ABOUT

We viewed the farms as small companies dotted around the country and saw countless opportunities

ABOUT

The Designers and Farmers Project is an Iceland Academy of the Arts innovation project where two professions are brought together with the aim of developing produce of the highest quality, where design and traceability are key. The novelty of the project lies in the bringing together of one of the oldest professions in the country, farmers, and one of the youngest professions, product designers.

THE INSPIRATION

There were various things in the air in 2006 which pushed the Designers and Farmers Project into existence. Sigríður Sigurjónsdóttir, Professor of Product Design at the Iceland Academy of the Arts, sought out Brynhildur Pálsdóttir and Guðfinna Mjöll Magnúsdóttir, product designers, to develop a six week course in food design. Sigríður had placed great emphasis on linking the Department of Product Design to domestic production in order to enhance consciousness of the importance of design and to link students with society at large. Brynhildur and Guðfinna had concentrated on working with local produce and had placed particular emphasis on food design, which at the time was coming into its own internationally. „We felt that the opportunities for product designers in Iceland lay in food design; here we had plenty to work with and where the creation of any kind of uniqueness was completely lacking.“ At the time, Andri Snær Magnason had recently published his book Dreamland, where he harshly criticises Icelanders´ treatment of nature. He also criticises Icelandic agriculture for not responding to the call of consumers for good local produce and asks: „Why doesn´t one salivate half way around the country?“ Until then, farmers had not had licence to fully process their own produce. Unlike most other European countries, here, it was prohibited by law to slaughter, sell or fully process your own produce. It wasn´t until 2006, that the Ministry of Agriculture changed those rules and finally permitted home production on farms. This opened up opportunities for farmers to create a uniqueness for their produce and to increase its value. Following on from this, the organisation Straight from the Farm (Beint frá býli) was established to encourage farmers to begin home production. At the same time, the Nordic countries were bringing in the so-called New Nordic Kitchen which the chef Gunnar Karl at Dill spearheaded in this country. Thus, there were many events which conspired to inspire the Designers and Farmers Project.

We viewed the farms as small companies dotted around the country and saw countless opportunities. We saw an opportunity to create new traditions. We wanted to see food produce based on uniqueness and good design, we were bored of the lack of courage and the imitations which ruled the market. Here, we thought, was a need for designers and we believed that we could demonstrate new opportunities in food production with the advent of design. It is because of this that the Designers and Farmers Project came into being.“ (S.S., G.M.M and B.P.)

The Designers and Farmers Project spanned four years, from 2007 – 2011, and was divided into two parts; course and research. During these four years, the course was taught three times as part of a BA Degree in Product Design. Thirty students and eleven farms from all over the country participated in that part. In 2008, the project received a grant from the Technical Development Fund and the Agricultural Productivity Fund to begin the research part of the Designers and Farmers Project. The research part was an interdisciplinary collaboration where Matís was a formal partner. This made it possible that four ideas from the course became fully developed products.

The Designers and Farmers Project was solely for the benefit of the farms and was envisaged as a gift to the farmers’ community in the hope that the project would create precedent and cause multiple ripples into society. The aim with this website is to disseminate this comprehensive project so that others may make use of the experience and the knowledge created during its lifetime.