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Designing Gestures for Eating with Our Hands

In considering strategies for designers to employ when designing products and systems that can help feed 9 billion people by the year 2050, one avenue where design can make a marked difference is in designing a relationship between consumers and their food. This sort of intimacy and usability is central to the design toolbox—afterall, the field has been championing human-centered solutions for almost two decades.

Eating is one of the most intimate things we humans do. Every day, multiple times a day, we insert objects into our body and through the wonders of human biology, those objects become part of us. Design can be the tool to transform a thoughtless action in to a regular meditation on our relationships with the things around us. The Italian food designer Giulia Soldati takes this meditation as the central framework for Contatto, an ongoing investigation of how our relationship with food shifts when we do away with utensils and tableware and design food to be enjoyed and experienced with our hands and fingers through specific gestures. We speak with Soldati about Contatto and the joys of choreographed, multi-sensory, unmediated dining.

Giulia Soldati: I am Italian and I have always been passionate about food. It is a bit of a cliché, isn’t it? But when I left Italy, I realized that this passion is the right tool to use as a designer to bring up discussions about our food culture and the ways we relate to it. Living in the Netherlands and studying in an international school put me in contact with a number of different cultures and food habits from all over the world, making me truly understand how much food is present in our daily lives without us even noticing it.

Food is what brings people together, makes them discuss, exchange and bond. But I had the feeling that nowadays, particularly in the modern West, we’re building up a lot of barriers between our sensory perception and the world around us, especially in relation to food.

Source: Contatto: Designing Gestures for Eating with Our Hands

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“Observe, record, tabulate, communicate. Use your five senses. . . . Learn to see, learn to hear, learn to feel, learn to smell, and know that by practice alone you can become expert.”

— William Osler quotes (Canadian Physician, 1849-1919)