Inviting People to the Dinner Table Again
Louise Knoppert is a designer who aims to stimulate people's senses and create new experiences, improving people's lives through her design. Her designs are presented as smart and simple solutions through functional and ergonomic products. From "Animal Coffin," a biodegradable animal coffin, to "Opscheppen" a series of bowls that help children learn about food quantities, Louise has designed sensitive products for various target groups. She talked to us about her project "Proef," a series of tools for people who are medically prevented from enjoying meals in a social context, due to being fed through a feeding tube.
How did you come to food design and what intrigues you about it?
I love triggering people’s senses and creating new and surprising experiences. What better way to do this than through food? You can work with a huge range of aspects like textures, feelings, memories, flavours, experiences, movements, scent, the possibilities are endless—not only using food itself but also the experience around it, the location, the people, etc. Besides the whole sensorial experience, I very much enjoy the social aspects surrounding food. Like sharing, celebrating, discovering new places to eat and being surprised by new foods and flavours. And I love going all out in my kitchen for my friends and experimenting with new recipes and ingredients.
So it all came to me kind of naturally. No surprise I ended up doing an internship at Pinch Food Design in New York City, where I could combine my love for food, design and furniture in a new and unpredictable way. Through food and design Pinch creates an experience that leverages the best food with never-before-seen presentations: “To impress, entertain and inspire with food as delicious as it is daring, and design as inviting as it is innovative.”
Your work “Proef” is a very empathetic one, how did you do your research?
Proef is inspired by a good friend, who in the future will probably receive all her nutrients through a tube straight into her stomach. She will not be able to eat anymore after the tube is installed. I just cannot imagine how horrible this must be.
After some research I found that every year, around 5000 people in the Netherlands have a tube for tube feeding installed in their stomachs permanently, and that there are a lot of other groups of people who have difficulties with eating. These numbers were surprising and shocking to me, so I wanted to create something to bring those people back to the dinner table. To experience not only the sensorial but also the social aspect around food again.
The set of tools I developed come in a box on which you can find the flavours it includes. They are related to particular cuisines or events so people can relate properly to what others at the table are having. By opening the box you reveal the tools you can use to create a new food experience. The box includes a variety of sensations, flavours, feelings, movements, actions, etc. The nine tools are called Vapor, Tingle, Foam, Ice, Pinch, Mist, Roll, Sponge and Dip.
My research focused on different fields. From the medical field, talking to doctors, patients and caretakers, to the flavour field, asking a flavourist how to create flavours, and the sensorial field, through which we experience eating. All these parts had a big influence on the end products. But maybe most importantly I didn’t want it to become some medical looking tool. I wanted it to be something beautiful which even people who don’t have problems eating would be curious about and want to try.
Have you done any further design work with food?
There are various projects in which I worked with food and design. One is “Opscheppen,” a research project with children. When you ask kids how much vegetables our body needs or how many potatoes, they don’t know. I think even adults often don’t know. I designed cups that kids can use to build what is on their own plate. Because they feel a sense of responsibility, and it wasn’t mummy who assembled the plate, it’s more likely they will actually eat up. At the same time, they learn how much of what foods their body needs. There is a set of cups for kids and a set for adults, and each spoon has its own food group.
How do you experience the food design scene where you are living?
That’s a good question. Of course I know other designers and companies who focus on food. There is a lot happening in Eindhoven around innovations for health that include food and some nice creative ideas and experiments with food, events, cafés, and restaurants. But for outsiders it would not be any bigger compared to other cities.
Read more about Louise on her website: louiseknoppert.com