Illustration for "Virtual Theaters of Taste," MOLD Issue 4. Art by Team Rolfes.

Pre-order your copy of Designing for the Senses, MOLD Magazine Issue 04, for a pre-order price of $17. Expected ship date June 15.

Within minutes of being born, one of our first acts is to seek out food. Guided by a sense of smell and taste with visual and auditory cues of a mother’s face and voice, mewling babies can crawl up their mother’s bodies to breastfeed themselves. This congenital instinct, known as the breast crawl, illustrates how fundamental the concert of senses are for exploring and processing our surroundings as a geography for sustenance. Upon entry into this world, our senses guide our most basic instincts and influence decision-making processes throughout our lives: from the ways we build culture to the people we choose as partners.

Dining with another should be experienced as one of the highest forms of intimacy—there are precious few contexts where we share in such a ritualized fashion. Indeed, besides sex, eating is the only thing we do that engages all of our senses. In this issue of MOLD, we probe the ways that designing for all the senses can lead to embracing the ingredients, flavors, experiences and routines needed to address the coming food crisis.

MOLD Magazine Issue 4 double cover featuring the artwork of Maren Karlson (left) and Ram Han (right).

Maria Jimena Ricatti argues that understanding our multisensory wiring is fundamental to unlocking environmental and gustatory diversity. In a three-part feature, chef Dan Barber, farmer Jack Algiere and seed breeder Michael Mazourek share a blueprint for designing a truly sustainable, hyper-regional food ecology built on flavor. Tapping into sensorial curiosity is a key for adopting new food experiences: as Ben Wurgaft argues, experimenting with flavor and form will be key to ushering in a new era of cultured meat. In similar fashion, Lining Yao and the Morphing Matter Lab explore food as a dynamic design material and communication tool, programming it with more powers to entertain our appetites and inform our habits. What possibilities lie ahead when food is designed for delicious, regenerative food ecologies?

In a world that is increasingly mediated through sensing technologies, Yasaman Sheri lays out a conceptual framework for collectively optimizing design interactions—ecological, social and political—in her six-part sensory manifesto for MOLD; while the organizers of GOAT discuss their work with the open source ag tech community; and Adriana Krasniansky charts the current landscape of human-computer interaction research that will quantify and amplify our capacity to taste. Gazing further afield, David Cuartielles pens our first piece of commissioned fiction: a sci-fi narrative about our relationship with food beyond algorithms and sensing technologies.

But what about our most primitive interaction with food? Starting with Plato’s philosophy of the Idea, Ed Romein examines how exploding an ancient hierarchy of the senses opens up opportunities for connection and joy. And what is more joyful than eating with our hands? Elizabeth Yorke celebrates the science and cultural myth-making of employing our most nimble digits—fingers to mouth. Neuroscientists Gordon M. Shepherd and chemist Arielle Johnson chart the science of the senses by examining the ways that we experience and interpret flavors—from wine to tomatoes—and how that might offer a window into the future of expanding our palates and diets.

Illustration for “New African Cuisine: Q+A with Chef Selassie Atadika”. Art by Jesse Katabarwa for MOLD Magazine.

While current insight into the most fundamental mechanisms for sensing can organize and augment these processes, interpreting how best to use this knowledge is the true challenge. What do we risk by prioritizing some senses over others? What are our ethical considerations? How will this impact food systems? Design can be a critical lens to frame these questions and a tool to provoke answers. By bringing together interdisciplinary voices, we hope that we can build our sensorial aptitude to create a new and holistic paradigm for the future of food.

LinYee + Johnny

Issue 04 features writings and artwork from chef Dan Barber (Blue Hill at Stone Barns), David Cuartilles (arduino), Ram Han, Alexis Jamet, Arielle Johnson (noma + MIT Media Lab), Maren Karlson, Marvin Leuvrey, Thomas McCarty, Yasaman Sheri (CIID), Gordon M Shepherd (Neurogastronomy), Justinas Vilutis, Lining Yao (Morphing Matter Lab) and Atelier HOKO (Science of the Secondary).

Pre-order your copy of Designing for the Senses, MOLD Magazine Issue 04, for a pre-order price of $17. Expected ship date June 15.