On business, design, and futures

Last week we managed to get to a very interesting conference that was situated right on the intersection of our main interests:  futures, design, and business. It was also situated in the newly opened Design Museum in Kerkrade that we visited not so long ago.

The program of the conference is still online and you can read more about its purposes (and the lineup of speakers) – the official title of the event was Business Meets Design.  Below I will share just a few random impressions about different presentations we’ve seen.

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Museum (of Many Things) in Kerkrade

We have been recently invited, by Ralf Fleuren, our new colleague at FBA, to visit a new museum in the town of Kerkrade, located not far from Maastricht in the province of Limburg. It is in fact not even one museum but three, and the name of this museum constellation is Museumplein Limburg, the Square of Museums.

And it’s not actually a ‘new’ museum – we knew this place already for ages, although under the different name, and with different identity. Previously this was a combination of a regional museum (with a very interesting exposition of the mines, that this region was famous with in the past), and a science part of some sort for children. We’ve been to this museum number of time with our son, enjoying its playful yet informative exhibitions.

Much has changed since then. The old museum is transformed into so called Continium Discovery Center, and two new museums are added: Columbus Earth Center and Cube Design Museum. The picture above is in fact a fragment of this Cube, and the one below also shows a fragment of the Columbus’ Dome.

But it’s not ‘all from scratch’: the new design has a nice quality, of being very contemporary and modern, yet somehow linked to the legacy and history, of museum itself, and of the region. This is expressed very nicely, even in the interior design elements (like this reddish walls of the design museum, referring to the geological structure of the soil in this region, that was famous for its mines and quarries.)

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At IMM in Cologne

The IMM in Cologne is one of the larges European exhibition of furniture and interior design. It is, perhaps, not as artistic and cutting edge as Salone del Mobile in Milano, but it is as important to see and think about as Maison & Objet in Paris. The exhibitions of this kind also provide a perspective to such conceptual shows as DDW or Salone del Mobile, becuase they show what’s coming really, literally tomorrow.

We’ve got quite a few very interesting insights ‘signals of the future’ for our FutureGlimpse collection 2016, and not only in interior design, but also in lighting a new materials.

Mapping Conflicts: Debates in the Design Academy Eindhoven

Last Wednesday I went to the Design Academy Eindhoven to participate in what is known ‘design debates‘, open gatherings where they invite various speakers and where the students (as well as other participants) can discuss certain issues (more or less related to design).

This time the topic was about ‘mapping’, and I am always keen to learn on almost everything in this filed. This passion has been seemingly shared by many more, as the event was absolutely totally full, I’ve been to a few debates in the past, but this was nothing compared to the one on maps. The picture below shows the room a quarter of hour before the event began, and by the start it was completely full.

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What if it’s DDW again?

Dutch Design Ween is an annual festival of – guess what? – design in Eindhoven.  This year’s was already the 11th edition of the event that started as a bottom-up initiative of a design community in city and grew up into a large and international gathering of the companies and organisations that in some way or another are related to ‘design’.

As we are based in Eindhoven, we have luxury to follow these developments and observe (and often participate) in these gatherings (click on the ‘Dutch Design Week’ tag in this blog and you can see how this festival has evolved during these years. What hasn’t changed is that this week is about much more than only ‘design’ (or rather it is about the design that is very different from a traditional understanding of this word, and of this industry).

Sure, there are numerous designs of chairs, vases and lamps – you will see plenty of those at various locations in the city. But they are somehow not in the center of attention here; something else is, although it’s not easy to say exactly what it is.

Both professional media and lay people alike are struggling to express what they see and experience here during the ten days in October. Strategic design? Conceptual design? Social design? Back in Philips Design we used the word ‘high design’ to describe this new type of design (and the process that leads to it), in an attempt to differentiate it from the ‘chairs and vases’. This term didn’t survive, and these days people more often use another word, ‘design thinking’.

This is indeed what you see galore in Eindhoven during the DDW days, many examples of how various aspects of our life are being re-considered, re-imagined and re-designed. Perhaps it’s better to describe what you see here not by defining what is it, but by asking the question What does it do with you?  It is the design aimed not to please, but to provoke, to challenge, to kick you out of the conventional way of thinking.

But then again, it is not like an expo of strange dada objects (as the picture above may incline). The creations presented here are the result of what can be called ‘responsible innovation’, made not because we can, but because the authors thought they will being new and interesting meanings in our lives (like this cooking pot solely powered by solar power).

Speaking about the authors, the designers behind these wonderful creations, DDW has another unique feature: you can talk to them right here and now. The expo is not just showing the concepts, it helps people to have a debate about them, to ask questions, to express their concerns and to hear the stories from the first (creative) hands.


During the next few days we will try to show at least the most interesting things we will see at the DDW; stay tuned!

Milk Salon in Rotterdam

I met Sietske Klooster last year, during the inauguration workshop of Caroline Hummels in TU/e; I was intrigued by the way she described herself: Design Choreographer. And it wasn’t about dancing per se, but more about understanding how our body, its movements, impact design – and impacted by design in turn.

I later also managed to come to one of the first Milk Salon, organized by Sietske during the Dutch Design Week’12 – but I am afraid I wrote nothing about these events back then, struggling with one of the ‘dark pages’ in my blogging history.

Then I somehow lost contact with her at all, and was very happy to receive an invitation to the next edition of her Milk Salon, this time in Rotterdam. The event was held last Saturday, and it was a very informal and cozy gathering, but with special atmosphere, in some way very intensive and devoted.

I would’t even call it a ‘workshop’: judging by the experience it resembled more a cult meeting, an ecclesia of some sort. And the ‘cult’ was not so much about milk (although milk did play an important role in it), but more about re-thinking the way we treat milk, how we drink and perceive, what do we know about its production, distribution, sales etc, and what role can design play in transforming our current attitude to this precious product.

Sietske has designed a marvelous set of… vessels? they resembled oyster shells rather than glasses… out of which we try to drink milk, of various types, and reflect on our experiences.

I don’t have any pictures of the drinking itself (I was too busy with it myself :), may be Sietske could share them with us later.  And I didn’t take too many pictures this time anyway, I was busy with the conversations.
I also prepared a few slides, not about milk, but about kumys, fermented horse milk, popular in Kazakhstan (and in Central Asian in general) – the slideshow can be seen in full here. These slides are more about the ‘design’ aspects, even more specifically, about interface and interaction design of drinking kumys, but inevitably cover broader social and historical issues too.
Few more pictures from the event, including a few images of these ‘milk vessels’:

Brainport as a new learning ecosystem

The slide is in Russian, and for a reason – last Friday I made another presentation for a delegation from Russia, this time of the representatives from corporate universities and training centers of the large Russian companies and organizations (e.g., RosAtom, or the Russian Railways). This group was again brought to Eindhoven by MAKO, the Russian association of corporate educational centers; I already worked with this organization last year, when I made another presentation in Russian, about design and innovation in Philips (the previous one was my first in Russian in the Netherlands, quite a surreal experience, to be hones, but this time I was already prepared 🙂

This time my story was less focussed on innovation per se; I talked more about new and emerging patterns of education and learning in the region (which are strongly overlapping with ‘innovation’, of course). To explain these new development, I had to also shortly introduce the history of the region, and specifically the role of Philips (and Philips Research, and TU/e etc) in it. This also helped (I hope) to understand both current developments and some tensions with (and within) the design industry, with the design organizaitons and design/creative events in the area.

The visit to Eindhoven was only a part of a large study trip arranged by MAKO of this group, who also visited Cologne, Luxemburg before and aimed at Paris after (they planned to come to Utrecht as well). But even a day in Eindhoven was filled not only with the presentations and lectures, the team also visited ROC, the Regional Training Center in Eindhoven, and listened to a presentation by MeduProof-S.

It was a very intensive day for the team, but I hope it also brought new insights and ideas. In case of the interest, here are my slides in Russian and in English.

World Design Forum in Eindhoven

I was lucky enough to get to the World Design Forum, already a traditional prelude to the Dutch Design Week. It was third time this year, and this time was held in a very peculiar settings, a circular semi-transparent installation, capable to fit 200 people easily and surround them with light and sound. I think it’s officially called ‘Behind the Curtain’, but I am not sure. It was all pretty impressive (though also very challenging  photography-wise, half of my pictures went completely wrong).

Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven

Last week was traditionally a very busy one in Eindhoven. The city hosted the 11th edition of the Dutch Design Week, an annual forum of design industry (well beyond Dutch one by now).  They counted more than 200,000 visitors during nine days who collectively visited 300+ projects in presented in 80+ locations by 1,500+ designers and design collectives. But these are just cold figures, in reality it was an emotional flow, a bit carnivalesque even.

As often happens, I didn’t managed to write about all that in real time (aside of some Twitter and Facebook postings); I did manage to write a coupe of story for Demotix (about the opening, and then about the World Design Forum, a prelude for the DDW). But all these platforms allow only factual reporting, and for me it’s more important to write about thoughts and associations (which may not necessarily appear at the moment of seeing a concept, or talking to a designer. I therefore foresee a long ‘tail’ of the follow-up stories and reminiscences.

But sometimes it will be also ‘just pictures’, like this one. Welcome to this blog, DDW’12!

The future of design is designless

Genrich Altshuller, the author of the TRIZ approach to innovation, once gave a definition of ‘ideal solution’ of any problem. He wrote that “the ideal solution should solve the initial problem, but has to ceased to exist itself [thus avoiding creation of the subsequent problems”]. He also gave an example of such ‘ideal solution’: the door that opens when someone approaches it, let him go through, but then becomes a wall again, ‘ceasing to exist’ as a door. The picture above, of the hanging threads, may be a good approximation of such an ‘ideal door’ (although not a precise model of it, of course).

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