Few things are more important to soldiers than their food. Enter K-Rations, a new exhibition by Italian industrial designer Giulio Iacchetti that examines the packaging and contents of field rations served up by 20 different armies around the world, exposing both their similarities and their cultural differences.
As a designer who has worked on everything from biscuits to surfboards, Iacchetti tells me he is fascinated by the extreme functionality of anonymously designed items like field rations. Although they usually come in small, sparsely adorned cardboard boxes, field rations are a master class in efficient design. Every inch inside the box is accounted for, and organized so that an entire day’s worth of meals can fit inside a box about the size of a trade paperback. “Even though field rations look so synthetic, they’re sometimes better designed than what was usually call ‘design,'” Iacchetti notes.
But field rations are also a window into the cultures of countries all around the world. Since a field ration contains all of the food a soldier needs to consume through the day, it offers a glimpse at how each country’s military cuisine differs. For example, every American field ration contains peanut butter and bubble gum, whereas in Italy, it’s pasta and minestrone, and in Thailand, it’s rice and spice.
Currently on display until February 22 at the 2015 Expo Milano, Iacchetti says he hopes to take the K-Rations exhibit on the road to other countries later this year. You can see more of Iacchetti’s work here.