Marije Vogelzang

For reimagining what and how we eat–and training other designers to do the same.

Marije Vogelzang
Pass the peas: Vogelzang designs dining experiences that go far beyond the food. [Photos: Courtesy of Marije Vogelzang]

Design has transformed much of modern life, but Marije Vogelzang believes it has barely touched how we eat. “We are very mindless about food,” says the Dutch designer. Her work, both through her eponymous studio and in her teaching at the Design Academy Eindhoven, gets people thinking about what they put into their bodies. She has created art installations (a recent project for Tokyo department store Seibu asked shoppers to share memories associated with a staple: rice), new restaurant ideas for Lego’s theme parks, and product concepts for Nestlé. She’s improving patient nutrition through food presentation in hospitals (consumption rises when meat is cut into smaller pieces). Most important, she’s training a new generation to think differently: Last fall, Vogelzang started the world’s first bachelor’s degree program in food design at the Design Academy, teaching students to use “shape and color and texture,” she says, but also to understand “how the food cycle works, from farmers to the food industry to biotechnology to psychology.” She hopes the students will one day tackle issues like industrial meat production, for example, and “develop vegetarian options that are much more attractive than the ones they have now.”


Bonus Round

Where or how do you seek out creative inspiration?

This is very scattered and there is not just one way for me to find inspiration. Many times I’m working on several projects and one influences the other. Also the people I’m working with can spark ideas in my head. Sometimes it just comes from the daily life of being a mother.

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?

Drink water.

What is one thing about your job that you think would surprise people?

It might be that everybody always asks me if I have strange food events for my regular dinner every night with my family.

What’s your favorite Twitter or Instagram account and why?

I don’t spend a lot of time on Twitter and Instagram. I am a huge admirer of and Maria Popova is on Twitter.

What are some things you do to refresh your mind when you’re in a rut?

I like walking: The pace of your footsteps resonates with your brain, I think. But my real magic trick is taking a shower. I get the best ideas in the shower and I’ve got special notepads that can get wet to write down my ideas. Sometimes when I’m stuck I go and take a shower. It hardly ever fails!

Who outside of your field inspires you the most and why?

I get inspired by people who are really into the thing they do: Their enthusiasm can be contagious. I like it when someone can change my perspective. My neighbor is a psychologist and I think it’s fascinating to hear his reflections on things. I feel inspired by (trend forecaster) Li Edelkoort because she built her own profession. I get inspired by butchers when they explain about their craft or by a scientist who’s working on bacteria. The linking factor is professionalism and curiosity.

About the author

Jeff Chu writes on international affairs, social issues, and design for Fast Company. His first book, Does Jesus Really Love Me?: A Gay Christian's Pilgrimage in Search of God in America, was published by HarperCollins in April 2013.