Dutch Design Week 2022

“Hope” is not really a word you’d use to describe 2022 thus far. The news has offered a steady stream of disconcerting information from both home and abroad, not least the very real and perilous position humanity finds itself as a result of the climate crisis. But, in the same month that climate activist Greta Thunberg released her seminal text The Climate Book; a resource that unpicks the problem of climate change, including that of green-washing, another event has taken place that equally looks to face the challenge head-on, through design. With its early origins dating back to 1998, Dutch Design Week returned to the post-industrial city of Eindhoven between 22-30th October, and welcomed pioneering designers and brands, along with inquisitive guests from around the world. Having spent two and a half days strolling and cycling around many of the various events and exhibitions, I can honestly say that I left with a growing sense of hope that we might just design our way out of the daunting issues we’re faced with, and have indeed created. 

During the week-long event, the city is divided into a series of design districts, all of which serve up their own unique blend of insights and innovations. However, the show organisers always take on board the healthy mix of perspectives and shape an over-arching narrative derived from the key commonalities of what is on show. This year, the primary attention was drawn to 3 key points; The future requires international thinking and acting, The future requires connection and The future requires responsibility. As such the event acts as a marker; a departure point from which positive steps can be taken to move into the future – and certainly not a distant one. Like Greta, the show recognises the significance of action in the here and now, for its with this that we can strive for solutions:

“We identify with a solution-orientated approach, functionality, humanism, free thinkers, brutality, humour, ability to put things into perspective, single-mindedness, not hindered by thinking in terms of hierarchical barriers, the unconventional. But also the readiness for taking stakeholders seriously and involving them in the solution, in the creative process. Dutch design is an attitude and does not by definition refer to a nationality.”

The thinking and output of the work on show underlines the positive and insurgent attitude of the event, with a reassuring mix of material, product and technology led innovation mingling with digital interactive experiences, talks, food offerings and price givings.

The entire event grew as a response to the annual graduate show at Design Academy Eindhoven, and the exhibition remains a central pillar of the week. Students graduating from BA and MA courses that include less traditional titles such as Geo-Design and Contextual Design, get the chance to showcase their work to an international audience. In itself the event, which this year moved venues to the station area of the city, covers a vast cross-section of design and is always teeming with innovative ideas and output. Standout offering included Hugo Peels’ project The Lost Mountains of Holland, which reclaims the huge piles of dust that have formed as a result of the countries stone industry and transform it into a viable new building material.

Another designer concerned with sustainable materials is Ori Orisun Merhav, whose project The Lac Lab Open Source takes a collaborative stance to making, working directly with Kerria Lacca insects. The insects produce the natural resin known as shellac, which Merhav has taken through a series of experimental processes to expand it’s potential applications. Her research is available for free on the Made By Insects website, allowing all and any to explore possible usages which may include as a coating or even 3-Dimensional forms.

Leon Barre takes a playful approach with his project Copy Copy, an interactive workshop where participants are invited to makes copies of ceramic objects including IKEA classics, intricate tea cups and enamelled mugs. Displaying the hand formed and glazed copies alongside the original is intended to show how varied each persons response to the same object is, whilst at the same exuding a subtle irony to the fetishised notion of designing something new.

Design hotel Kazerne in the centre of town never disappoints in it’s showing of cutting edge and high-end design installations. The permanent space oozes style in every room, from the bar and restaurant and beyond, and this year the central exhibition Magnetic Moment really caught the eye. Curated by Kazerene director Annemoon Geurts with scenography by design agency Rive Roshan, the group show was designed to create a space in which visitors could step away from the sense of burgeoning dystopia in which we live, to find moments of peace, calm and wonder. The collection of work, which were dimly lit and relatively minimal in aesthetic, were intended to stimulate a sense of suspended time in which nothing is yet predetermined and contemplation for a more positive future may exist. Lumus Instruments soothing orange circular light moves via an algorithmically generated sequence played out by internal filaments, whilst Lucas Vito’s tall fluted Buoy Lights are made from 3-D printed corn starch, and create a sumptuous linear glow.

Material, content and spatial design agency Envisions returned to the show once again, showcasing their ever-expanding selection of groundbreaking material developments. The exhibition More Than This represents a 5 year retrospective of all the many experiments that the collective has created with work by designer-makers including Simone Post, Sanne Schuurman, Studio Truly Truly and Robin Pleun Maas. Each new experiment is intriguing in it’s form, whilst aesthetically pleasing and innovative in the use of processes and materials. Indeed, many of the samples within this library of things have come about as a direct challenge to manufactures such as Finsa and Levi’s. In doing so, whole new ways of approaching woodwork, weave and recycling have come to fore – to name but a few.

Over at the semi-post-industrial NRE site, designer and makers join the now plush cafe and restaurant, as well as glass specialists and a cycle shop, to showcase their work in a number of the refurbed factory buildings. Another material-led showcase came from Dutch duo Alissa+Nienke who returned with their Spaces for Wellbeing exhibition, which adds greater context to their subtle but pleasing kinetic wall hangings and screens. The sensorial materials they produce are designed to positively impact individual health and happiness and have been developed through researching alongside psychologists and sensorial experts. 

Given the sheer scale and breadth of the event, it’s impossible to cover everything now. But rest assured, there will be plenty of Dutch Design Week 2022 finds and inspiration in my coming articles.


About Jim Biddulph

Jim Biddulph is a freelance materials, colour and interior specialist with over a decade of experience working with architects and interior designers. Communicating ideas about design through creative copy has always been at the core of his work, something he has shared with Design Insider for a number of years.
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