Discovering Dutch Design Week 2019

Last month, Applied Arts Scotland Advisor Helen Voce and member Beth Farmer travelled to Eindhoven, Noord-Brabant, The Netherlands to attend the Creativity World Forum 2019, 21-23 October and Dutch Design Week 2019, 24-25 October 2019. 

Dutch Design Week (DDW) is Europe’s biggest design event in Northern Europe presenting the work of 500+ designers to circa 35,000 domestic and international visitors in 110+ locations across the city of Eindhoven in the form of exhibitions, events, experiences, talks, networking events and festivities.

Mycelium Paviljoen, Dutch Design Week 2019

The Creativity World Forum (CWF) is the flagship conference of the Districts of Creativity network, of which Scotland is a member, which unites regions around the world focussing on creativity to foster innovation and prosperity. This year, member Noord-Brabant organised and hosted the Forum and set the theme ‘Change the Inevitable’. Due to the timing of both events, the Forum’s programme drew on the excellent content of DDW, enabling delegates to immerse themselves in design from multiple perspectives.

For Helen and Beth the joint aim of their visit to Eindhoven was to gather learning from DDW to share via AAS’s networks with makers, craftspeople and designers to inform their knowledge of the event relevant to their practices, development and opportunities. Each also had individual aims. 

Beth, who divides her time between working as a Listening Expert for Impact Arts, an Expressive Arts facilitator with Creative Therapies and managing open access textile printing studio Print Clan, attended with an interest in sustainability and design innovation, both to be inspired by and to develop knowledge in the design industry. Much of Beth’s work focuses on tackling social inequality through the arts so she was also keen to understand what organisations are doing internationally in this space via CWF.

The Coral by Yyunseok An exhibited at Antenna, Dutch Design Week 2019

As a Creative Projects, Event and Development Programme Producer supporting craftspeople, makers and designers in Scotland and overseas, Helen attended to witness best practice, build her networks and current knowledge of the sector and to support AAS’s international project work. She also attended CWF as a depute for AAS Chair, Carol Sinclair who was invited to attend in her role as a member of the Creative Industries Advisory Group (CIAG). Helen’s trip was supported by Creative Scotland’s Go, See, Share Creative Industries Funding.

Studio Drift, Art & Collectables Talk, Dutch Design Week 2019

Established in 1998 as ‘Day of Design’ with the objective of introducing entrepreneurs to designers, the city-wide event expanded to a week in 2002 and has been known as DDW since 2005. The event, firmly established on the industry’s global calendar, concentrates on the design of the future / the future of design, and how international designers can shape a positive future. 2019’s theme was ‘If not now, then when?’ and focussed on the future requiring international thinking and acting, connection and responsibility. It directly built on 2018’s theme of ‘If not us, then who?’ The curation, enquiry and propositions by participants certainly addressed this and prompted thinking and active dialogue.

Beth’s highlights were:

  • Visiting the Philips Museum and learning about the history of Eindhoven. Founded in 1891 Philips were first to manufacture light bulbs, and then went on to produce radios, CDs and healthcare technology. With innovation and diversification at the heart of the organisation’s approach to product design, they became leaders in their industry, putting Eindhoven on the map as a European centre for design and in turn DDW.
  • During the tour of the World Design Embassy of Sustainable Design (DDW) meeting and listening to Yyunseok An talk about his project The Coral, an indoor micro-algae farm designed to welcome algae into our everyday lives. Algae not only serves as a human superfood, containing over 65 nutrients and minerals, but it helps to maintain the balance between oxygen and carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. His aesthetically pleasing glass sculpture could form a centrepiece in any living room, whilst producing a daily harvest of two grams of algae, the recommended daily intake. 
  • The ‘Dirty Talk’ workshop facilitated by social design foundation Tante Netty founder Madelon Strijbos. Presentation of Quality-to-Impact model which illustrates five core qualities for successful social design projects. The challenge was to imagine a hyper-local social design project which applies digitisation to create a solution. Teaming up with Gerard McKenzie, Director of The Blank Faces and Ruth Cochrane lecturer in Design at Napier University from the CWF Scottish Delegation we created a solution to job seekers having to bare the elements at outdoor data points to complete mandatory job search activities in order to claim benefits.
  • A visit to Precious Plastic HQ, a global community founded in Eindhoven by Dave Hakkens that works towards a solution to plastic pollution by educating and empowering everyone (for free) to set up a fully kitted out plastic recycling workspace. During DDW there were demonstrations of the custom built machinery for shredding, intrusion, injection & compression featured on the premises. Also on display is an innovative range of plastic products including a stool from Scotland’s Still Life.
Precious Plastic HQ, Dutch Design Week 2019

Helen’s highlights were:

  • The Art & Collectables Talk in the DDW Talks programme. Internationally renowned Dutch design studios Studio Drift and Maarten Baas gave generous and advice filled masterclasses about establishing their practices, building relationships with international, reputable galleries and collectors and surprisingly very honest insights into how they cost and price their top end, best-selling works. Talks are affordable, particularly if you are a student, and very well attended so offer an excellent opportunity for networking.
  • The Object is Absent exhibition dematerialised design, and in the absence of the objects optimised human behaviour in the form of performative and playful actions. It was an engaging, interactive and immersive alternative experience for visitors to DDW to consider use of resources, materiality, consumption and more in the context of climate emergency.
  • Design Academy Eindhoven Graduation Show 2019 presents the work and concepts of pioneers and agents of change and influence in design. The majority of graduates’ projects address current global and local societal, environmental, health, criminal, resource and consumption issues and more, via the presentation of systems, technology, products, interventions, processes and materials all informed by design and design thinking.
  • GEO-DESIGN: Junk. All That is Solid Melts into Trash exhibition co-curated by Design Academy Eindhoven and the Van Abbemuseum researched waste and systems of discarded things around the globe. Current prevalent issues including pollution of the oceans by single use plastics and abundance of waste clothing resulting from fast fashion was presented with in depth research demonstrating impact in specific geographies. However, the topic was exploded in exhibits about international trade in e-waste that enable countries to meet environmental quotas, and Point Nemo, a region in the south pacific which is essentially a spacecraft cemetery for international space junk falling back to earth with no consequence to the company or country who initially launched them.
Pollination Equipment by Ance Janevica exhibited at Design Academy Eindhoven Graduation Show 2019, Dutch Design Week 2019

From getting up close and personal with vegan leather made from urban plant waste to hearing about Firm of the Future’s use of biomimcry to inspire organisational design, DDW was certainly thought provoking and inspired many interesting discussions for Beth. The combination of attending workshops and seminars at CWF, and soaking up all that DDW had to offer was excellent and proved to be an opportunity to absorb local history, design innovation and sustainability all in one city.

For Helen, DDW is an outstanding event not only in the global calendar of design weeks, but in terms of commentary and engagement in societal, community, climate and resource issues where design actively informs solutions. DDW is about concepts, ideas, materiality, propositions, research and enquiry, offering food for thought, conversation opportunities, debate, dialogue, and the potential for collaboration. It certainly stimulates and informs routes for creative and professional development. DDW is sector driven and representative of practitioners / companies / studios at various stages and scales, a contrast to the corporate heavy London Design Festival, and big brand trading of the Salone del Mobile.Milan.

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