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There Will be No Creative Director for DAE

The decision is made. Anne Mieke Eggenkamp has decided to focus on the people the Design Academy already has, albeit in new roles and will not appoint a new creative director.  It was the structure, she says, that needed changing, not the people.  

By Gabrielle Kennedy /asdf 27-01-2011

In the two and a half years since Li Edelkoort left the DAE, the industry has been holding its collective breath.  Those are some huge shoes to fill and Edelokoort’s voice had the magical effect of making a listener believe.  She traveled, she spoke, she forged alliances and elevated the school's name until it became practically synonymous with the very best in European design.  But that style, it is now broadly agreed, was suited to a pre-crisis era and these are different times.

At first the answer was Alexander van Slobbe, the wickedly smart Dutch fashion designer with a clear design vision and a strong belief in craftsmanship. As the economy worsened, however, Van Slobbe couldn't juggle a gig like Eindhoven with his own label.  His premature resignation only served to ignite more concern about how the school was going to edge its way into a new era.  The design industry didn’t need new super stars, it needed a new mentality.

“I know everyone has been asking and wanting to know what we were going to do,” Anne Mieke Eggenkamp, chairwoman of the executive board, says.  “But it has been a complicated process.  We needed to spend time thinking and talking about what would work best and what the students and school need for the future.”

The final decision and one that Eggenkamp says will last through the next decade is to not appoint a creative director.  Instead, the school will be structured differently and in a way that better utilizes its existing department heads and famous alumni.

“We talked about a lot of different options,” Eggenkamp says.  “Both Li and Alexander worked part-time and we realized that this is a new phase.  A part-time artistic or creative head won't work given all the added responsiblities involved with entering a new era. We would have needed two people to really be able to run things properly.”

Eggenkamp will remain in her current role and continue to focus, as she did alongside Edelkoort, on education, internationalization and external relations.  Ilse Crawford will curate exhibitions, and  take responsibility for publications and the Design Academy brand.  “In that respect she will be doing what Li did,” says Eggenkamp.  Walter Amerika has been given the title Connector and Igor van Hoof will be responsible for operational affairs.

“And we have an incredible staff and board who have all been with the school for a long time,” says Eggenkamp.  “As design professionals, they understand it and they know what it needs.  They all work as my wings, and support me in bringing the actual profession of design into the classroom.  You need that injection, that connection to the real world.”

And there are plans to better utilize the school’s alumni as ambassadors.  “Schools like Harvard and Stanford have active alumni that sponsor new talent,” Eggenkamp says.  “We need a similar system – a way to make our community bigger and closer. I believe that it is always better to turn to what you have rather than go looking for outsiders.  Ilse and Li came from within while Van Slobbe came from outside and that was hard.”

These changes also mark a generational shift. “The people working in the academy who are between the ages of 40 and 50 are a really interesting group,” Eggenkamp says.  “They are in all sorts of positions and have had a lot of experience.  I know they can do this with me.  It is absolutely the right step for the design academy.  It took me a while to realize it, but I really do think this will work.”

Images all by Femke Reijerman

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