When Food Meets Design

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Photo: Mitch Feinberg

Food photographers and stylists divulged industry secrets to Frank Bruni on Friday at the AIGA event: Today's Specials: The Design of Food Presentation. Food stylist Victoria Granof recalled how she once photographed a chicken slaughtered eyes-open for a story about aging necks. "Food photography is a little bit about performance," explained photographer Mitch Feinberg, who recommended seeing subjects as adjectives like tall and wet, not nouns like buildings or liquids. Writer Tacey A. Rosolowski took the professorial tone with a slideshow on the history of dessert from Antonin Carême to present-day pastry artists like Le Bernardin’s Michael Laiskonis and the Ace of Cakes. Phillip R. Tiongson of Potion design group envisioned a future where information about the food — like ingredients, or sourcing — could be projected onto a dish after it was served. We’ve got more highlights, below.

Mass-market item that owes its success to design:
Bruni: “Kit Kat.”

Tiongson: “Pom, because of the name and something about the bottle, you feel like antioxidants are shooting at you.”

Granof: “A lot of food is being repackaged and flying off the shelves now, even though the formulation is the same, like Häagan-Dazs.” [A product she's worked on.]

Feinberg: “There’s a trend in natural food. Manufacturers are trying to cash in on that by putting things in brown paper.”

Packages that seduce you into buying them:
Bruni: “Hendrick's Gin.”

Granof: “Macarons at Ladurée in Paris. I never buy Voss water because it looks like shampoo.”

Where you would go to find inspiration:
Tiongson:Takashimaya (Japanese department store) for its amazing packaging.”

Granof: “Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, where flavors like lychee and sesame are listed as traditional, and chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry are categorized as exotic.”

Advice for beginners:
Tiongson: “Discipline yourself to have time to play.”

Granof: “Don’t be as concerned with the goal as the process, that’s when you find beauty.”

Feinberg: “Make photographs or you’ll never be a photographer; everybody gets their shot, not everybody recognizes it.”

Rosolowski: “If you’re a writer, you need to write. Sit with a mouthful of food. Spend time with your senses.”