Dutch Design Week Highlights

The theme of this year was If not now, then when. There were so many incredible pieces and experiences that I came back with but the following are the ones that stood out most for me:

Fear Factory: Fear is a bigger motivator than anything else and how that is used in political propaganda. Through a series of interactive interactive experiences, the architects of the project, Critical Mass makes you a livid part of the world they had built. It highlighted the power of theatricality to elevate the power of speculative projects.

Immersive Journalism: In one of the three experiences in this exhibit, designers Jim Brady and Ward have visualized headlines in a 3-D immersive environment, inviting the user to interact with the news as tactile bits of information. As a designer who is interested in exploring newer ways to package and consume news, I was really looking forward to this piece. I came out of it questioning if the extra dimension is adding to the receptivity and comprehension of that information or just the thrill of new technology or is it actually contributing to my experience of news consumption. To constrast that with 4D-News by Cream on Chrome, which was already an immersive experience in news where they added a physical controller with which you could navigate the narrative that highlighted the style of reporting over the years. This approached news from a journalistic point of view which made it a rich experience.

Us vs Them: A multimedia experience by Alice Wong & Aryan Javaherian, this was really interesting to me because it raised questions of cultural identity in a foreign land that I can identify with . I learned about the origins of Chinatown, how it was created as a safe space for the Chinese community during the time of yellow peril. In my own work I’m interested in exploring cultural identities as defined by self, your society as well as foreign societies.

Marriage Matters: This was another work by the artists of Us vs Them, Alice Wong & Aryan Javaherian, that I was really looking forward to. Another multimedia piece, this highlights the negative potrayals of unmarried women in a popular Chinese soap and how they are labelled as ‘leftovers’. Earlier this year, I had done a satirical packaging project called Fresh & Fertile depicting woman as a range of perishable juices, questioning what is considered a marriageable age and what really is the shelf life for a young woman in India. It was really interesting to see s similar issue being highlighted from a different part of the world.

On route

Basic Income Cafe: This was a winner of the Dutch Design Week Awards in Design Research from last year. Another experiential design that uses the interaction to impart information yet so different in its execution. A project by Martina Huynh, Basic Income Cafe is an installation that explores basic income scenarios by using coffee as a metaphor for the income flow. People are made to go through two different experiences of the cafe which demonstrates the two different kinds of economic models.

GEO-Design: Junk: Nine Design Academy of Eindhoven graduates produced this exhibit together with the Van Abbe Museum. From data junkyards to textile waste, the exhibit explores global systems of waste production. It was a cohesive story with distinct pieces of information. It was amazing to see way they used the space to portray data in tactile and interactive ways.

Graduation Show, Design Academy Eindhoven: The students of DAE displayed such sophisticated design sensibilities and thought processes with their graduation projects. Post-Bed-Post questioned the merging of our physical and digital identity.Techno Venus A video self-portrait that explored contemporary female identity by highlighting the digital portrayal of perfection. Woke Wash Agency highlighted the concept of woke washing where advertising agencies use social issues as marketing strategies.

Other takeaways

  • Speculative projects and the endless possibilities and freedom of thought that they bring with them.
  • Projects about non-human entities posing possibilities of post human collaborations in the near future instead of solely cultivating a man vs machine ideology.
  • My current thesis project is exploring the concept of digital afterlife, or what happens to our online selves after we are gone. Projects like Blooming Ashes and Planned Death Co. gave me new perspectives on approaching the subject of death in design.
  • Even the way certain shows were curated, the identity design played a great role in elevating the message. A great example was the show called What a Time to be Alive.
  • The way they activated the space with three dimensional exhibits at the GEO Design: Junk at Van Abbe museum was truly awe-inspiring.

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