Meet Su Hyun Park: Our Finland & Korea correspondent

Photo by Valentina Caselini

“When it comes to food design, everyone has different definitions and perceptions.”

Su Park is a former ceramic artist from Seoul, Korea, and recent graduate of the MA course Product and Spatial Design at Aalto University in Helsinki, Finland. She is currently working as a food designer at AÄÅ, a design studio which Su Park co-founded in 2014. Her focus in food design lies in looking at the bigger picture of food production and consumption and using design principles to help solve the issues in these fields. As our correspondent she will be reporting on recent developments in food and design in both Finland and Korea.

How would you describe the field of food and design? 

When it comes to food design, everyone has different definitions and perceptions. Food design is often misunderstood as the designing of a culinary aesthetic, with only a narrow perspective on food. I believe The DIFD uses the term “food and design” rather than “food design” for precisely this reason. Today, a material based classification is no longer valid. Much rather, designers are more likely to be classified according to their purpose in relation to social needs. As a result, the term ‘food design’ describes food as a universal material. I would therefore rather define myself as a designer in the food domain, as food is not a mere material. Rather, food is a tangled subject in the context of which designers can play various roles to accomplish their purpose.

I would like to briefly share how I see the relation of food and design in diagrams which were first introduced in my MA thesis in 2017. Diagram 1 examines the realm of food with related professions. Diagram 2 defines the broad term of food design within the context of existing food domain and its design correlations. 

Diagram 3 indicates the traditional roles of designers in food and diagram 4 suggests some feasible roles of designers in the realm of food. When diagram 4 is overlapped on diagrams 1 and 2, it shows that designers (represented as round face dots) are connecting different professions and subjects within the matrix of the food domain. More lines could be added by creative attempts in the field.

Thus, designers will play a pivotal role in connecting different professions as facilitators and collaborators as diagram 5 illustrates.

How do you see the future of food and design?

To be honest, I currently cannot clearly see how it will develop. I believe there is great potential in the realm of food and design, but it is still in its early stage. It is a big challenge for designers working in food to expand the boundaries of their own profession. Constant collaborations and cooperations with other professions in the food domain will strengthen the basic understanding of this new field of work in order to broaden our roles in the existing structure.

Do you think designers working with food need to address political or social issues?

I am not sure whether designers should address political or social issues directly though practices. But one thing is for certain, food is definitely the key element that has been shaping our life, society and even politics. Some politicians have been using food to support their power throughout history. Such as described in the BBC podcast series The Food Chain. Therefore designers in food naturally deal with social and political aspects of food whether directly or indirectly, consciously or without knowing. Additionally, the role of the designer has been changing according to societal needs and we need to keep up to date about what is happening around us in order to adapt the current situations.

Laavu in Nakuna project of Aalto University © Hilla Kurki

What can you tell us about developments regarding food and design in Finland & Korea? 

So far I am most fascinated by the different ways in which people from both countries look at food based on their history and geography. The population in Finland is one tenth of Korea’s but it is one and a half times the size of the Korean peninsula. There are four distinctive seasons in Korea but six months of winter in Finland. Koreans care much more about what they eat and the rapidly changing food trends – Finns are much less food driven. However, the interest in food is increasing dramatically in both countries.



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