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#heyddw: Hi Studio boing

05 May 2020

The Unidentified Rolling Object ©Ingmar Nieuweboer
Every other week we celebrate one of the most interesting, exciting, intriguing, funny or unusual #heyddw Instagram posts by featuring an exclusive interview in our online DDW Magazine. This time, we chatted with the bouncy Ingmar Nieuweboer from Studio boing.
Ingmar Nieuweboer on his Office Jungle
© Hannah Sorrel

Hi Ingmar! Could you briefly describe who you are, where you are from and why you became a designer?

OK. My name is Ingmar Nieuweboer, I'm from Eindhoven and eighteen months ago I established Studio boing in Rotterdam. Why I became a designer... I don't know. I do know why I didn't become an architect. Because there is too much architects have to do. At least, at university. I studied architecture and enjoyed it most of the time, but I gradually discovered that architecture is about much more than just designing buildings. It also involves learning about material properties, calculating the distribution of forces, thermal bridges... All manner of topics for which I felt little affinity. Of course we need people who can do these things, but I didn't feel like I should be one of those people. So I switched to industrial design, because this gave me more freedom to choose what I wanted to do. A little ironically my work is very architectural now. Nestled right between product design and architecture. I want to make products that are, in themselves, small and manageable, but can be scaled up to architectural proportions. I also design because I simply would not be able to live without my own designs. I primarily design on the basis of my own needs. 

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You shared a picture of The Office Jungle project on Instagram. Working from home has been propelled to the fore by the coronavirus. What advice do you have for everyone reading this who is working at home?

Perhaps not necessarily advice, but I would like to share an idea I'm currently experimenting with, I call it "nomadic working". The idea is that you regularly try to find new workplaces in your immediate surroundings. Even places that are not meant to be workplaces. So try sitting in an empty bath for half an hour with your laptop, or perching on the kitchen counter for a while or sitting on the floor with your laptop on a shoebox. The nice thing about this idea is that it can be used anywhere, it makes you more aware of your body while working and helps you to look creatively at a (familiar) environment. Nomadic working, however, really comes into its own in The Office Jungle. I mean, The Office Jungle is still small, but ultimately it is my goal to design entire offices based on The Office Jungle principles. This would create kind of indoor landscapes instead of a building divided into cubicles.

Where did your idea for designing an Office Jungle come from?

The Office Jungle started as my Bachelor thesis project at Eindhoven University of Technology, which I completed within the theme Office Vitality. The reason I chose this project was because I’ve been convinced from early on that there was something wrong with the way in which our living spaces, and offices, are designed. Our living spaces don't live. My vitality is hardly boosted indoors, and I find that rather sad. As things progressed, I connected this life force with the concept of "wildness". The author and philosopher David Abram talks about this. I explored this with The Office Jungle. Both theoretically and from a design perspective. And these two fields are more than compatible within the doctrine of phenomenology. The French phenomenologist Maurice Merleau Ponty in particular was and still is an inspiration to me. As is the work of the American psychologist James J. Gibson. I think that if our living spaces are designed with wildness in mind, that this will improve our quality of life. The Office Jungle is an example of what such a living space could look like.

Office Jungle at the office of Next Nature Network
© Ingmar Nieuweboer

The only thing you see upon visiting your website is 'On Planet Boing amphibians have the right to change their minds'. Can you explain?

Yeah, nice of you to ask! That sentence is part of a series in which I try to describe life on planet boing. Planet boing is a planet just like Earth but designed entirely by me... The whole idea of planet boing comes from something the popular physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson said in an interview about UFOs and people who believe they have been kidnapped by aliens. He said something along the lines of "if you're ever kidnapped by aliens and you're in their spaceship, try to bring something from that spaceship back to Earth, no matter what, even if it is an alien toothbrush. Because then you'll have A. convincing proof that you were indeed abducted by aliens and B. an extremely valuable source of information for science." I then thought, suppose I was kidnapped by so-called aliens and that I was to submit my own work as a little alien souvenir I had managed to sneak away, how could you demonstrate that my work is not a little alien souvenir? Take The Office Jungle for example, most people who see it for the first time have no idea what it's for, so it might as well be extra-terrestrial. In addition, the shape is complex enough for it to be considered as an advanced technology and it does not have a direct connection with the human body, so what kind of life form designed it is just guesswork. Perhaps it's designed for humans, perhaps it's designed for the hyper-intelligent 10-legged octopuses from Mars. So, I came to the conclusion that it is not unthinkable that my work could be considered as extra-terrestrial. This of course doesn’t apply exclusively to me, but also to the work of many other artists and designers. I just thought this idea was very cool and later I discovered that it provided me with the right mindset for designing. So now I prefer to see my studio as a colony of planet boing that has established itself on earth and wants to grow here. Why make the world better if it can be made more boing, right? By the way, you can find more descriptions of planet boing on Instagram.

What does a Studio boing project look like? And how can people recognise your work?

When you see one, you think to yourself: boing?

Could you take us through your design process from A to Z? How do you start a project and what steps do you take to progress from an idea to a final product?

Is from A to E good too? I haven’t made a start on F to Z yet. At the beginning of a new project I think it is important to experiment a lot without a clear goal. An experiment can be anything, as long as it is an activity of which the beginning is defined but not the end. Humans are very logical creatures. I am convinced that whatever you do, no matter how haphazard your experiments may seem, eventually all these experiments reveal common ground. Lately I've been working more and more on designing and improving specific components. Step C to E, I think. For example, I have a 3D model of a part that needs to be milled using CNC and then I have to look for a manufacturer for that part, I have it made and then test it. If it works, I have more made, if it doesn't work, I start all over again. That's how I work now. 

What is the most special or remarkable work you have ever made or designed?

The Unidentified Rolling Object. That was my first art project. It was just incredibly funny and wonderful how that project came to be. I started with the idea that I wanted to make a giant ball from aluminium foil and then roll it through the centre of Amsterdam. It was a simple idea, you might say, but there were quite a few issues to overcome in the execution. For example, I didn't have the budget to buy the 250 rolls of aluminium foil I needed. I collected them by asking the people in my neighbourhood if they could spare a roll of aluminium foil for my project. This was a very interesting process in itself. Some people thought it was a very nice idea, one father liked it so much that he went to the supermarket especially for me to buy 10 rolls. Other people didn't understand or were suspicious. One man said when he opened the door and saw me "I know what you're doing, you want to sell something, well I'm not interested, bye!". Later I had to find a location to build the ball in Amsterdam. I found that in an old shipbuilding shed at the NDSM shipyard. However, this threw up a new problem, I now had to cross the water to get the ball to the centre of Amsterdam. The ferry across the river IJ appeared to have a clearance height less than the diameter of the ball. I then called the Amsterdam Municipal Transport Company and to my amazement they were willing to turn the ferry 180 degrees just before mooring at the other side so that I didn't need to worry about the clearance on the ferry. The day itself was a cold but beautiful winter day. In the morning the sun shone abundantly, and in the afternoon fog settled in, lending the giant aluminium ball an even stranger presence.

Office Jungle, Dutch Design Week 2019
© Ingmar Nieuweboer

If you were able to choose anyone in the world to work with (a designer, politician, artist, scientist or someone else), who would that be and why?

Patrick Star (ed. SpongeBob SquarePants). No comment.

As a result of the coronavirus, many design events are being cancelled and the number of commissions is noticeably decreasing for many designers. What impact has it had on you so far and how do you look to the future?

Yeah, the fact that exhibitions and festivals have been cancelled, affects me. I'm now in a phase with The Office Jungle where events are crucial for making a name for myself and for winning orders. In terms of assignments, it is quiet now. Fortunately, I am still able to continue the development of The Office Jungle. As a designer, I'll stay busy. It's especially as an entrepreneur that there's not much I can do right now.

I expect that this will recover itself. I see this year as a kind of token year. And that's nice in a way. Because you know that the whole world is taking a break right now, it lets you design in peace. I feel like everything I'm doing right now is a benefit to me. Of course, I also have less income and am now more careful with major expenditure. But because my company is still very small, my overhead costs are manageable, and I don't foresee myself getting into difficulties. I only have to sit out the crisis.

The only thing I am concerned about is how the-one-and-a-half metre-society will change events as soon as they are allowed to be held again. The Office Jungle is hands-on. Will people have to wear rubber gloves as they clamber around The Office Jungle? Or will it be enough for me to provide a bottle of hand disinfectant with which people can disinfect their hands before they touch The Office Jungle? And looking further into the future of offices for which The Office Jungle was designed, how will the corona virus affect design culture in offices and public spaces, will they now have to be designed "touchless" so that you no longer have to touch them with your hands? That would really be my worst nightmare.

Do you have any news you would like to share with the DDW community?

It's my birthday soon.

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