Meet Joséphine Abou Abdo: our Lebanon correspondent

Photo by Rita Chahine

“Design has always shaped society and it can definitely cause social impact.”

Josephine Abou Abdo is a Lebanese native living between Beirut and Rome. After studying interior architecture in Lebanon and product design in Rome, Josephine is now best described as a multidisciplinary designer and problem solver who uses product, service, and food design for innovation. As our Lebanese correspondent she will focus on writing about design thinking and food design in the Middle East.

What is your take on Food & Design and why does it interest you?

What interests me most about Food & Design is the way everyone can relate to it – no matter how far the person is from the design world. In other words, everyone eats! As humans we need food to survive, I think this fact alone is enough to allow design to interfere and manipulate a change in thinking.

Putting the terms “food” and “design” together enables people to relate food to more than one branch of knowledge. Food is thereby connected with one or many disciplines including science, architecture, biology, agriculture, design and psychology. It creatively widens new perspectives and approaches and takes one’s thoughts on food to another place. Food and design is any action-thought-idea that improves (or diminishes) our relationship with food individually and collectively.

People tend to believe that food and design means the art of plating the food, designing a menu, discovering new tastes, or designing a new shape with food as material, which is not necessarily wrong. However, there is a much deeper meaning and world to discover that rotates around food and that designers play a major role in.

Project: "Saj Stories" - sharing Lebanese stories around food.

Project: "Saj Stories" - sharing Lebanese stories around food.

How do you see the future of Food & Design?

I see a multitude of scenarios that designers should start imagining! What will we eat in 2050? Will food be based on science and technology, or will we rather rediscover the ways of our ancestors? What new foods will appear in the future? How will the climate change affect produce and farmers? I think all design disciplines can reach a point where nothing can be innovative anymore, except food.

Do you think designers should address politics and social issues?

Absolutely. Design must intervene in policy making. Politics is where design switches from research to action. Design has always shaped society and it can definitely cause social impact. Designers can’t be politicians, but their way of thinking and expressing thoughts and actions can influence and potentially change decisions and opinions. We’ve been fooled into thinking that designers and artists are limited to their audience but the opposite is true. Design is seeing problems and social issues as an opportunity to intervene and imagine it differently, rather than accepting it as it is.

What can you tell us about the developments regarding Food & Design in Lebanon?

The Lebanese food culture has been influenced by many civilisations which followed one another, imprinting this country, and in particular the capital Beirut, with various cultural influences. Today, Lebanon faces many social, cultural, and environmental challenges. With millions of Lebanese diaspora, political instability and corruption, different religious backgrounds, food insecurity with the Syrian crisis, and environmental pollution, many activists and local designers are starting private initiatives that address these issues and help raise awareness. 

Designers, architects, and entrepreneurs are already shifting their focus to food as a material, but also using it to solve social problems. Food design remains a vague and unsupported topic in Lebanon though, due to a lack of understanding of it’s true meaning. However, Lebanon needs food designers now more than ever for preserving tradition, restoring social relations, and for a sustainable future. 



Read more about Josephine on her:


Instagram: @josephine_aa