NakedPak: designing sustainable and joyful food experiences
By developing new approaches and materials for packaging, Naama Nicotra hopes to promote sustainable practices in the food industry
Naama Nicotra is among the winners of the DesignWanted Award 2023, within the concept design category. In this interview, the Israeli designer shares her design journey and philosophy and discusses her award-winning concept design, NakedPak, which is a zero-waste, edible meal packaging solution made from soluble bio-plastic produced from algae.
Naama emphasizes her design philosophy that combines traditional knowledge and craftsmanship with advanced technologies and focuses on creating innovative, sustainable, and functional products that positively impact people’s lives. She also shares her vital tools and methods for the design process, including seeking inspiration from nature and collaborating with others.
Additionally, she talks about the upcoming paths of material innovations, highlighting the shift towards sustainability and conscious consumerism, revealing her plans for investigating and developing sustainable and delightful designs in the food industry.
Let’s explore the story behind Naama Nicotra and her NakedPak project, which will be exhibited during the upcoming Milan Design Week (17-23 April) at La Cattedrale (Certosa area), within the co-produced exhibition ‘Innovation for Living’ by DesignWanted, Designtech & Isola Design.
Who is Naama Nicotra? How did your design journey begin?
“I’m Naama Nicotra, a 28-year-old designer based in Israel. My design journey began a few years ago when I discovered the magic of transforming a 2D surface into a 3D product using my mother’s sewing machine. I taught myself the craft of sewing and became enamored with the limitless possibilities it offered.
This led me to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Design, which I completed last summer. During my studies, I honed my skills in both traditional crafts and advanced technology. I wanted to challenge the way we experience products today and explore new directions for the future. As I developed my skills, I also focused on defining my identity as a designer. I’m particularly interested in the intersection of technology, innovative materials, and food, and I’m excited to continue exploring this area in my design work.”
You won the DesignWanted Award with the NakedPak concept design, a line of zero-waste, edible meals, wrapped in soluble bio-plastic made of agar produced from algae. How did you come up with the idea?
“Winning the DesignWanted Award for the NakedPak concept design was a great honor. The idea for this zero-waste, edible meal packaging solution came from my frustration with the existing unsustainable food packaging options. Every day, we generate more and more waste from our food purchases, and I wanted to find a solution that would reduce this impact. As I researched and brainstormed, I looked to nature for inspiration. I was particularly drawn to the way that fruits and vegetables come naturally packaged in their own skins and peels.
This led me to the “apple principle” – the idea that an edible package is the most sustainable option. After all, an apple doesn’t need any additional packaging beyond its own skin, which is easily rinsed before eating. Using this principle, I developed the NakedPak concept.
Each meal is wrapped in a soluble bio-plastic made of agar produced from algae, which is edible and can be safely consumed along with the meal. The meal is rinsed in the sink before cooking it. This eliminates the need for any additional packaging and reduces waste significantly.”
How would you describe your design philosophy? What are the aspects that you focus on the most when developing new products?
“My design philosophy is centered around combining traditional knowledge and craftsmanship with advanced technologies. I believe that there is much to be learned from the natural mechanisms and sustainable practices that have been developed over time.
By integrating these insights with the latest technological innovations, we can create solutions that are both smart and functional. When developing new products, my focus is always on finding the core idea or solution. Once I’ve identified this key element, it becomes easier to shape the product into the right form. However, this is still a challenging process, as finding the right form can be just as important as the idea itself.
Overall, my approach to design is driven by a desire to create innovative, sustainable, and functional products that have a positive impact on people’s lives.”
From an industrial design perspective, which are your vital tools, resources, and methods for you during the design process?
“When seeking inspiration, I often turn to nature, taking walks in the woods and observing the plants and the animals. I find that this helps me to achieve a greater sense of harmony in my designs.
Additionally, I enjoy visiting libraries, museums, and galleries to learn from the works of other designers and artists. When working with natural and innovative materials, I believe that curiosity and experimentation are key. By touching and playing with a new material, I am able to gain a deeper understanding of its properties and potential applications.
While theoretical knowledge is important, practical tests often lead to unexpected and exciting results. One of my favorite methods for the design process is collaboration. I believe that the more people that are involved in a project, the better the outcome will be.
By working together with other designers, engineers, and stakeholders, I am able to gather valuable feedback and ideas from the earliest stages of a project. This allows me to explore new directions and push the boundaries of what is possible.”
What do you believe are the main trends & future directions within material innovations and what do you think of them?
“In recent years, there has been a growing trend towards sustainability and conscious consumerism, which has led to exciting developments in the field of material innovation. We are seeing more and more products made from recycled and renewable materials, such as lamps made from fungi, coffee cups made from coffee production leftovers, and textiles made from recycled plastics.
These products are not only environmentally friendly but are also becoming more desirable to consumers. Another trend in material innovation is the development of lab-grown food, such as cultivated meat, milk, and eggs. This has the potential to revolutionize the food industry and offer consumers a guilt-free alternative to traditional animal-based products.
While I am very excited about these developments, I also believe that it will take time for these products to become widely accepted and integrated into our daily lives.”
What is the next step for Naama Nicotra?
“I hope to continue my research in edible materials – by giving them forms and new function, to look for new, surprising materials and use them for useful and sustainable products.
The combination of food and design has always been a great passion of mine, and in the coming years I will continue to explore this duo by creating sustainable and joyful designs of food.
I hope to encourage the people around me to be brave and use unfamiliar materials in their designs and daily life.”