Art & Culture

Dutch Design Week 2021: The Greater Number, the Quest for the Better Number

Editorial Team·6 October, 2021

Eindhoven, one of the greatest design cities in Europe, is coming back strong and under the spotlight again. That combination of modern metropolis and typically Dutch ambiance means that Eindhoven is one of the most exciting cities in Holland. It is the city of unequaled events that merge design and technology. Bustling with creativity, unique hot spots and innovation, it has always been the city in which Dutch Design Week (DDW) takes place. The 20th edition of the biggest design festival in Northern Europe presents design projects emphasising experiment, innovation, and collaboration in a post-pandemic world. From the virtual DDW in 2020, this year it returns with a hybrid festival that is both physical and virtual. The main theme of Dutch Design Week this year is "The Greater Number". Through less consumption, less production, less wastage, the design world may contribute to the future well-being of our society.



Live festival is back


This year, Dutch Design Week (DDW) returns with a hybrid festival that is both in-person and virtual. Martijn Paulen, DDW Director, explains the return of DDW as a live event: "We learned a lot from the virtual DDW in 2020. We take these lessons into 2021, but an online event can't replace the feeling of a live festival. DDW stands for serendipity and chance meetings – new designers, ideas and vistas that surprise and inspire you unexpectedly. That's what we are aiming for."

“We look ahead optimistically and aim for a physical festival in Eindhoven this October. Dutch Design Foundation (DDF) acknowledges that the digital part of DDW is indispensable but emphasises that the physical event remains the heart of the festival, which is why the organisation is working hard to make this happen.” Maxi Meissner, PR and media representative from Dutch Design Foundation (DDF) replied to us accordingly. DDW gathers creative minds from around the world and continues to be the source of creative ideas in the year and decades to come. The event is given a go-ahead proves that Eindhoven, the former industrial town turned design capital, understands the importance of design and hopeful for a quick bounce-back.



What is the “Great Number”?


With this year’s main theme “The Greater Number”, DDW explores the post-pandemic future from a design perspective. It continues the dialogue left off from last year’s “The New Intimacy” which explored how the pandemic has dramatically altered our perceptions of intimacy, self-awareness and the workplace, and asks, What’s Next? Assuming the pandemic will come to an end, where do we go from here? “The term The Greater Number originally came from the Italian architect and designer Giancarlo De Carlo. This was De Carlo’s theme for the 1968 Milan Triennale, for which he was the chief curator. The theme was chosen to bring awareness to the world's rising population, the conquests of modern science and design, and the discrepancy between Western abundance and Third World poverty.” Maxi says.


DDW 2021 calls for a reflection on our thinking and habits regarding the pursuit of economic growth. With inexpensive and easily bought goods just one click away, does it lead to a better and happier society? Or does it aggravate the problem by producing more than needed? Perhaps it is time to focus more on wellbeing instead of blindly pursuing economic growth.


“The ecological footprint of products is for 80% determined during the design phase. How can the design professionals see to it that less is designed? And that less is produced so that less is sold? And how can the design help ensure that what is produced is better designed and more sustainable? More and more designers and institutes like TU Delft are aware of this and want to make a difference.”


“Product designers are thinking about fully circular products, introducing new forms of local production, or designing products that make consumers think about the product's use and true value. Designers are critical in this exploratory, experimental phase. They can use their imagination to design a changing society.”


“Here, we are introducing three icons of the designing world, Natsai Audrey Chieza, Floris Alkemade and Christien Meindertsma as our ambassadors. Under our theme the Greater Number, each of them will create a unique project especially for DDW21”


Natsai Audrey Chieza, founder and CEO of Faber Futures, will develop the project Bio Stories for DDW21. In it, she explores the complex dynamics surrounding synthetic biology: the design of living organisms. Chieza said, "Technology and design have played an important role in creating a world where nature cannot thrive. But it's in our power to change that. This means that we have to recognize synthetic biology is not about designing stuff, but about designing systems in which prosperity, care, and equality are central in the natural world."


Architect and former Chief Government Architect Floris Alkemade will present an exhibition in the form of a labyrinth, "The road to the future is not a straight line, but a continuous search, wandering and changing direction. The project is about finding new ways, looking at things differently. Change is an art that requires improvisation, audacity, and imagination."


Designer and artist Christien Meindertsma has been invited to develop a project that explores the relationship between objects and people. “Our body—like many products—is only a temporary stopover for the elements that form the universe. With this new project Sharing Elements, I work with interaction designer Joel Gethin Lewis and Reza Ali to show how these elements stay in our bodies for a while and then move on.”



Connecting to the New Normal


The pandemic has prompted us to question our old ways and opt for an alternative that is more focused on wellbeing and happiness. Is it the same we have been taking in recent decades? That's a question many of us has asked over the past year. For several years now, Scotland-based political economist Katherine Trebeck has been advocating a 'wellbeing economy' in which quality of life, not the economy, is central. "Cities have to be designed differently. Not only by providing better walking and cycling infrastructure, more meeting places and more green spaces but also by protecting public spaces against the intrusive presence of advertising. And getting local governments, schools, and hospitals to buy more from local suppliers. Starting from those tiny things, we can connect design and future wellbeing closer and stronger."


Comparing to DDW, another global design festival in Hong Kong is equally committed to the mandate of promoting good design. Organized by Hong Kong Design Centre, this annual flagship programme Business of Design Week (BODW) will run from November 29 to December 04 in Hong Kong.



Dutch Design Week 2021

Time: 16 - 24 October 2021

Organizers:Dutch Design Foundation

Venue:Eindhoven, The Netherlands