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A new chapter for Dutch Design: Dutch Digital Design

03 December 2018

Dutch Design Week celebrated the power of Digital Design big this year. On Forward/ in Klokgebouw, several digital agencies shared their vision on the future of digital design, and also in other venues you could feel the excitement and challenges of digital design. Design solutions that don’t necessarily share aesthetic values, but moreover share a same mindset and pragmatic approach. Those values come together in the idea of Dutch Digital Design. What does the concept of Dutch Digital Design entail? And how did it come up at Dutch Design Week? In this article, we dive deeper into the digital trend of the Dutch Design area.

Dutch mentality, digital mindset

The tradition of Dutch Design is characterised by structure, clarity and an unconventional approach. According to Aaron Betsky, researcher, this is due to the fact that Dutch designers want to mirror the world around them and restructure that in a more efficient way. Ida Zijl & Jose Teunissen emphasize that Dutch Designers are simply ‘less likely to be carried away by enthusiasm for any particular material or technique, resulting in a freedom to select the most suitable material or production method.’ Those characteristics are seen in all design disciplines. From fashion to graphic design.

“We’re not just keen on design, but also on the way the user interacts with the product.” - Bert Hagendoorn

The new generation of designers is born and raised in a digital world. Yet, they are still traditionally trained by renowned designers as Gert Dumbar and Just van Rossum. Our rich design history enables the Dutch to use these lessons and apply them to the digital world. Techniques like calligraphy help designers understand and feel form, rythm and composition. As a designer, these techniques enhance understanding emotional laws that can not be grasped in standard distances or unites. A piece of printed matter or a website can both be perfectly ‘readable’ or functional, but if the emotional balance is missing, it is a disaster to use. Digital Designers continue to use the traditional methods and rules for new outcomes in the digital sphere.

© Vruchtvlees

The ‘Dutch’ in Dutch Digital Design

According to Bert Hagendoorn, initiator of Dutch Digital Design and part of the advice committee of Dutch Design Week, it is important to brand the idea of Dutch Digital Design on an international level. “By claiming Dutch Digital Design, we continue the rich design tradition of Dutch Design on a digital level. The digital work of Dutch Designers often stands out in international awards, by joining forces we can offer an even bigger stage. What distinguishes Dutch Digital Design to other countries is our mentality: we’re not only keen on the visual aspect, but also on the way the user interacts with the product. The Dutch have a solution-oriented attitude, based on empathy for the user. We like to explore borders, dare to experiment and are used to work together with other cultures and disciplines.”

Mediamonks: Loading Time Machine
© Vruchtvlees

During Dutch Design Week, several digital agencies shared their vision on the future of design. Most interesting about this was that a lot of these agencies did not showcase a finished product, but rather focused on creating awareness about the digital processes or functionalities. A good example is Mediamonks’ Loading Time Machine. The installation invited the DDW visitors to take place on a bike and experience how much time it takes for a website to load. The heavier the website, the heavier the peddle. It shows that for the ideal user experience, you have to look beyond the facade. Form follows function, also in the digital world.

Dutch Digital Design is adaptive and inclusive

A new element that is typically Dutch Digital Design, is the idea that brand experiences extend over all media platforms. To structure one’s brand experience, it is important to take the context in which it is displayed into account. Rindor Golverdingen, creative director at Vruchtvlees: Digital, Strategy & Design, defines that concept as Adaptive Design during the Forward/ talks.

“Whether you design for a website or a poster on the street, an identity has to stand out both online and offline. The digital world enables us to think in even bigger perspectives on adaptivity, creating personal landing pages based on their devices or preferences. Artificial Intelligence could help to increase user experiences within the context of its user. A mobile user has different needs than a person on a desktop computer, but also the context in which they land on your website asks for a different approach. It is a great challenge and aim for designers to serve exactly the right content at the right time.”

Dutch Design Week Website
© Vruchtvlees

A good example of Dutch Digital Designs adaptivity can be seen in the work of Hansje van Halem and Jurriaan Hos for Lowlands festival. They’ve created a visual style that works from tokens to interaction on the website, and even extended the identity to animations and stages on the festival itself. Depending on the medium, they choose the best way to apply the identity, without losing sight of the overarching feeling of Lowlands festival.

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Shaping the future (of design)

Dutch Design Foundation, the organisation of Dutch Design Week, believes that designers, regardless of their specialisation, are essential for shaping our future. The digital aspect becomes more and more important. Digital agencies work on themes as inclusivity and seamless user experiences. The universal language of the digital sphere offers possibilities to increase brand experiences on an even higher lever. There are chances to increase tactility on an interactive level: to create logical user flows and customer journeys that extend from the digital to the analogue world. A typical challenge for Dutch Digital Designers who create new structures to understand the world around us.