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Marije Vogelzang is the head of the new Design Academy Eindhoven Food Non Food department. She graduated from the Academy in 2000 and her “White Funeral” project was a hit in Milan the year before. Marije never wanted to become known as the “food girl” but soon realised that food as a material has both endless possibilities and infinite power.

I can’t think of anything that touches us like food. It is the soul of life, a single unifier. When I first graduated I did not want to become known as the food girl, but I was struck by the public’s reaction to my first projects. It made me think much more about the material’s potency and potential. 

Food is very emotional - it has the power to make people feel happy. I always knew that, but the more complicated question was how a food designer could make the sort of impact I wanted to make. My answer is that one must always have a stand-point that is bigger than the food on a plate.

So I want “Eat Shit” to show how there is a big difference between food design and eating design. I want to reveal the full gamut of what my new Food Non Food course at the Design Academy Eindhoven covers.  It is the first undergraduate food design course in the world in art education and for the department I selected a team of experts with different strengths so students come at the subject from as broad a perspective as possible. 

The department’s focus is on materials, politics, communication and always ideas – ideas about change, the future and problem solving.  Combined, my team has a unique view on where and why food is where it is right now, but also where it is headed. It is important to look backwards and forwards to better understand how design can intervene on that route. We talk about contemporary reality, limitations and all the various responses design can make to food related issues.  

Food Non Food decided to come to Milan now even though the students are only second years because the moment feels right. We are a brand new department and the students are still finding their way and their voice as designers, but the next World Expo is coming up and its focus is also food so it feels like the time to start showing what we have been up to is now. The students are amazing.  They are fresh and so enthusiastic.

I think one of the main problems facing food and food production right now is that most of the people in the industry are very specialized and focus solely on their own profession. Design cannot solve every problem, but I do think it can make a valuable contribution.  And it is at each point of the production and distribution process that that difference can be made because skilled creative thinkers are trained to tackle bigger problems head on.

And more generally designers are uniquely positioned - they understand problems and can use design thinking to kick-start a stuck system out of its rut. Designers can work between farmers and families, between politicians and industry, and between scientists and producers. Designers can forge links, they can take existing knowledge and add a design twist which ensures ideas click across boarders.

Everybody eats – food is potent, it forms the basis of life and yet so many of us, especially those living in cities, take it for granted.  People don’t think about the fact that bananas were originally green with spikes and seeds, or that carrots were purple and white. What happened?  Why are they so homogenized? And what does it mean for the future of food? Limiting agricultural diversity puts agriculture in a precarious position.

So I guess you can say I did become the food girl, but now I understand why that was the best possible path.

Published: 07-Apr-2015 16:51
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