A first, Dutch Design Week 2016

Visiting Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven

Written by Craig Berry
Former Creative Intern at VBAT | Superunion
Originally shared Oct 27, 2016

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Strijp-S, Plug in City

I was given the opportunity to visit Eindhoven and experience the annual spectacle that is Dutch Design Week and it was an opportunity that could not be missed. To be honest I hadn’t heard of Dutch Design Week before as it isn’t actively advertised or promoted in the UK (yet) as most of us as a nation probably only care about British design although it is highly regarded over here and I overheard somebody call it a ‘pilgrimage’ or a ‘rite of passage’ to visit the Dutch Design Week event in Eindhoven and each year it tackles new and exciting subjects.

Some of the highlights of our day in Eindhoven included the Design Academy Eindhoven 2016 graduate show — ‘In Need Of…’ where over 150 graduates presented their projects, ideas and visions for how they might improve and revolutionise the world and solve problems.

All these projects were very individual and unique to the students and they were clearly passionate about what they had produced; based around subjects such as war, peace, surveillance, privacy, gender and the new age we live in.

The work itself was very well presented with high production values in the amazingly modernist and almost Bauhaus looking De Witte Dame building. Although one thing that definitely didn’t high production values in an almost ironic way was the identity, wayfinding and products for sale in the store as they were simple and basic designs pieces with pink paint sprayed chaotically on top in a punk manner which really added to the show and was a nice aesthetic.

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Graduation Exhibition of Design Academy Eindhoven. Images: Craig Berry
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The exhibition folder of Design Academy.

Another great part was the ‘Trajectories: Future pathways in design’ exhibition at TAC (Temporary Art Centre) where amongst other exhibitors was BIG a selection of graduation projects from the last few years of Graphic Design Arnhem — ‘REAL LIFE’. The work on show here wasn’t your traditional graphic design though. But a disparate and — at times — more exciting style of it. With lots of screens and digital pieces, the work explored multiple spaces and subjects such as the internet, social norms, day-to-day lifestyles and much more with the idea that all the work is “made with a mentality where online and offline, analogue and digital, surface and space readily coexist.”

It was exciting to see how contemporary graphic design is developing and evolving in this day and age and also how young designers are using it to tackle some sensitive subjects.

Despite all this digital-ness that was on show they did have a beautifully designed and printed vibrant 2 colour exhibition folded leaflet documenting the work on show which of course I had to take a copy of.

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Craig’s mentor Anthony at Real Life. Image: Craig Berry
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Real Life Exhibition at DDW. Image: Craig Berry

Next, the Veemgebouw in the Strijp area of the city was a great addition to the event: a multi-storey building with around 5 floors of the building dedicated to individual exhibitions — each floor a vast space. On the top floor — the conservatory — was an installation for ‘Reflecting Holons’ by Martens and Visser, a series of bubble-like moving sculptures spinning, rising and falling which was ceaseless and hypnotic to watch but also the form and colours were beautiful.

Below this was the Dutch Design Awards exhibition where social topics were mostly challenged but also interesting new ideas were explained such as how glass bricks were designed and used to create the aptly named ‘Crystal House’ Chanel store in Amsterdam. The other floors covered subjects such as interior design, furniture design, farming and VR but unfortunately we weren’t able to visit every floor due to time and also because it was very busy but I am sure they were equally as inspiring and interesting.

Other places we visited were the Microlab, Glasgebouw, Ketelhuisplein, MU: For Play, AreaFiftyOne, Maarten Baas Makes Time and several others.

Self-explanatory. Image: Craig Berry
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For Play Exhibition. Image: Craig Berry
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Leon de Bruijne — Buster 1/4
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Craig’s mentor Anthony in VR. Image: Craig Berry

My experience of Dutch Design Week opened my eyes wider to Dutch design and what that actually means.

When compared to British design it seems more out there, experimental, innovative and humorous even when tackling potentially sensitive or taboo subjects which is a real breath of fresh air as sometimes British design shows are often more serious and sober which although is good as these things work, sometimes it can be a little boring and obvious. Also although we were only there for the day Eindhoven was a great city that was quite small allowing what is there to be really easily accessible by foot in comparison to somewhere like London Design Festival that is a lot more spread out and therefore harder to experience it all, especially if you are not local and only visiting for the day.

Overall it was a really great and enjoyable day out shared with my mentor Anthony, we experienced lots and were inspired by what we saw, despite us taking a few detours, wrong turns and breaks. As my first time going out of Amsterdam by train, it has shown me how easy it is and also inspired me to visit other Dutch cities whilst I am here such as Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht to see what these places are like and what they have on offer.

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A well deserved burger and ‘biertje’ at the very end. Proost.

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