Food, Design, and Mark Bittman Collide Downtown on February 12

Pony up $200 for a ticket to Design Observer’s Taste if you’re into all things edible and aesthetic

Conversations about food and design in L.A. typically involve pointing out those stunning patterned cement tiles in the entrance at such-and-such place, or confessing the temptation to hurl the recycled glass vessel containing your triple IPA against yet another reclaimed wood wall.

But, whether you realize it or not, everything about food contains some design element, from the configurations of transportation networks that help what we eat get into our bodies, to the length of time wrappers sit in landfills (or compost piles).

Design Observer, an online journal and resource for design professionals based on the East Coast, is bringing together practitioners in various fields to talk about all those wide-ranging, surprising, and important intersections. “Taste: A One Day Design Observer Symposium on Design and Food” takes place at Los Angeles Theater Center downtown on Friday, February 12. Stumptown starts brewing coffee for the crowd when the day begins at 8:30 a.m., and continues until 5:30 p.m.

While many people might rather spend the $200 registration ($75 for students) on you know, actual food, the agenda is thought-provoking and features some locals as well as thinkers and doers from outside California. L.A. folks slated to participate include Sqirl’s Jessica Koslow, USC professor and “To Live and Dine in L.A.” curator and author Josh Kun, Gizmodo’s Alissa Walker, and guerrilla gardener Ron Finley. Dr. Ricardo Salvador, director of the Food and Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, will delve into the tough questions and hard facts.

And yes, there will be food served throughout the day.

“The idea that the designer comes in later and adds this veneer isn’t something we’ve ever stood for or been about,” says Jessica Helfand, conference organizer and Design Observer Creative Director and CEO. These issues are integrally related, and a symposium of this type enables participants to “go between the universal and unique” when thinking about challenges and possible solutions.

Since we can’t read Mark Bittman’s thoughts on food regularly in the New York Times anymore, the Taste conference is an opportunity to hear what’s on his mind these days when he delivers the afternoon keynote address. Plus he’s into this topic in particular. “I love thinking about the intersection of design and food, and it’s a rare chance to do so,” Bittman says.

That said, don’t expect a volume entitled How to Design Everything anytime soon.