the ﬁrst pillar), technology for communication, hardware and
softwares, nanotechnology, and then manufacturing, transportation of materials, parts, and
products, construction of spaces, and energy consumption as, for example, fossil fuel or
renewable energy. Inevitably, when designing anything that has to do with food, these aspects too
will have to be considered. The more of these are considered, the richer the Food Design project
will be. !
And ﬁnally, the fourth pillar of Food Design is ENVIRONMENT. Food designers should ﬁrst of all
take into account the ethical aspects related to animals and plants. This means thinking about the
animals and plants that make up the food itself, but also any ethical considerations about their
lives before they became food. Food designers should think about maintaining or improving
biodiversity on this planet, various possible problems that the product or service to augment, or
problems that the product or service diminish, like overpopulation, deforestation, air, soil, and
water pollution, energy conservation, climate change, the use of natural resources, and of course
The four pillars of FD are the four columns on which every Food Design project should stand on.
Projects missing the proper understanding of these areas are projects that lack depth, reﬁnement,
and the potentials for proposing radical innovation. Since food designers, like all designers,
should aim high with every project, towards radical innovation in meaning and in technology, and
indeed towards sustainable solutions, this tool should be used as a map to achieve these goals.
The four Food Design pillars can be used as a checklist in the context exploration phase, and as a
trigger in the ideation phase of the Food Design Thinking process.!