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Dutch Design


Dutch design

The concept Dutch Design was introduced midway through the 1990s. Besides their literal meaning the words are a symbol of something much larger: a way of working which is extremely functional yet at the same time characterised by an autonomous approach. A statement, a story or a thought which gives a design added value, and by doing so cautiously makes the shift from design to art.

With their establishment of Droog Design in 1993, designer Gijs Bakker and design historian Renny Ramakers gave Dutch design an enormous boost. They demonstrated to the world the unconventional nature of the work produced in the Netherlands, such as the Chest of Drawers by Tejo Remy (1991), a chest made up of a motley collection of recycled drawers held together by a wide band. This was a protest against overproduction and overconsumption, from a designer who claimed that he ‘particularly did not want to design’. Another purebred design classic from the Netherlands, which can be traced back to an initiative of Droog, is the Knotted Chair by Marcel Wanders: a lightweight chair which is the result of a combination of industrial technology and handmade craftsmanship. They and their fellow product designers such as Richard Hutten, Jurgen Bey and Hella Jongerius, and graphic designers such as Irma Boom, have ensured that the eyes of the international design world have turned towards the Netherlands. They have changed our perspective on our everyday lives and our ideas of aesthetics. Many of them taught, or still teach, at the Dutch design educational institutions, so that the founders of Dutch Design still exert their influence on the latest generation of designers. This generation has grown up with the idea of conceptual thinking and has learned to think out of the box. Some of them hark back to older values and set great store by the philosophy that ‘form follows function’ while others experiment with new techniques and flirt with other disciplines; whether weaving with high-tech fibres or making a chair using technology from the automotive industry, they are constantly stretching the boundaries of their field.


One of many success stories from the latest generation of designers is Joris Laarman, who graduated from the Design Academy Eindhoven in 2003 with his radiator Heatwave. The radiator is made up of flamboyant baroque curls that are not decoration, but are designed to distribute the hot water as effectively as possible. Here Laarman shows that functionality does not equal austerity, thereby silencing many a trend watcher. Maarten Baas, a peer of Laarman, has won international awards with his three Real Time Clocks. Each of the clocks shows a film in which the person being filmed acts out the time and so takes on the role of the hour and minute hands. The Dutch textile manufacturer TenCate has won innovation awards for its lightweight materials for the aviation industry and its fire fighter suits with a built-in alarm that warns the wearer if it is getting too hot around him.

Baas and Laarman are both graduates of Design Academy Eindhoven, an institute that achieved world fame under the leadership of Lidewij Edelkoort. In 2008, Edelkoort passed on the baton to the new chairwoman Anne Mieke Eggenkamp.