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Piatti Tipici – How food inspires design

This is a fascinating design project that combines sociology, gastronomy and Italian design.  Italian designer, Marta Lavinia Carboni, together with photographer, Ambra Zeni, explore the connection between food and culture in a series of plates called piatti tipici.

The duo spent a year researching 11 different ethnic groups living in Milan and explored how each group prepares a typical dish (a piatti tipici)  based on the available ingredients in Italy’s fashion capital.  The 11 group’s typical dishes were assigned a colour combination which was later transformed into a decal and applied onto a hand crafted plate.

The result of producing 11 fascinating conversation pieces, Marta and Ambra conclude “regardless of cultural background, we all approach food and eating in a similar way, however colour is the true common language between us.”  The countries studied and modeled included: Italy, Philippines, Morocco, China, Peru, Sri Lanka, Ecuador, Romania, Egypt, Ukraine and Albania.

A Look At the Food Combinations Marta Studied to Create Piatti Tipici:

Countlan MCL Pate Tipici cina






A Look at the Making Piatti Tipici:

Countlan MLC Piatti tipici





The Piatti Tipici Result:

Countlan Piatti Tipici MLC







Photo Credit: Ambra Zeni

INTERVIEW: Marta Lavinia Carboni, Designer, Italy

 01 How long did this work take to create Piatti Tipici from idea to production?
1 year

02 What was the most surprising thing that you learned from your research?
I learned that colours are the real common language.

03 Now that you’ve completed the project, do we value and approach food in similar ways around the world?
Yes we do.

 04 What is your favourite food? 
My favorite food is risotto allo zafferanno (rice with saffron), the typical dishes from Milan

05 Do you entertain at home?
I like having friends at home. I prefer small groups (2-4) because I have a very little house but also because I think it’s better for listening to each other.

06 Do you use your plates at home – if so how do your guests react?
I use my plates and the guests seem to like them but I think they are a little bit forced, don’t you think? :)

07 Where are Piatti Tipici available?
At the moment, Piatti Tipici plates are available at the Rinascente Design Supermarket in Milan.

 08 How did you go from studying a food/culture to creating the design on the plate?
First, I asked one inhabitant from each ethnic group in the study what typical dishes of his/her country he/she can cook with the ingredients found in Milan.

Then, I divided the ingredients into eight different macro areas and I arrived at eleven different color combination, one for every dish. Finally, I transformed the colors into textures, taking inspiration from the preparation and the final aspect of the dish. I created the drawings using a computer then using the technique of decalcomania, where engravings or prints are transferred onto ceramic, applied my plate designs onto hand crafted dishes manufactured in collaboration with a ceramic workshop.

09 Can you share a tradition unique to Milan?
I think Italian culture is lumped together as one big culture and people do not understand that there are regional differences and subtleties. Our best tradition is the Panttone, a typical Christmas dessert with raisin and candied fruit that we eat with friends from the 8th of December to 15th January.



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