Looking ahead to DDW22, there’s already plenty to discuss! Miriam talks with designer Pete Fung about how the design community becomes increasingly important for DDW, and (... drumroll please) she reveals this year's theme.
Pete: “I am very intrigued about this vision shifting towards an even more community-driven festival. Can you tell me a little bit more about it?”
Miriam: “DDW is here for the community of designers, companies and organizations that want to present their work. We are a facilitating organisation, so we are their platform. Hopefully, we'll be able to serve them the best way we can and give them what they need to further develop their work.”
Pete: “Designers are part of the global community. Just like everyone else. We all have a shared responsibility as global citizens. Something I believe that reflects on this year's theme. Can you elaborate on that?”
Miriam: “The theme for this year's DDW is: Get Set. Get Set means we – as designers, as citizens – must get in the right mindset. It’s where we are now at this moment. But we have to brace ourselves for what is coming. We're facing enormous challenges like the climate crisis, the war in Ukraine, inequality, and many other social challenges. To make changes together, we must get set for the right mindset!
This mindset is very current and happening already. We are always in close contact with many designers and recently had some meetings within the design community to get to know their current mindset. What are they working on, and what do they want to do? Being of importance and creating a societal impact on a smaller or larger scale is something that we derived from all these interactions.”
Pete: “I think that there's a poetic element to the idea of Get Set, gathering momentum and kinetic energy. It refers to the moment before action takes place, where instead quite often, design is about grand gestures, big narratives, and trending buzzwords. To me, Get Set has a bit of humbleness of everyone coming together for something about to happen.”
Miriam: “Well, I think you can explain Get Set in many ways. Of course, we have to get set for the challenges we're facing, but also we have to get our setting right. We have to make smart collaborations. We must create coalitions and work together on the missions and challenges we have. So we have to get the setting right. Not just for designers but also our DDW visitors. Really notice what is going on and be prepared. Feel involved. But the most important message is that people get active. Doing nothing is not an option anymore. We must act now. And not everything will work out the way we plan or hope, but I think that is not a problem at all. The only mistake we can make is to not get started. So get set!”
Pete: “Starting in 1998 as Day of the Design, DDW evolved into the current 9-day festival with an urgency to address and act upon societal matters. Being one of the co-founders, how do you reflect on this evolution?”
Miriam: “Well, we started over 20 years ago out of urgency with the event 'Designers Present'. Years later, thanks to the effort of many, many people, this grew into the Dutch Design Week. There were no opportunities for designers to present their work in the Netherlands. So, we all went to Salone del Mobile in Milan. And it’s kind of crazy to go all the way to Italy to meet each other. From that idea and the urge to meet each other, we started what is now known as DDW. So it was what we call a bottom-up event from the very start. I believe our event continues to thrive because of the designers who want to present their work and meet each other. I've seen it change though. It's become one of the biggest design events and very international. And I think we can all be proud of how it's grown. But if I look at the future, I believe we need to shift from big, bigger, biggest to good, better, best. DDW is successful because of the best work shown, with the best audience you can get and – most importantly – with making the best possible connections. Those valuable connections form the seeds of the necessary changes for our society to heal. Optimistically speaking, you can view DDW as the first day of our future.”
Pete: “So you could say DDW is more of a facilitator than a curator, not necessarily focussing on presenting solutions and outcomes but more in bringing people together. Connecting them and strengthening the existing community while fostering a new one.”
Miriam: “Curating is usually a top-down way of working. As I explained, I see DDW as a bottom-up organisation. So that means we have to try to facilitate our design community and their needs. At the same time, I also see something between top-down and bottom-up. As an organisation, we see what is happening in the community, and we want to enlarge that and offer it a platform. A podium we can invite people to. Where we can enlighten the audience about the topics at the front of designers’ minds, who are at the forefront in noticing and addressing urgent societal matters. And that is being presented on DDW. Design is created from a public need, not a personal need. It serves our society, and curating is not the right word. I think we have to facilitate and push the power of creativity forward into our world. And there are so many opportunities to achieve this. So we cannot, and we should not miss out now.”
Pete: “The perspective on design has changed over the years, from more autonomous to strategic design. Combined with the community focus DDW has, how is this reflected in the event this year? What will visitors notice?”
Miriam: “I hope visitors will be surprised and inspired. But I also want them to get set, to be involved in the different design works, and I hope they explore other, new ways of working. At DDW, there will be so many designers, all on a mission to make this world a bit better. And each have a unique way of doing so. In one exhibition, you may find a very autonomous designer making objects and trying to explain their vision on a topic. And in a neighbouring exhibition, you’ll perhaps come across a project where strategic design serves as a tool for shifting our mentalities and brings systematic change. I hope that the audience will see huge design potential out there. Potential that – I believe – we do not utilise enough at this moment.”
Pete: “So, now that we know the theme, Get Set, could we get a sneak peek at the programme?”
Miriam: “Well, it’s a bit too early in the game to go into specifics, but I can elaborate some more on our vision. I want to make coalitions to enable DDW not to necessarily become the biggest but the best design week, because we need strong collaboration to make it work. So, I want to create mission-driven parts of DDW, where you can see different types of designers with their work unified by certain topics while designing in their own way. For example, think about showing works that fit e.g. Get Set for liveability as a theme, with a common mission to create a liveable planet. I think the era of just exhibiting design is over. We must be involved, and we must act. The time of sitting and waiting is over. We must start doing it. Now. GET SET for DDW!”