Dutch Design Week

Dutch Design Week was fully digital this year because of the pandemic so I attended a few events. They were really interesting, some related to my thesis research, some were graduate shows from other schools, and some were just fun ones I wanted to attend. I did get a bit sidetracked from the original 6 I intended to go to. I randomly ended up at one exhibition that was about 3D printing houses with concrete. They showed the printing process in a video. I will outline each event below. I went into DDW with three objectives, to see what others are doing in the design field, to see if any topics related to my thesis, and to explore anything that looked interesting. I was also hoping to stumble upon topics I didn’t know I was interested in, which did happen. For thesis I was specifically looking for anything that dealt with accessible design and I was able to find a few topics. They mostly related to the retail industry, but were still helpful to see.

Thresholdless Game

The first event I attended was the Thresholdless Game. This was one of many projects by Happy Shopping for Everyone about accessibility in the retail industry. I browsed through some of their other projects too and they were all really interesting. Here is their description of the game “With the Thresholdless Game, retailers and employees can test the accessibility of their business in a fun and accessible way. They are made aware of this theme in a playful way. The package of game and measuring instruments is practical, hands-on and adaptable to the type of store.” It is a learning tool to help designers understand and take into account varying disabilities when designing retail experiences. The game is sort of a variety of playful simulations of how it feels to have certain disabilities. They have glasses that give you limited vision. There is a tool to measure the height of objects in the store in relation to a wheelchair. There are also other tools and training resources in the kit. I come from an exhibition design background and when designing an exhibition you have to take into account all of the ADA compliance rules, so I am familiar with many of the rules they touched on in the game. I thought this was a clever way to give people easy to use tools to help them design. In exhibition design you always have to go back to the manual to get this type of rule and a kit like this would be much easier and quicker. I am not sure I would fully consider this a game, it is more of a toolkit, but a useful one.

Image from https://ddw.nl/en/programme/5055/thresholdless-game


The next event I attended was an exhibition for another game called Groeikaarten. The card game stimulates the development of children between 0 and 4. It focuses on nutrition, motor skills, and cognition. This relates a bit to my thesis so I wanted to check it out. My thesis focuses on learning disabilities. I am trying to make simulations of what it feels like to have different learning disabilities to promote empathy. I also want to use the modes those with learning disabilities use to learn as models for new ways of learning for all. This game is about cognitive development so I thought it closely related. I am also interested in game design and have designed a few games so both this one and the last event I attended at DDW relate to that interest.

Image from https://ddw.nl/en/programme/3173/groeikaarten

Meaningful Creativity

This event was the final show for SintLucas. I was interested in seeing this show to see what our peers are up to. The theme of the exhibition is about implementing design solutions that really matter. The idea of using design for meaningful change is really powerful and I would like to do that in my own work so I would like to see how they are doing this. I left the DDW site to explore their virtual exhibition and I really enjoyed seeing their work. They showed all kinds of work, graphic design, photography, AR work, product design, among others. Some had descriptions in english some didn’t. There was one that was in english where a girl created an AR app that when you pointed your iphone camera at a target (drawing of an instrument) a 3D version of that instrument would pop up and you could play it on the ipad. It was an ancient Chinese instrument. She also did several artworks surrounding this piece. They also had some really amazing illustration work. In the show they 3D modeled their school and put artworks up in the gallery and you could walk around using your keyboard and click on the artworks to find out more information. It was a really sophisticated virtual museum. I felt like I was playing a video game.

Screenshot of the virtual exhibition you could walk through

Design Academy Eindhoven

This was the graduate show for Design Academy Eindhoven. I wanted to attend this event to see all the interesting things our peers are making. On the DDW site they had the show broken out into virtual exhibitions by major and I wanted to see everything so I left the DDW site and went to the Design Academy’s site to see the whole show. Theres was more traditional than SintLucas. They had images and descriptions of each project. They were in english so I could read them! They had all types of innovative projects. One student had created playful wearable fashion that was light weight, but large so people could not get too close to each other during the pandemic. There was another about covid that was a parasitic night club that popped up in the streets. I liked how this project was both clever and practical. Many of the projects were socially, politically, or sustainably motivated. I also really liked a project that focused on how design is not a sustainable practice, so the student only designed with discarded pallets in order to not use any extra raw materials in his creations. Another project I enjoyed was one about a desk lamp with human qualities. He would wake up and the light would turn on and as he got sleepy the light would start to fade forcing the person working at the desk to take a break. You could wake him up if you wanted to by banging on the table or making a loud noise. I thought this was a really clever take on the apps people download on their computer to force them to take a break every hour or a fitness tracker that makes you stand up every so often. This lamp makes you take a break when he gets sleepy an because he has human qualities you would feel more inclined to take a break with him than rudely wake him up. It was really nice to see all this amazing work. I spent over an hour on the site and I still didn’t get through all the projects so I am going to keep exploring.

screenshot of the Design Academy Eindhoven Graduate show website

New Intimacy Hour

I attended an event called New Intimacy hour. They held a zoom conversation every day for a week at the same time but each conversation focused on a different emotion. The on I attended was mischief. Before the event you had to download their filters so you could wear a mask to the talk. They felt that if you wear a mask you would feel more open to sharing if your face was hidden. They had created masks for each theme so for mischief they had a piñata looking mask that covered your whole face, a carnival mask that covered a portion of your face, or an abstract art mask that covered other portions of your face. You could choose how hidden you wanted to be for the conversations and you could take the mask off if you wanted to. It started with the hosts talking about what mischief is and giving examples of them being mischievous as kids and adults, then we went into breakout rooms and spoke with other participants about mischief. We tried to define it and we talked about how it’s harder to define or remember than other emotions because it’s usually spontaneous and ephemeral. It was a really fun experience and I think using the masks with stranger did actually make it easier to share. Having that added element of masks kept the zoom call more engaging and lighthearted. People were sharing really serous things but it felt more fun. It was also more engaging because you could switch around your mask and see other people doing the same thing. You would see someone try on a mask and be like oh i want to try that one. I really enjoyed it.

screenshot of everyone in their masks

DDW Talks: Interactive Experiences

I attended this live talk about interactive experiences. It was a discussion moderated by Robert Thiemann, founder and director at FRAME and a conversation with Patrik Schumacher, principal at Zaha Hadid Architects, media artist Refik Anadol, Takashi Kudo, communications director at art collective teamLab and Ralph Nauta, co-founder of Studio Drift. They talked about interactive experiences and computational design methods. Patrik touched on what we talked about the the fashion tech farm workshop but applied parametric design principles to architecture to funnel climate and make buildings comfortable temperatures without using much energy. Rafik also use ecological materials that they source locally. They also talked a bit about machine learning and how that might change the future of humanity. One of the panelists used algorithms to imagine what machine learning might look like. He created a digital architectural space that had 4 dimensions and audience members could touch the data gathered by ai and sort it. He explored the collision of media arts, ai, and architectural design in a speculative way. Takashi talked about the relationship between humans and nature and the world through technology. They program light and projection to give the effect of different types of days and different seasons to make people feel like they are one with the planet. Then Ralph talked about some of his projects. They programmed a flower to open and close as it dropped from the ceiling and it made people think about their environment. He uses technology to create nature installations to make people think more about nature. The general theme of the talk was how each of these people use technology and design to create a better planet. I thought it was really interesting to see the different types of technology each of these people used because they were all very different approaches to the same problem, the problem of bringing nature and using tech to make our planet better. They all did this in different ways some used parametric architecture to reduce imagery, some used light or installation to make their viewers think about nature more, some used ai to help people gather information about the world to help them be better people. I thought it was really nice to hear the intent behind these types of projects and just to see what is possible. I am really interested in interactive experiences, not necessarily in as high tech of a way as these people do it, but with the same intent, to educate viewers in an engaging way an it is interesting to see all these different approaches.

They also talked about disconnection and that related a lot to our Telepresence of touch workshop last week. In architecture they talked about sight lines and opening up buildings so people don’t feel alone even if they are in different rooms because they can see each other. They talked about how their projects connect people. There was a project about the Getty museum in LA that used ai to code 77 terabytes of the history of the museum and into an installation that projected on the outside of the building. It was billed as the building dreaming. Tons of people came to see it and collectively remember the history of LA. TeamLab talked about how all of their experiences are meant to bring people together in one space, but now with covid they are working with smart phone technology to bring people together. You can capture the animals to learn about them and they can connect with others. They merge physical and digital. Studio Drift used drones to create a swarm that reacted to humans in the physical world that people could see from a distance. They didn’t have to be too near but could all experience the same thing. It was cool to see the different ways they all deal with bringing people together through tech. They were all thinking a bit more in the physical world rather than during times of covid, but It will be interesting to see how they adapt in the future.

I had a great time attending the Dutch Design Week events. Many of these projects were inspiring. The whole conference was so future oriented that it got me thinking about how I can gear my work more toward the future. I am really interested in creating experiences for others and I think society is moving that way. People will pay more for experiences than for things and this conference showed that in many ways. Many of the projects displayed were experiential and the conference even had 3D rooms that viewers could experience the projects through. The Interactive experiences talk I attended showed four different perspectives on this type of design and I really appreciated that. They also all used different technologies that made the experience more real and immersive for the viewer. I attended a few additional ones I won’t write about, but it was really cool to explore and stumble upon all these different talks, exhibitions, live chats, and more. I feel like I was able to attend events that related to my own research and gave me some ideas about how to move my projects forward in different ways then I originally intended. It was also just nice to get exposure to what other artists are making around the world and get a general sense of where the design industry is moving.

After DDW I was inspired to learn more emerging technologies and attempt to incorporate more technology into my work. I signed up for Paul’s Electronics workshop so I can learn more about the circuit playground. I am hoping to use this tech in my thesis project. I am creating a series of small experiences for thesis that simulate what it feels like to have different learning disabilities and I want to use the circuit playground for one of them. I think it could be used something that reacts to movement or sound for an ADHD experience. I was thinking about creating an experience where the participant enters a room and they are given a game to do, they must follow the audio instructions exactly, but every time they move I could make a lights light up or sounds emit to distract them from the game they are supposed to be completing. I think I could prototype this with the movement sensor on the circuit playground and if I can get that working I can try and really create this simulation. All in all it was an inspiring event to attend and I am still browsing through the projects on there.

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