Documenting design and innovation in the Netherlands, Belgium and France by producing 20 interviews with leading voices on the topic.sfudutchdesign.ca
Groep Drie, was the third group of senior design students to partake in dutchDesign, an undergraduate field school and research program at Simon Fraser University. We began in Vancouver with three months of intensive research on culture, history and design in the low countries and France.
In field we conducted over 20 interviews in 5 European and 2 North American cities with product designers, graphic designers, architects and digital strategists. The website features these 20 videos as well as a collection of themed cultural films.
I was fortunate enough to lead three interviews with urban designers as well as co-lead one product design interview. For each interview my partners and I sought to thoroughly understand each designer's philosophy, process, and work beforehand in order to extract the most meaning from each interview we conducted. We conducted deep research, wrote questions and refined them leading up to the interview.
In my interview with notable dutch urban designer Adriaan Geuze, we discussed the tension between meaningful storytelling and utilitarian function in urban design projects.
“You need elements that have more meaning, more purpose than their functional determination”
With architect Jouke Sieswerda the topic of permanent temporality was used as a lens to examine the award winning Luchtsingel urban intervention. Entrepreneur and industrial designer Taco Carlier shared how his Vanmoof bicycles are designed to export dutch urban cycling culture. Finally, in Vancouver, urbanist Gerben van Straaten discussed the Dutch Urban Design Center and what North American cities can learn from European cities.
Each member of our team brought a unique skillset and perspective. I was tasked with being the sound engineer for the interviews that I wasn't conducting myself. Having minimal experience with sound design this role not only taught me a new skill, it forced me to think quickly, problem solve and adapt in every studio we visited – each presented interesting challenges to capturing high quality sound. I also developed leadership skills through my responsibilities in this position.
I was tasked with developing the narratives and editing a number of the interviews we conducted into 10-15 minutes short films. This process involved a lot of planning, poring over transcripts and of course lots of post-its. The overall content strategy was aimed at inspiring viewers with the desire to go out and design things.
Through this process I developed a critical sense for important moments from the interviews and synthesized them with illustrative b-roll footage into a story that was not only coherent but also impactful.
In-between interviews we explored cities individually in order to produce short cultural films. Armed with my sketchbook, camera and occasionally a microphone I set out to observe and get beneath the surface of each city in order to document the layers of culture that each is built on.
In Brussels a local artist told us about abandoned buildings in his neighbourhood. In Amsterdam I filmed the culturally diverse Dappermarkt. In Paris a busker was the subject of my film – shot literally below the surface in a Metro station. Finally, in Eindhoven we captured the Dutch spirit of innovation in a rhythmic film shot on the worlds first suspended bicycle roundabout.
I began this project expecting some big revelation about Dutch design that would forever change my design process. It is true that my design perspective and process have forever been changed by this experience, however it was not through one single insight. Instead, it is the multitude of small tidbits of knowledge I gained through interactions with designers, locals, cultural practices and the team I was working with that sum a total impact much greater than any single insight could have. I continue to apply these gems of learning in my everyday practice as a designer.