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Dutch digital design as a force for good

With Dutch Design Week (DDW) 2020 being entirely online, the digital aspect was more important than ever before. Bert Hagendoorn gives his perspective on how digital technologies are (re-) shaping our world.
Bert Hagendoorn
Bert Hagendoorn

Bert Hagendoorn is a familiar face in the world of Dutch design. He is on the DDW advisory board and was a jury member of Dutch Design Awards in the Service & Systems category (now called Data & Interaction) for many years. On top of that, he's the founder and chairman of Dutch Digital Design, a collective that has been working very closely with DDW for several years to help optimise the digital side of design content.

"Our initiative started in 2014 and now has almost 30 partner brands and digital design agencies," says Bert. "Our goal is to share the best Dutch digital design work, both within the Netherlands and beyond. Our website is a platform for apps, platforms, installations, connected devices, web content AR, VR… Basically, anything that is digital and interactive. We also promote the exchange of knowledge and help people and companies connect."

Panel discussion on adapted realities

"On the other hand, digital also offers advantages: people can view your exhibition from anywhere in the world, at any time. Through renderings and animations, you can bring ideas to life in a way that is simply not possible in the real world. And, of course, you can still have interesting discussions like the talk on adapted realities Dutch Digital Design hosted for DDW20."

This online event, which explored how digital design shapes tomorrow's world, consisted of four panellists, each specialising in a different topic: Harald Dunnink of Momkai (the future of membership design), Dell's Michiel Knoppert (the future way of working), Luna Maurer of Studio Moniker (the future of awareness) and Handmade's Jeroen van Eijk (the future of automotive design).

Vivid and enduring memories

"Obviously an online DDW is not the same as the full-on live experience. You can't wander around in buildings and halls full of design, mingle with people and share a spontaneous joke, feel the texture of objects… When you experience something in real life, the memory is more vivid and enduring than if you do so online."

To give an idea of the different ways in which digital design can contribute to creating adapted realities, Bert has also selected three Dutch Digital Design examples over the years:

SpaceBuzz

"A great example of combining the physical world with VR was SpaceBuzz, by MediaMonks. They put together a physical model of a space rocket, which travels around various countries. It's an unforgettable experience for the kids to see this thing turn up at their school one day. But it gets even better. The kids do a number of 'pre-flight' lessons before putting on astronaut suits, sitting in the rocket, putting on VR glasses, and then re-enacting the feeling of going into space.

The children see many of the Earth's natural wonders from above, are told about the impact humans are having on the planet, and also get to experience the overview effect, something real space travellers felt when gazing down to earth and realising how insignificant it was in the context of the cosmos. This award-winning educational programme is still touring around today.

e-bike
VanMoof
Online launch of a new e-bike

According to Bert, one project that clearly illustrates how being creative in the digital domain can help your business is the launch of a new Van Moof e-bike. The presentation took place last year, during the first Corona-related lockdowns. The design studio Resn – which has offices in New Zealand and the Netherlands – created a live event, with streaming, interactive 3D, short films, and a live Q&A.

It was a resounding success. 4,400 bikes were ordered within 24 hours, and the product is selling twice as many as with any previous launch. "Especially in times of adversity, when it's difficult for people to get together, putting together a compelling digital experience can really help companies reach their target audience," he says.

'Google Earth for investors'

Data visualisation is another field in which adapted realities can help bring information to light. Clever°Franke specialises in connecting people to data in a way that generates valuable insights, reveals new perspectives, and drives smart decision-making.

"They recently launched Globalance World, which you could think of as a sort of Google Earth for investors. It empowers people to make sustainable investments. It has economic, societal, and environmental indicators, and offers a new perspective on the impact investments have on our planet."

Pollutive ends
Thijs Biersteker
Smoking's bad for you – and for the planet

The many possibilities of adapted realities are also very appealing to interactive artists. "I've known an interactive artist called Thijs Biersteker for a long time," says Bert. "When it comes to combining digital design with art, Thijs is up there alongside Daan Roosegaarde. He's put together an incredibly engaging interactive installation, which shows the impact of just one discarded cigarette butt on nature. It's an excellent way to raise people's awareness about this issue."

Adding value

Adapted reality is clearly impacting our lives already and will almost certainly play a greater role in the future. But Bert is careful to point out that it shouldn't be applied just for the sake of it: "It has to add value. It's not about new technology, it's about solving a problem, making an experience more engaging, or being able to quickly adapt to new situations."

"Take COVID-19 as an example," he says. "So many people are working from home and doing things digitally. These experiences can become richer, through things like 360° imaging, virtual objects, AR and VR. By combining the digital and the physical we can create the best of both worlds. And I see Dutch designers playing a major role in this. Through our designs we create awareness, give hope, develop robust business cases and – crucially – come up with solutions that make the world a better place. Dutch digital design as a force for good."