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Hands on! Dutch design in the 21st century

Dutch Design in the 21st century is the subject of design critic Jeroen Junte's latest publication which looks at the trends and developments characterizing this past decade. 

By Cassandra Pizzey /asdf 22-12-2011

Hands on! Dutch design in the 21st century features interviews with influential and up-and-coming designers and looks at their revaluation of craft, flirts with visual art and the introduction of digital production methods in their work. spoke to Jeroen Junte about the publication.

Why was it time for a book about 21st century design?

"The past ten years has seen design's reach broaden immensely. Today's designer is an artist, entrepreneur, activist, inventor, researcher and craftsman. Studio Makkink & Bey, for example design chairs for the industry, create exclusive design objects and do research at their farm in the Noordoostpolder. A critical and politically engaged attitude permeates their work. It's a unique process that has only developed itself over the past ten years."

"Remarkable for this century is also the emergence of 'art design'. New for example is the fact that self-supporting designers are creating limited editions of their work which are then sold in galleries and at prestigious art fairs such as Art Basel / Design Miami. The current generation of Dutch designers builds of the pioneering work of Droog. That's why my book opens with an interview with Renny Ramakers, co-founder and director of Droog."

Did you come across any unexpected finds?

"It has been said before that Dutch designers are independent, but it's true. Nearly all the designers featured in the book have a workshop and multiple employees. Some resemble small factories, such as those of Joep van Lieshout or Maarten Baas. Piet Hein Eek's place in Eindhoven IS a factory. These designers are also businessmen. They don't wait to be asked but actually carry out their dreams which is extraordinary to me."

How did you choose the designers to be featured in the book?

"Selecting the designers was actually the hardest past. Because of the book's design there was only room for eight interviews, so it's inevitable that you skip people. Also, the designers has to be representative for the five thematic chapters.
It has become a mix of international stars and up-and-coming talents.
It's fun to see how Aldo Bakker - who I interviewed a year ago - has recently become internationally acclaimed and nominated for designer of the year by Wallpaper."

Which direction do you think Dutch design taking?

"Extremely expensive design objects are a thing of the past. Of course there will always be Russians and Americans who are interested in shiny showpieces but innovation will come from designers who go back to basics: problem solving. Traditional crafts are also passé; designers are searching for contemporary, manual production such as Dirk van deer Kooij who has built a massive 3D printer from a disused Chinese factory robotic arm."

"My book is limited to product design but intangible design is becoming increasingly important. This social design - which isn't about new products but about new insights and ideas - will become more important. Maybe something for a next book…"

The bilingual book with photography by Maarten Schets features interviews with Aldo Bakker, Maarten Baas, Joep van Lieshout and Christien Meindertsma, among others.

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