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Designers on DDW: Alice Wong

07 June 2022

8 min. to read

Alice Wong
In a series of interviews, we asked designers to reflect on participating in DDW over the past years. We kick off with information and story designer Alice Wong, who is quite the DDW veteran in participating, visiting and design guiding!

Alice, born in Amsterdam and raised in Hong Kong, returned to the Netherlands over 10 years ago to study at Design Academy Eindhoven. As a 2015 graduate, she started showing her work at DDW, as she did for several years. She became a design guide in the past few years and began giving tours.

Checkpoint in the world of design

To Alice and many of her friends in the design community, DDW feels like starting a new year. Alice tells us: “It is like you wrap up your year. Now, it’s time to present and celebrate what you've been doing for the past months. Because as designers, we often don't know what other people are working on because we are so caught up in the subjects we work on. Of course, I hang out with my friends, talking about other projects. But then DDW is there. It’s like a place where we say: this is what I've made, and this is why I made it. It almost feels like a checkpoint of where you are within the design world. At the same time, you celebrate a new start. Now, it’s time to bring your project further.”  

Opportunities and insights 

There are many reasons for designers to participate in DDW. But of course, that is easy for us to say! What makes Alice come back to DDW, we asked? Alice: “Well, for me participating and visiting DDW means staying relevant and being updated. To see what's going on. But also to gain feedback from different perspectives. Because we're not alone, although sometimes working in a creative industry may feel like it. Being in DDW opens up a lot of discussions and dialogues. It helps to stay in touch and connect to people in general and design professionals worldwide. Besides that, it also provides me with business opportunities. For instance, it helps me participate in other design festivals like Jerusalem Design Week and opens up other opportunities for new work, like giving guest lectures at Utrecht School of Arts or exhibitions in Germany.” 

DDW versus other design festivals

With many international design events, it can be hard to stand out. “In DDW, there are a lot of projects that are not necessarily practical, but mind provoking and intellectually stimulating,” Alice explains. “There is a lot of desire present, not just to make things happen but also to dare and to dream about what could be done differently. This is something I see here more than in other places. There’s time and space to talk about research and where that leads to, what our future will be like. Quite conceptual.” 

Talking about generations

DDW has always focused on young and new design talents. Why does Alice think it’s essential for students or younger generation designers to participate? “It really helps to learn and experience how you build and showcase your project from the very beginning until the time you exhibit. It also helps get experience and tackle all the questions from visitors. To discover like-minded professionals that provide different insights. And it helps to respond and react and take their project to a different level. To navigate this well requires a lot of exposure and exercise. Also, to be articulate about what you're doing. Because sometimes, students are working on their projects, and they aren't necessarily conscious of all their decisions. And then there are these exhibitions, so they have to open up. By asking questions about projects from all angles, talks with visitors can trigger a lot. And I think this is a very productive dialogue for them to further develop their project and themselves.”

Somewhere in between

As a designer that’s been around for some years, Alice sometimes feels a bit caught between places. She isn’t the young and eager new talent or fresh graduate but at the same time also not the prominent and well-known name that gets all spotlight. “It’s not just me. I noticed last year that my generation wasn’t really present. I asked around, and people felt like they didn’t want to participate because they’ve done it a few times now. It can be very stressful to exhibit, and sometimes you just need a break from it. Do new stuff and leave it for the younger generations to get the necessary experience to get further in their field,” explains Alice.   

Guiding around

So with plenty of exhibiting and DDW experience in her pocket, Alice decided to participate differently! She tells us about being a design guide. “As a tour guide, I enjoyed being in DDW much more because I have the time and energy to take the space to study someone else's project. I need to understand it better to explain it to my tour groups. For instance, I never really had this energy and time to focus on curated exhibitions. And as a tour guide, that has changed, and I like it!” Sometimes interesting conversations come up while guiding, so tells Alice. “I was guiding a Chinese delegation tour to the Design Academy graduation show. So, they're asking about these projects. What is the use of that? Do they make money? And so on. But then the questions became more political and directed towards my personal opinion, which is interesting. Moments like these stimulate me to think of a way to communicate with people with opposite opinions and still have a constructive dialogue.”  

Different people, familiar faces and interesting minds 

The vibe of DDW is hard to describe. But Alice doesn’t mind giving it a go: “During DDW, there's this unexpected and crazy vibe. Most of the time, you don't know what is happening! You get into nice dialogues with friends and talk about what it means to have everything and not have enough or question abundance. We also visit parties, symposiums, different talks and exhibitions. There’s so much going on! I’ve almost been here for 10 years. DDW just feels like coming home. You bump into friends and people you work with. And you're catching up and then, suddenly, very randomly grab an ice cream or a beer. Then you just keep rolling into different people, familiar faces and interesting minds and have crazy dialogues about what is happening. So it's quite beautiful,” she concludes.

This year, Alice will come back to DDW. As a participant? Maybe, but as a visitor for sure. And who knows, you might catch her as a design guide again, showing several groups the ins and outs of DDW22!

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