Departmental Papers (ASC)

Document Type

Journal Article

Date of this Version



Suggested Citation:

Perelman, A. (2011). The Pyramid Scheme: Visual Metaphors and the USDA’s Pyramid Food Guides. Design Issues. Vol. 27, No. 3: 60–71. doi:

© 2011 MIT Press


In 1991 the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the creation of the Eating Right Pyramid, an icon designed to illustrate the federal government’s recommendations for a healthy diet. Even before its release, the Pyramid was a source of controversy; nutritionists and public health officials criticized the project as an exercise in jurisdictional malfeasance, while beef and dairy farmers complained that the new diet deemphasized the nutritional benefits of their products. The greatest source of conflict, however, did not derive from the information the guide displayed, but from the way in which that information was presented...


Date Posted: 03 January 2012

This document has been peer reviewed.