Dutch design is distinguished by ingenious simplicity, experimentation, and … humor. Furniture and carpets made of recycled pine needles or a gun that shoots ice pieces of tears at the offender are fresh examples of an industrial designer thinking in a modern, imaginative, and very Dutch way.
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Bright, impractical, yet thoughtful, intelligent Dutch Design is simple and powerful. The frugal ethical Dutch are adept at using materials that look useless. They know how to modernize cultural codes, believe in the perspectives of a tolerant society, and combine everything that is never combined. Banal and extraordinary, old and new, high-tech and artisan.
Dutch designers are darlings of fate. Compatriots take their ventures so seriously that they are ready to pay big money for stools made of old boards and tables with porcelain toads. Officials subsidize startups, and spacious workshops donate or lease symbolically.
Dutch design finds its buyer not through an intermediary manufacturer, but in galleries, at auctions, and on the Internet – just like art, relying on a small circulation. The Dutch make revolutionary furniture in their own workshops. To this day, there is no furniture industry in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and this has become an excellent advantage – the product is produced exclusively at the discretion of the designer. Of course, state support plays a huge role. The Foundation for Visual Arts, Design and Architecture and its programs, launched in 1988, stimulate generations of students to become independent entrepreneurs right after graduation. Concentrate efforts on your own business, without changing the field of activity.
The Netherlands is one of the most economically stable countries. It closes the top ten richest countries in the world. Here society is not polarized in terms of income, and the Dutch export-oriented economy is called the economy of knowledge and innovation. The concept of economic development is based today on three pillars and three ports: Amsterdam / airport (airport), Rotterdam / seaport, Eindhoven / brain-port (intellectual gate of the country). The new cluster of creative industries formed around Eindhoven includes 10,000 members, 125 companies, and institutions. It generates over € 25 billion in Dutch exports. Brainport was named the “smartest region in the world” five years ago.
There are 13 design schools in the Netherlands. A small European country (the population of the Netherlands is 15 million people) can be safely called a country of architects and designers. Well-educated pros always have applications: design has become an integral part of product development in the Netherlands, from banknotes to ships. Fashion, computer technology, communications, and even food have pushed the already broad boundaries of the profession. Events at the intersection of promising disciplines are created by such world stars as architect Rem Koolhaas, fashion designer Iris van Herpen, food design pioneer Marie Vogelsang, kinetic sculptor Theo Jansen, provocative artists Joep Van Lieshout, Lucas Maassen, researchers Nadine Sterk and Lonny van Ryswyck (Atelier NL). They express the idea of ”lifestyle redesign”, act as politicians and sociologists, reflecting on power, development, death. Ten brands: Marcel Wanders, Joris Laarman, Pete Hein Eyck, Martin Baas, Studio Job, Kiki van Eyck and Just van Blaisvik, Scholten & Bejing, Richard Hatten, Bertjan Pot, Hella Jongerius lead the pyramid of the country’s most sought-after industrial designers.
Live in the future by rethinking the past
If Scandinavian design embodies pure functionality, then Dutch is its freedom-loving rebel cousin. As a phenomenon of world culture, it appeared on the world stage a century ago, thanks to the pioneering work of Gerrit Rietveld and the modernist movement De Stijl : together with Theo van Doesburg and Piet Mondrian, Rietveld developed a new visual “language”: abstraction and geometric order were to become the expression of modern ideas.
The term Dutch Design has been around since the 1990s. Prior to this, the phrase “Dutch design” evoked associations with the work of graphic artists. A major breakthrough in industrial design was associated with a merger such as Droog and his performance at the Salone del Mobile in 1993. The names of Gis Bakker, Rennie Remakers, Jurgen Bey, Richard Hutten, Hella Jongerius, Vicky Somers, Pete Hein Eyck, and Marcel Wanders, who founded Moooi in 1996, became known to the world.
“At Moooi, we’re not trying to represent ourselves as something new,” says Wanders. – Since the time of modernism, it is considered a good form to focus only on the future, on the new. It seems to me that this does not happen, it is simply ridiculous to think that you are free from the influence of the past. That someone is generally free of him. Putting on blinkers, rushing forward without looking back – this is really funny. We don’t do that … Fill new objects with well-read cultural metaphors and implement them either with the forces of tradition or with the help of new techniques – this is what I do every day. “
Theo Remy presented to the public a Droog rag chair made from old blankets. This kind of “slap in the face to public taste” became the embodiment of the main features of the Dutch design of that time – conceptuality with a fair amount of irony. Indeed, why carve a bench out of wood, when you can sit on the log itself, it is enough to attach the back of a chair to it, as Jurgen Bey did?
At the end of the 20th century, industrial factories in Holland were replaced by creative industries. Design became the driver of the economy, and the city of Eindhoven became the capital of Dutch design. The engine of development is the Dutch Design Week (DDW) in Eindhoven, which is attended by about 200,000 people, and up to 2,000 authors participate. DDW has grown to be the largest event with around 5 million euros from guests in hotels and restaurants.
The Design Academy in Eindhoven (in 2017 it turns 70) has become the main forge of stars. Although it was founded for something completely different: in 1946, the municipality was ordered to train personnel for the local industry, namely, for the city-forming enterprises Philips, which left Eindhoven with their headquarters in 1997. The students were beginning practitioners in a closed “laboratory” that formed not the stars of world design, but the humble workers of the Dutch electronic corporation. (Now the main industry in Eindhoven is the manufacture of microchips – several offices that manage the production).
Reputation best design academy modernity, open to the world – is largely due to the former head of the Academy of Li Edelkoort (Lidewij Edelkoort). An authoritative trendsetter, an “archaeologist of the future”, she made serious reforms in the institution for 10 years (1999-2009). Lee has been active in alumni careers, promoting creators such as Maarten Baas, Kiki van Eyck, and Studio Job in the context of global trends.
Technology and craft
Dutch designers are actively using technology. 3D printing and robotics inspire Joris Larman and Dirk Vander Kooija. Vander Kooi turned a Chinese industrial robot into a 3D printer. With it, he printed lamps, vases, and even an Endless chair from the plastic parts of an old refrigerator. “I have always been attracted to recycled synthetic materials. I wanted to break the stereotype that only cheap, short-lived things can be made of them, – comments Vander Kooy. Everything unnecessary gets into a giant press: “We feed the press to chairs that we didn’t like, and he removes tables from them,” explains the designer.
The main question today is how to combine new technologies and handicrafts. High-tech plus low-tech guarantee the subject a happy place in the world of ultra-fast communications and over-emancipated personalities.
Dutch designers believe that in the future the value of an item will not depend on materials (even advanced materials such as bioplastics or organic light-emitting diodes) – the main luxury will be the unique individuality of the object. The design gradually became more personal, became a personal story. Today, people are more interested in what design has to offer personally to everyone. “Dutch design is religion for some, marketing for others, and a brand that sells well for export for others,” comments Tim Vermeulen, program manager for the Dutch Design Foundation. Vermeulen also sees wider: Dutch design is an international school based on design education.