Dutch Design:
The Next 10 Powerhouses

by Venka de Rooij
The Netherlands is currently one of the world's poles of great modern design: Many people are familiar with the likes of Marcel Wanders, Tord Boontje, Jurgen Bey and Hella Jongerius. But who are going to be the next 10 Dutch Powerhouses?

Core77 asked Venka de Rooij, managing director of Dutch by Design, to predict the 10 designers who are going to hit big in the next few years. Here, they share their design philosophies, as well as a peek into the inspirations behind one of their signature designs.




Wieki Somers graduated at the Design Academy Eindhoven in 2000. She has worked for Droog Design, Hella Jongerius, the European Ceramic Working Center and other organizations.

What is your approach to design?
Stories play a big role in my design, although they never overrule. I want the end results to be so desirable that they are cherished by the user, and I pay great attention not only to the deeper meaning of the product but also to the chosen craft techniques and details of the forms. I find inspiration in the peculiar stories that cling to old techniques and objects, and like to rearrange qualities from the past and present.

What was your inspiration for the High Tea Pot and Fox Hunt?
I wanted to design something that is beautiful, fragile and tells a story; to evoke emotions from the user. The idea for the teapot was to create a sort of prize on the table, something precious and extravagant. My inspiration for the High Tea Pot was a still life of Frans Snijder's-a 17th painting of a hunting party-images of a fox hunt, the use of fur in clothing, Roman food orgies (Caligula) and an image of Salome from Oscar Wilde.

What results is a triumphant hunting trophy on the High Tea Table. The fur collar keeps the tea warm, so the noble man between us can drink his tea out of the skull for a long time. When the fur collar is removed, the naked skull appears—made of semi-transparent bone china—snow-white porcelain that contains some bone. The tea is visible through the thin china cast.

Tasty and unsavory, harm and delight are no longer discerned: Nothing is more decadent than the human need for status and extravagance through the harm of animals.





Yvonne Laurysen graduated from the Eindhoven Design Academy in 2001.

What is your approach to design?
I am fascinated with materials and production processes. My main drive is searching for the potentials of materials and processes. In addition, detail is paramount—almost an obsession. Every detail has to have a reason. No decoration for decoration's sake. I try to go back to the essence of a product. How simple can a product be? That is always in the back of my mind.

I am forever experimenting with materials—melting, ironing, cutting, slicing and pouring acid on textiles to see what the result is. I photograph interesting patterns and textures that I notice when I am out and about. This can be anything: a metallic grill, stones, plants or flowers.

What was your inspiration for the Cell carpet?
I am intrigued with cell structures and molecules, and I developed the Cell carpet as a result of this interest. For the rug, I developed a new production method; no loom, knitting machine or tufting techniques are used. Rather, the material itself created its own pattern. The carpet is created by pressing industrial wool felt, which is then cut into strings. Assembled, it grows infinitely like a cell structure. The strings are assembled at random, so a natural pattern evolves with a playful finish of the edge.





Frederik Roije graduated from the Eindhoven Design Academy in 2001. He has been designing for Droog, Goods, as well as running his own design studio

What is your approach to design?
I am curious about the elements of surprise and beauty. I develop concepts at a very early stage, with a fascination for imagery, materials, techniques and culture in my brain and soul. When I have a concept, I communicate it in text and visual imagery. Later, I develop these into prototypes, working toward an end product.

I think a product only comes to life when it finds its partner, the user. A relationship develops between user and product, often based on love at first sight. The relationship between user and creator expresses itself in an emotion, recognition and interaction. This communication plays a central part in the relations. The interaction stimulates the user, and therefore the user is more aware of the environment that surrounds him.

What was your inspiration for the Spineless Lamp?
The Spineless Lamp resulted out of my fascination with porcelain. Porcelain plays an important part in everyday life; it is a century-old material that has so many characteristics. Deformation is one of these qualities—a characteristic that results in a unique set of ultimate forms. No two Spineless lamps are the same; the user chooses a unique copy. This is where the interaction between user and creator is. An emotional attachment develops, and the user has his/her own lamp. No other is the same.




Nicole van Schouwenburg graduated from the Royal Academy of Art in Den Haag in Graphic Design. She has been running her own graphic design agency, Skylla, since 1984, as well as teaching.

What is your approach to design?
I don't think I have a design philosophy. I do have a lot of inspiration, energy and optimism. I do two things all day long: watch and create. It's a sort of breathing, in and out; eagerly watching colors, letters in the wild, observing everyday things that are just that bit different, the beauty of people and nature. Breathing out is not only the creation of products, but also interiors, clothing and free art. I love images, language and signs. In my design, I like to use beautiful typography or calligraphy, as well as colorful images.

My work makes me happy, and I hope my designs make other people smile too.

What was your inspiration for the Selfshelf?
I designed the Selfshelf - in cooperation with Irene Klinkenberg - as a break from client work. The Selfshelf is a shelf with the appearance of a book. As a result, the entire stack of books appears to float in the air, invisibly attached to the wall with the included bracket.

I designed five different covers for the Selfshelf—all designs are a combination of play on words, books and visual images, as well as the actual functionality of the product. For example, one of the covers says 'Ceci n'est pas un livre' (translation 'This is not a book') with an image of 14th century painter Jan van Eyck, so it looks like an old book. Another cover I designed for the Selfshelf was a play on the mystery novel: It's called 'The mystery of the floating piles.' The third cover has the title 'The History of the Selfshelf' with illustrations. My designs play with wit and the poetic; it makes me happy to make other people smile.





Marjet Wessels Boer graduated from the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam in 2001 with a major in Product Design.

What is your approach to design?
I search for the essence of materials, workmanship and meaning in design. I keep asking myself the same question over and over again: How to feel a Product? Certain feelings, associations and perceptions belong to certain functions. I try to appeal to people's imaginations by using the associations and emotions we all have with specific product functions. By making the product more personal and intense, a bond with the product is established. During my studies, I worked in India and Ghana to experience the other side of design, the actual crafting of products. My stay there has influenced me greatly; I find typical Western products too anonymous.

What was your inspiration for the Doors of Secrets?
I wanted to create an everyday product, like a door, that would appeal to people's imagination. The Door of Secrets contains hidden storage compartments, raising people's interest and curiosity. It makes you wonder what is hidden inside and invites exploration. You can shuffle the elements about, so there is interaction between the actual door and user.

Sometimes I think, 'There are so many products on this planet, do we really need anymore? What can I add to that?' In the end, I want to create things that people cannot put aside.




Chris Kabel graduated from the Design Academy in Eindhoven in 2001.

What is your approach to design?
I like to reclaim daily boring life, noticing unimportant things, in an attempt to redefine human behavior. I am fascinated by the way products work. I believe that a product's functionality is defined by its user, not its designer. I like to add an element of surprise by twisting and altering products, changing the way people use a product and their perception of it. This leads to new and more meaningful products with a broader context.

What was your inspiration for the Sticky Lamp?
I was researching the aesthetics of "instant solutions," by which I mean the things people tend to resort to when something breaks down, or lacks something, and needs to be resolved instantly. I made a book full of photographs of all the tools that were used to repair products: tape, rope, string, rubber bands, paper clips—all really great solutions. I found these very intriguing. One of these photographs pictured a lamp fitting that was taped against the wall to provide instant light. I translated this into the Sticky Lamp. It still has the immediacy and randomness of the original, but has been transposed into a sellable product.





Kirsty Powell graduated in 2000 from Loughborough University in Interior Design. In 2001 she moved to the Netherlands to live in Amsterdam.

What is your approach to design?
I am absolutely passionate about textiles, and obsessed with structures and shapes found within natural forms. I get inspiration from the underwater world, flowers, the beach and dunes.

Textile technology is moving very fast at the moment, and I'm forever finding new, exciting materials to work with. One in particular—a very strong paper that can be folded and shaped in so many forms—was fantastic. I played around with the it for ages, and used it in our latest collection.

What was your inspiration for the Texture Collection?
My source of inspiration was undersea life such as anemones, coral, oysters and sea blooms. I love diving, and find the underwater world so beautiful and ethereal. I am fascinated by organic shapes, and I sculpt materials to add 3-dimensional texture to produce structure, shape and form. I am always experimenting with natural materials, forever folding, shaping and stitching textiles. I only use fabrics from renewable and sustainable sources in my designs, and the wools used are woven in traditional mills in England and Ireland, manufactured to the highest standards.





Maarten Baptist graduated from the Eindhoven Design Academy in 2002 in product and industrial design.

What is your approach to design?
I like to design products for the public—everyday objects that are simple, user-friendly and affordable. I want my designs to be accessible, not esoteric. My aim is to blend shape construction and material into a visual perfect unity, resulting in products that exude a self-evident quality.

What was your inspiration for the Open Air cutlery?
I developed the concept of the Open Air cutlery as part of a final design project at the Academy. My aim was to design an article of use like cutlery that was personal, while at the same time mass-produced and cost-effective. I wanted to show the possibilities of new shape and identity in an everyday tool. In the beginning, I bent the cutlery in seven different shapes that would appeal to different people—I wanted the contour of the cutlery to act as a sort of blank canvas that could take on different characters. Upon graduation, I realized that I would have to choose one shape to keep the price affordable. I chose the shape which had the best handling ability. The handles have rounded forms and are very well balanced. The cutlery has a classic shape, but because it is hollow, becomes quite contemporary. The void makes the cutlery very light and thus very easy to handle. It makes me so happy to see people from all ages and walks of life use my gives me a real kick.




Thijs Bakker graduated from the Eindhoven Design Academy in 2002.

What is your approach to design?
My philosophy is to design those items that are impossible to design. (I love paradoxical statements.) I always try to make a critical statement of the 'Design-Culture,' i.e. to design a stool that is very inexpensive instead of extortionately priced. I love my profession and I always try to have an interesting starting point for a new design.

What was your inspiration for the Concrete Chair?
I love concrete; there is something about the texture and feel of this material that really appeals to me. As concrete is very heavy, I set to design a lightweight concrete chair. This was quite a challenge, as the maximum allowable weight for a chair is 25 kg according to Dutch law. To make the chair as light as possible, I experimented with plastic foam, which was then dipped in concrete.

The end result is still a very substantial piece—made of concrete—but looks light with its hollows and curves. I am very pleased with the end result, and I hope it will make people think about what is possible with different materials and a handful of contradiction.




Joost Wever graduated from the Eindhoven Design Academy in 1997. He has been working as an independent designer ever since, as well as teaching design.

What is your approach to design?
I am fascinated with structures, mechanisms and movement—all things technical and mechanical. I love looking at products and wondering what makes them work. I search for the potential of materials and processes, and for contradictions between materials in feel, texture and colour. I am forever looking for ways to improve products. Take an everyday item like a clothes-peg, for example: The traditional clothes-peg is often made from wood, falls apart after a while, and gets dirty from weathering. I developed the Twister, a contemporary clothes-peg made from plastic as an alternative. It is comprised of a small flat disk which opens up under a little pressure and slides over a piece of clothing and the washing line.

What was your inspiration for the Colora Vase?
My source of inspiration for the Colora Vase was again the idea how the product could be improved. Vases often scratch tables because of the hard material used. I developed a vase with a rubber bottom. The rubber contrasts beautifully with the stainless steel hard outside. In addition, the color of the rubber forms a beautiful disparity with the steel.


Venka de Rooij is Managing Director of Dutch by Design since 2001, an online outlet specialising in Dutch Design. She graduated at the Haarlem Business School in 1998, after which she worked for several financial institutions. In her spare time she worked in fashion, art and design. In 2000 she returned to her passion, Dutch design, and set up Dutch by Design. She has been active in promoting Dutch design on an international basis together with the Dutch Embassy, Dutch Design Institute and several Dutch trading organizations.