Student's design creates food for thought

A sample of Annabelle's project, Nothing Food.

A design project by Victoria University of Wellington student Annabelle Nichols which aims at exploring the unconscious aspects behind choosing and consuming food is part of Milan’s annual Salone Satellite exhibition.

The theme of this year’s showcase is food. Annabelle’s project, Nothing Food, originated as part of her Master of Design Innovation coursework, when the students were challenged to consider the state of food in 40 years’ time.

Annabelle describes her work as a “provocative project concerned with the current direction of the food industry”.

In thinking about the future of food, Annabelle decided to explore the decision-making processes people go through when deciding what to eat.

Before developing her project, Annabelle first had to determine what food is considered to be. She researched how it is decided if something is food or not.

One of the challenges with definition comes from separating concepts of food with that of edibility.

From discussions, Annabelle discovered that edible is defined by whether or not the body will digest something, rather than whether or not we are willing to eat it.

It was with this information that Annabelle developed Nothing Food.

Annabelle used a 3D printing process to manipulate pure gelatine to look and feel like food, but the finished product had no taste and no nutritional value. This allowed her to observe how people decided which piece of ‘food’ they would eat based purely on appearance.

“While one person decided they would eat the green food, because they associated the colour green with healthy foods such as vegetables, another said they would eat the pink one, because it looked sweet.

“I think as consumers we make unconscious decisions without any knowledge of what’s in the food. When I told the participants that none of the food items had any taste, they were all shocked.”

Nichols says the best part of the whole experience was receiving feedback from international designers, and making connections with the international design community.

She is now considering the opportunity of collaborating with other designers involved in the exhibition when she travels to Europe in December.