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innovating with the creative industry
Who dares to shake up systems
that have got stuck in a rut,
introduce radical change, and
experiment with the impossible?
The designers, inventors, artists
and their principals in this
booklet leave their own comfort
zone, force their ideas to take
a new direction, and come up
with unusual answers to today’s
questions. Crossover Works #2
presents a new selection of
results in innovative products
and services.¶
xtraordinary lever effects
Jeroen van Erp
C ASE 01-08
Creative Industry x Energy x Logistics:
Waag Society
mpathic design; Captivated
Chris Gruijters
esign fiction; Designers anticipate the future
Koert van Mensvoort
Creative Industry x Logistics x High Tech:
Fabrique, Accenture, Vision Box, Koninklijke Marechaussee,
Schiphol & Ministry of Security and Justice
reative Industry x Water x Energy:
Water squares
De Urbanisten & Rotterdam Climate Initiative
reative Industry x Life Sciences & Health:
Into D’mentia
IJsfontein, Minase Consultancy, vumc & tu Tilburg
reative Industry x Health:
Reframing Studio, Parnassia Groep & tu Delft
reative Industry x Logistics x Users:
Dynamic boarding information
Edenspiekermann, stby, ProRail & ns Reizigers
reative Industry x Water x Energy x High Tech:
Energy Island
f lex/theinnovationlab, Energy Valley, Alliander,
Ballast, Nedam & Royal Haskonig
Creative Industry x Science x High Tech x Life Sciences & Health
Bulletproof Skin
Jalila Essaïdi, Forensic Genomics Consortium Netherlands,
Utah State University, Leiden University Medical Centre
& Netherlands Forensic Institute
eijmans: Building company forms winning combination
Willemijn de Jonge
Philips Design; Inventions with a spectacular effect
illemijn de Jonge
Extraordinary lever effects
It is difficult to imagine, but there was hardly any mention of the creative
industry as a sector three years ago. Luckily that has changed under the
influence of a globally growing awareness of its strength. The decision
of the Ministry of Economic Affairs to designate the creative industry
as a top sector confirms and reinforces that strength. And we have a
right to be proud of that.¶
One of the intentions of the top sector policy is to create lever effects
through crossovers between the different sectors. Certainly, a part of
the creative industry operates autonomously. Creative minds devise
products or services, varying from interior products to fashion, and put
them on the market. This is similar to how it works in other sectors:
Shell sells petrol and Friesland Campina dairy products. But the vast
majority of the creative industry works above all for other sectors and
not for the final users. While crossovers are still regarded as an unconventional challenge in many other sectors, they are the rule rather than
the exception in the creative industry. The government often refers to
the golden triangle: government – science – creative sector. But in this
model it is more logical to refer to a tetrahedron, in which companies
and social institutions are the fourth player that makes the figure complete.¶
Crossovers are actually so natural for the creative industry that we forget
to explain and illustrate the fact. Hence Crossover Works #2, for which
we have sought the new best practices which have been implemented
– with extraordinary effect. The Fairphone is a fearless game changer
among the smartphones. A designer has found a multifunctional solution for flooding in cities. And if you hear voices inside your head, the
Temstem app sometimes seems to be more effective than relatively
expensive therapies. It is striking to see how a combination of unconven­
tional thinking, professional knowledge and a sense of responsibility
plays a crucial role in devising solutions of this kind. This is where the
creative industry increasingly manages to stand out. And that is something to be proud of too.¶
Jeroen van Erp
Creative Industry Topteam
Jeroen van Erp
Flying start for a fair phone
Who wouldn’t like to help to make the world a better place
without having to cut down on luxury? At least 25,000 people
were so taken by the idea that they even paid for their Fairphone before it was taken into production.¶
5,000 orders were needed for the factory to start up production, but there turned out to be no less than five times as many
enthusiastic supporters. ‘There is apparently an enormous
demand for innovation in the process’, says Fairphone’s Roos
van de Weerd. This brand-new Amsterdam company claims that
from beginning to end the life cycle of a mobile telephone can
be made fairer and more sustainable and it decided follow a
different course from the rest.¶
The idea of making consumers more aware of the often less
attractive story behind their electronics originated in the Waag
Society. The designer and technical wizard Bas van Abel en­­
capsulated that idea in a smartphone that is better for people
and the environment. The required components are collected
assembled, and, if possible, recycled again under the fairest
possible conditions. Van de Weerd: ‘The project is about reorganising systems that have got stuck in a rut. It can’t be done
in one go. Buyers invest in a process leading to a fairer phone.
We can now guarantee, for example, that the tin and tantalum
come from Congolese mines that have no connection with the
armed militias. The next step is the gold. And in China we
have found a factory that it amendable to improving the working conditions’.¶
The plastic case is recycled and the Fairphone can even be
repaired thanks to the use of components that can be dismantled. ‘We have to leave those hermetically sealed black boxes
behind’, says Van de Weerd. ‘That is design for the dump. It
costs no more to make something that is more sustainable
and social. And we invest the profit in the next step; the Fairphone gets fairer and fairer’.¶
Crossing the border automatically
Where there used to be an intimidating high desk behind
which a customs officer looked down and asked for your passport, there is now a user-friendly diy gate. The Ministry of
Security and Justice brought in the Fabrique design agency to
develop it.¶
The number of visitors to Schiphol airport is expected to grow
to 20 million by 2020. How do you cope with that enormous
flow as efficiently, safely and pleasantly as possible? How do you
avoid long queues, while there is no space for more metres or
staff ? There is no alternative, says former project leader Kier-co
Gerritsen from the ministry, Schiphol will have to automate
even further. The customs officers have already accepted the
change: since 2012 the checking of passports is done automatically via e-gates at many points. ‘It’s not a new idea’, says Gerritsen, ‘but we wanted to do it differently from elsewhere’.¶
That is why they brought in the Fabrique design agency. ‘In
other airports those gates scare people off rather than welcoming them. Schiphol attaches great importance to the welcoming aspect. We wanted to make our gates more attractive
and their use more intuitive so that everyone understands right
away. Fabrique are experts in thinking from the user’s point
of view, they know how to influence behaviour and to convert
that into a product’. A number of conditions were jointly de­­
fined to make the e-gates as low-threshold as possible. Screen
instructions, camera scan, passport control and opening and
shutting gates must proceed in a single logical process. And an
important extra factor: it must look good enough to enter.¶
Gerritsen describes the result, a joint product with Accenture
and Vision-Box, as ‘An elegant, contemporary design that does
not provide any redundant or distracting information. But it is
more than a well-functioning border gateway. It also means a
change of mentality for the border officers from checking to
providing a service, and that is in line with the development
that Schiphol wants to see’.¶
water squares
Water square arouses international interest
The first large-scale water square has opened in Rotterdam. It
is designed to fill up during heavy rains. The neighbourhood is
pleased with this ground-level solution for the flooding and it
has considerably enhanced the square.¶
You can skate, play football or just sit down here and enjoy
the sun when the weather is fine. After a downpour the sunken
areas are converted into pools into which the rainwater from
the neighbourhood drains. The Benthemplein in Rotterdam is
the first large-scale water square in the world. Two designers
came up with the idea during the 2005 architecture biennial
and it fitted in perfectly with the local authority water plan.¶
The problem: heavy downpours are increasingly common and
the drains cannot cope. ‘The solution is actually very simple’,
says Florian Boer from De Urbanisten, who devised the concept and turned it into a design in consultation with the local
authority and residents. ‘You can solve that problem of capacity
underground with larger drains, but why not do it at ground
level and turn it into something positive? The water square
does three things at the same time: it relieves the drains, it
helps to keep up the level of the groundwater, and it improves
the public space’.¶
In the past the water used to run from the roofs around the
square through drainpipes into the drains. Now it is led directly
to the square. There are two shallow pools that fill up first.
When they are full, it is conducted to the largest pool where
the sports field is located. Afterwards it is used to top up the
groundwater or drained into the canal. There is a lot of international interest in the idea – after all, climate change is global:
‘Cities in China, Denmark, Brazil and the us have shown an
interest. But we are still busy in the Netherlands, there will
shortly be one in Tiel’.¶
Benthemplein, Rotterdam (photograph: Ossip van Duivebode)
into d’mentia
Lost in your own kitchen
There’s a note on the kitchen table telling you what to do with
the shopping… but where has the fridge gone? Into D’mentia
lets you feel what it is like to suffer from dementia. It helps a lot
of people to care for a relative longer.¶
Unfortunately, a growing number of people are in need of voluntary care. As we age in larger numbers, dementia is becoming an increasing social problem. Care and nursing homes are
full and spending cuts are affecting health care, so caring for
the demented will increasingly come to depend on the voluntary support of relatives, friends and neighbours.¶
Minase Consultancy joined forces with Tilburg University, the
vu University Medical Centre Amsterdam, a number of senior
care institutions and the interactive media agency IJsfontein
to find a way of alleviating that heavy burden. ‘It starts by feeling for yourself what it is like to be demented’, says Raimond
Reijmers, creative project leader at IJsfontein. ‘If you can put
yourself in somebody else’s place better, you can take better
care of him or her, you can keep it up for longer, and thus
enable people to stay in their own homes longer.’¶
Scientists, medical staff, care professionals and creative thinkers are cooperating intensively on research on the problems
that patient and carer encounter and on how to get them across.
This has led to a travelling simulator that is used to train volunteer workers and professionals in health care training institutes and other institutions. But this time the tables are turned:
you are the one who is demented, while the carer is your virtual opponent. ‘It is confronting and illuminating’, says Reijmers.
‘Feeling for yourself how confusing, frustrating and lonely it is
proves to work: in the follow-up discussion 95 per cent of the
participants say they have gained new insights and intend to
tackle the problems differently’.¶
(photograph: Raimond Reijmers, IJsfontein)
App keeps voices under control
Temstem is an app for people who hear voices in their head.
At times of stress a game on the iPhone can prevent a lot of
suffering. The care sector is enthusiastic: the free app seems
to be a good alternative to expensive therapeutic sessions.¶
It started with an assignment in an Industrial Design course
by Nynke Tromp, who teaches at the Delft University of Technology: how can a designer help someone to recover from a
psychosis? The psychomedical centre Parnassia drew inspiration from the ideas of students and invited Reframing Studio,
the design agency where Tromp also works, to join in. Psychotherapists, researchers, designers and potential users worked
together on an app – Temstem – for people who hear voices in
their head. At awkward moments two games distract the player
from the disturbing voices. For instance, by typing the syllables of a series of words with one finger: the higher the number
of correct ticks, the higher the score. ‘The eureka moment came
when we discovered that that typing is just the right thing to
keep your brain on the rails without being too difficult’, says
Tromp. ‘It is a question of activating the area where language
is produced in the same way, then the voices do not have a
The main challenge is to find the right balance between aid and
game: it must be attractive enough to make you want to play
it, but simple enough if you panic.¶
The higher the level selected, the greater the therapeutic effect.
In the meantime the player receives positive feedback: Temstem strengthens precisely what the voices want to weaken.¶
The crossover between design and health care proved to be
fertile. After a successful test period – one player even lost the
voices completely – the app is now available free of charge for
iPhone users and work is going ahead on an Android variant.¶
dynamic boarding information
Know where to board
The aim was to improve service to rail passengers. The led strip
that Edenspiekermann and stby designed makes it easy to see
where to board. An interesting spin-off for ProRail and Dutch
Rail: reduced boarding times enable them to run more trains.¶
Everyone has experienced it. Racing upstairs onto the platform,
wondering whether the train arriving is the right one, hurrying
over the crowded platform to the nearest door, and finding
yourself in the busiest carriage of the whole train. That is a
thing of the past with the dynamic boarding information of
Edenspiekermann and stby. A long led strip above the rails
indicates exactly where the train stops, where the doors are
located, where the first and second class carriages are located,
how full the carriages are, and where you can board with a
wheelchair or bicycle.¶
Initially ProRail asked the firms to investigate the problems
caused by the renovation work at Utrecht Central Station, but
once they had started the designers discovered a more urgent
problem: the greatest inconvenience to passengers is the lack
of information on the platform about the train that is arriving.
The assignment was modified: boarding and alighting had to
be made safer, faster and more comfortable. The resulting product is only a small part of the whole, says Joost Holthuis from
Edenspiekermann. ‘A lot of time has gone into the cooperation
between ProRail, Dutch Rail and the rail passenger. The ex­­
change of information between these parties was crucial for
the success of the project. For instance, Dutch Rail turned out
to be already working on a pilot to count the passengers in
each carriage using infrared sensors. We were able to make
good use of that information’.¶
The led strip was tried out for three months in 2013 in Den
Bosch. Holthuis: ‘The reactions were very positive. The platform
is less chaotic, passengers are distributed better in the train,
and the process has been speeded up. It would be fantastic if
this becomes normal practice in a year or so’.¶
energy island
Storing sustainable energy at sea
Whether you regard it as cluttering the horizon or not, sustainable energy is the future. But it can certainly be a bit more
attractive, says Jeroen Verbrugge from flex/theinnovationlab. This design agency is working with the energy sector on
an unusual energy island.¶
It is difficult to store wind and solar energy, so the current is
sold at rock-bottom prices during peaks and we have to fall back
on fossil fuels during low periods. That will soon be a problem
in the Netherlands, and is already a serious one in countries
like Germany and Denmark. The energy island offers a solution: an offshore island with a sort of marine pit in the middle.
When the windmills in, for example, Germany produce more
energy than required, it can be stored in the ‘pit’ by pumping
water from it into the sea. When there is a demand for energy,
the salt water is pumped back in again. The falling water drives
generators that produce current and conduct it to the mainland.¶
The idea was already developed some 30 years ago by the
Lievense agency and kema, but was not taken up because the
need at the time was not great enough. Flex design agency and
a number of other parties recently revived the idea. ‘It may
not seem obvious what role the creative sector can play in a
project of this kind’, says designer Jeroen Verbrugge, ‘but we
have enriched the plan by letting more imagination loose. We
have been able to inspire others and thus broadened the basis
of support for the concept’.¶
Flex devised an attractive entourage for the island, for why not
combine this innovative technology with an extraordinary
recreational area? A green island with a beautiful jetty where
you can spend the night in a dune cottage and see how green
energy is produced and stored. ‘A sort of mini-Ameland, focused
on sustainable energy’, says Verbrugge, who has cooperated
with Energy Valley, Ballast Nedam and Royal Haskoning on
this project. ‘We are now looking seriously into the possibility
of jointly implementing it’.¶
The Energy Island is an artificial island suitable for shallow waters. It includes
a ‘pit’ for energy storage, the generation of wind and solar energy, and various
recreational functions. (Visualisation: FLEX/theINNOVATIONLAB)
bulletproof skin
Spiderman is not fiction any more
Spiders are ingenious web builders and they use a unique ma­­
terial for the job – stronger than steel, more elastic than nylon,
and a better conductor than copper. Artist Jalila Essäidi discovered new applications.¶
The thread spun by the tropical Golden-Silk Orb Weaver proves
to possess ultimate properties. If you introduce the genes of
that spider into goats, they produce synthetic silk in their
milk from which an extremely strong material can be made.
And that could be a raw material for bullet-proof vests. Artist
Jalila Essäidi read a scientific article about it and let her imagination run a step further. If spider silk is worn by a living body,
you can also make it a part of that body. With the assistance of
scientists and medical experts she managed to do just that:
she developed a piece of bullet-proof skin.¶
‘I’m used to thinking beyond my own field’, says Essäidi, who
calls herself a hybrid artist. ‘Innovation takes place when you
look at something from different angles. I want Bulletproof Skin
to show that more is possible than you realise and to provoke
discussion of how far we are prepared to go to feel safe’. But
there are also practical medical applications: spider thread
proves to be a good medium on which to grow new skin, for
instance in treating serious burns.¶
Essäidi did not stop at making her discovery. She set up BioArt
Laboratories and is curator of the Biobased Wunderkammer,
where artists can experiment with biobased materials. And
she now has her own company: Inspidere®. ‘I have discovered
a new material that is biodegradable, very strong, and can be
applied in all kinds of ways, not only in the medical world, but
also in commercial products such as clothing and shoes. I want
to launch my first project in 2014, but what it will be remains
a secret for the time being’.¶
Golden Orb Weaver, Nephila
empathic design
Empathic design: for me it’s a blank,
but at times when a designer is manifested as yet another jack-of-all-trades
it’s good to specify your jargon. Giving
it a name is one thing, the next step is actually doing it. So when I wanted to design for the prison service, I made
sure that I got locked up myself.¶
Chris Gruijters
Design is irrevocably empathic, but how often do we find that no proper
thought has been given to certain physical or mental things? In the
eyes of an empathic designer that form of not thinking things through
is the incapacity that comes from not understanding. And that is where
empathic designers try to make a difference by allowing themselves an
extra step in the design process to get closer to the experiences and
habitat of their target group. The aim is to design in a way that feels
honest and just, with a result that is appreciated above all by the final
users. And if they do not even get the feeling that it has been designed
at all, so much the better.¶
Learning to empathise
During my training in Industrial Design I soon noticed that a user test
on Friday afternoon with a few student friends who had been collected
at random was not a user test. And just as I was so proud that my interactive light installation hung safely, so I was disappointed when the kids
simply walked past it, not in the slightest realising that they were influencing it. I increasingly came to realise that if I spent an extra week or
two (or three or four or five) during the initial stage of the design on
getting to know and understand my context, there would be little need
to revise my concepts afterwards.¶
Theory never helped me at all. The papers that I found on empathic
design explained in so many words that I had to empathise with my
target group and suggested blindfolding yourself if you are designing
for the blind. But thanks to my search for theory I did come across a
real role model: Patricia Moore. She was a designer who dressed as an
old woman in the 1970s, including something to give her a crooked back,
glasses with thick lenses and cotton wool in her ears. 26 years old at the
time, for three years she travelled and experienced what the world of
the elderly is like. At a time when an old woman was blamed if she
couldn’t open the door, Patricia pointed to the door with her finger.¶
Ultimate scenario
So I’m a designer who likes to plunge into unusual contexts, ones which
make me wonder whether designers are involved in them at all – phenomena that we human beings have created, maintain and have an
opinion about, but we don’t really understand at all.¶
That’s how I became attracted to the phenomenon of the prison. Besides
the few people who know what it entails, National Geographic and Dis­
covery go some way to helping the imagination of the rest. Of course,
sitting in your Dutch cell and seeing a 1 x 2 meter Russian cell flash by
on your tv screen, for which you pay the current and digitenna yourself makes your Playstation seem like an incredible luxury. I had a stereo­
type us prison in mind myself, in which the inmates do nothing but
fitness, wondering why nobody has yet thought up a way of making use
of the energy that is generated in the process.¶
So when I decided for my graduation project to apply my approach to
design in the context of a prison, having myself locked up was the ultimate scenario. After putting out a whole lot of feelers and bright e-mails,
I was given my first chance to enter the closed world of the prison and
to have my say. Armed with role model Patricia Moore and the necessary
examples to show the potential of my design approach, I sat down at
the table of the Vught Penitentiary (pi) with an inspired and candid
prison director. I was onto something!¶
For out of the three proposed levels of cooperation – inspiration, in-depth
and ultimate – you already start to grin at level one, above all when
ultimate means that the young designer who has just joined you at the
table wants to experience prison life for himself in as pure a form as
possible, the real thing. After all, you don’t order the small serving of
popcorn in the cinema.¶
may be something romantic about it, but it is above all set in its ways.
Relevant as a designer here to sell popcorn and crucial that a director
then dares to order the biggest.¶
The doorknob proves that this crossover between design and prison life
really works. During my time inside I had a love-hate relation with that
thing. You couldn’t see whether the door was locked or not. It turned
out to be locked when I wanted to go out of my cell because of some
noise in the corridor. And I was left stuck behind an unlocked door
because I was sleeping when it was unlocked. Or the door was suddenly
opened while I was on the toilet.¶
These were all irritations that I just categorised as ‘this is a punishment’
until I heard the phrase ‘fucking joint’ during my rounds with the
guards. I soon realised that the guards were just as pissed off at having
to open and close every cell door ten times a day. A high tech led flickers at a frequency that holds them up rather than informing them and
it is easy to make a mistake with so many doors and things to do.¶
Chris Noname
‘Can’t we go for in-depth’, the boss’s boss said. But the same day I heard
that I would be locked up for a considerable time inside before the
questions would arise. So unshaven and as free of preconceptions as
possible I stepped into the adventure: the van that took me to the pi
Vught as an inmate, as Chris Noname. Fifteen days and many experiences later I was outside again on the pavement, with my belongings in
a bin-liner and an even longer beard.¶
After a week enjoying Coca Cola, the lock on the toilet door and the
company of my girlfriend, I went back inside, this time to follow the
guards in a different wing. Because in a context with so many shared
interests you have to get to know them all. I became a mixture of part
inmate, part guard, and (after a period of distancing) once again that
more familiar part designer.¶
I wrote an ethnography about my experiences, gave them to an inmate
with a thick felt pen and asked him to read it as critically as possible.
I was starting to understand life inside and to form my opinion. I
was given the right to have my say, and since I speak through designing, I graduated with three finished products which I knew were right.
That was the reward, not the time spent inside, which felt natural to
Inmate, guard and designer
For all these reasons the doorknob I designed is located on one side of
the door only but can be moved to the other side by pushing it. This
makes it easy for the guards to see which doors are closed and to remove
the doubts of the inmates. Besides, it changes the meaning of opening
and closing. A guard gives the occupant of the cell the doorknob and it
is up to him whether he makes use of it or not.¶
Through having been an inmate, guard and designer, I can see the emotional charge of something as trivial as a doorknob. And thanks to design
we can unite those perspectives to create an environment in which
Fucking joint
I now had an answer to the question I had raised earlier of whether any
designers were involved with prisons: no. Someone who has been
working there for twenty years and bumps into something decides that
a panel is needed, goes to the handyman and orders twenty-four. There
Prototype first doorknob made ​​from toilet rolls.
This first model was created by Chris Gruijters in collaboration with guards and inmates.
Doorknob open
Doorknob closed
everyone gets what they want. I think that a design like that deserves
the epithet ‘empathic’.¶
And then I write this essay about it, initially trying to avoid the first
person and wondering whether it is written too personally or not. But
perhaps that is the very point to be made. Try not just to find out what a
third person thinks, but discover how to explain it in the first person.¶
Chris Gruijters (1990) graduated
with honours in Industrial Design
from the Eindhoven University of
Technology with a project in
which he presented well thought
out designs for prison life. By now
Protoptype doorknob
he is back inside in his graduation
context, pi Vught, for the Innovationlab of dji and is consulting
staff and inmates to develop a
suitable design for a shared cell.
design fiction
Designers anticipate the future
We often sleepwalk behind technology
as it whizzes forward. Design fiction
offers an opportunity to be better prepared for what will come. Imaginative experiments in the border area
between art and science make the
future convincingly tangible.¶
Koert van Mensvoort
Does it sometimes happen to you? You wake up in the morning and real­
ise that so much new technology has arrived on the scene again that
you seem to have been lying in a coma for three months? Everybody on
this planet is affected by technological changes in his or her life. Medical
breakthroughs allow us to live longer, biotechnology brings us raspberries in winter, the social media keep us in permanent contact with our
‘friends’. Technology is an enormous source of change in our lives
– more than politics, art or religion. Technology keeps giving us new
opportunities, but also forces us to reformulate ourselves time and
More grip
Despite the fact that we are completely surrounded – encircled, some
would say – by technology, we have few guidelines to determine how
new technology is introduced in our lives. Usually at the moment of its
introduction we haven’t the faintest idea what the latest innovation
will bring us this time. Did you know twenty years ago how internet
would change our society? Did you know five years ago how the smartphone would contribute to your digital lifestyle? Do you know today
what the consequences are if computers presently become very good at
recognising faces, so that everyone in the public space can be automatically identified? Do you know what impact augmented reality and
big data will really have on our lives? Let’s be honest: we often sleepwalk behind our technology.¶
What can we do to get a better grip on our technological future? More
about that later, first a comparison. Suppose I want to become a pilot. I
will have to enter the flight simulator before actually flying a jet fighter
or an Airbus full of holidaymakers. A simulator offers a secure environment in which I can practise my role as a pilot. I can learn to take off,
lose height and land. I can even test extreme situations that I hope
never to experience in reality, such as when three of the four engines
fail. I can crash without being killed on the spot. The flight simulator
helps me to anticipate my role as a pilot. And even once I have qualified
as a pilot, there is always still the air traffic control that constantly
monitors the airplanes and guides them along the right routes.¶
Science & fiction
And now our society. What do we do as a society to prepare ourselves
for our technological future? Wouldn’t it be a good idea if, like the pilot in
the flight simulator, we could anticipate possible scenarios beforehand?
And if we could have a radar, like the air traffic control, to locate and
identify incoming technologies to guide them along the right routes?¶
Good news: this is already happening, at least in part. For instance, scientists are making all kinds of climate models to work out what the earth
Phonebloks by Dave Hakkens
would look like if the sea level rose by two metres as a result of climate
change. Would the dykes stand firm? Would Amsterdam be flooded?
What would it cost, and how does that compare with the cost of raising
the dykes? Such calculations are not intended to predict the future;
they are made to chart possible scenarios so that we can make adjustments where necessary and prepare ourselves for what will come.¶
Besides the scientific calculations, there are the science fiction film
makers and writers who are adept at supplying us with visions of the
future. Think of Star Trek, The Matrix, Blade Runner or the books of Arthur
C. Clark, Isaac Asimov or Bruce Sterling. While scientific efforts are
mainly directed at a select group of experts, the genre of science fiction
reaches a large and broad public. This genre is not necessarily based on
facts and rational analyses, however, which some scientists see as reason enough to dismiss it as a whole, but that is a mistake. All new technology, after all, starts with an idea, dream or vision in a human brain,
and the imagination is an important engine of innovation. Examples?
Think of the invention of the communications satellite by Arthur C.
Clark, the deep-sea submarine by Jules Verne in 20,000 Leagues Under the
Sea, or more recently the film Minority Report (2002) in which Tom Cruise
uses a gesture-based interface that has inspired an entire generation of
interaction researchers. Film director Steven Spielberg had the interface in Minority Report designed in such detail that, although not yet
technologically feasible, it demonstrated tangibly just how flowing
and intuitive its operation would be. This brings us to a third category
of explorations of the future that is located between the scientists and
science fiction visionaries: design fiction.¶
Tangible future
The genre of design fiction is practised by speculative artists, designers
and technologists. They design not for the present, but for a possible
future. In fact each of them is a kind of inventor of things that are not
yet entirely possible. Examples of design fiction are the Bulletproof Skin
of Jalila Essaïdi, the Energy Island of flex/theinnovationlab, Human
Birdwings by Floris Kaayk, and the Phonebloks by Dave Hakkens.¶
The added value of design fiction as against scientific calculations is that
design is by definition material, tangible, and thereby also communicative. Particularly at a time of data overload, in which a gigantic quantity
of knowledge is produced that immediately disappears in a sea of information, it is a great advantage if visions of the future can be made con­
vincingly tangible. While scientific explorations are mainly exchanged
within a select group of experts, design fiction can not only bring disciplines together around a specific proposal, but also communicate it to
a larger public. That is good, because the future affects us all and is too
important to be left up to the experts.¶
Still from ‘Flying like a bird’. Human Birdwings from Floris Kaayk.
uct, this can lead to confusion. Moreover, the makers of design fiction
by no means always adopt a clear position with regard to the technological feasibility of their plans and their intention of really implementing the design or just telling a good story. Today’s design fiction may be
tomorrow’s design fact, but it may just as easily turn out to be design
In short, as a genre design fiction is still in its infancy. There is no clear
platform and its practitioners have diverse methods and motives. All
the same, it has potential. It can bring people and disciplines together
around specific, tangible visions of the future in the border area be­­
tween art and science. Such crossovers may not only bring about innovation, but also help us to avoid dystopias and to get a better grip on
our future.¶
Like scientific projections, speculative designs need not always be
desirable; they function as creative radar for what may lie in the future,
good or bad. Like dystopian science fiction – take George Orwell’s 1984
– dystopian design fiction can also offer us benchmarks we want to
steer well clear of. Another similarity is that design fiction is sometimes, but by no means always, backed up by technology. Within science
fiction a distinction is drawn between hard science fiction, based on
extrapolations of existing technology, and soft science fiction in which
the imagination takes off. In this connection it should be noted that
even the most unrealistic soft science fiction can still have a cultural
value because it enables us to reflect on life, the world, and our position in it – but as art, not science.¶
Exploring boundaries
The greatest strength of design fiction is at the same time its weakness:
the speculative designs can be so tangible and convincing that some
people will think that the design already exists and is for sale. Unlike
the genre of science fiction, which remains tidily within the cover of
the book or the edge of the cinema screen, design fiction does not have
a clear platform. Particularly in a visual culture of blogs and magazines,
in which a flashy demo is often more important than a working prod-
Koert van Mensvoort works in the
border area between art, technology and philosophy. He is founder
and director of Next Nature Net-
work and a part-time associate of the Eindhoven University of
Building company forms winning combination
‘I like drawing diagrams that visualise
feasibility’, says Martin Schellekens
from Heijmans. ‘Designers sketch a special experience. Combine our brainpower and something very good
can result.’¶
If you still want to be a player in a market that is traditionally regarded
as no longer viable, you will have to innovate, says Schellekens, Bid
Director at Heijmans. ‘The building sector used to distinguish itself by
price, but that is no longer where our added value lies. The focus now
is on the quality of the services we provide’. That servicing is changing
drastically under the influence of the building crisis, government policy and the sector’s own ambitions. Heijmans now profiles itself as an
innovative company that supplies not only buildings and roads but also
ideas, designs and service. To do so the firm explicitly looks for ways of
cooperating with other disciplines and sectors.¶
An example is the cooperation with designer Daan Roosegaarde, who
ventilated his pioneering ideas about luminous asphalt in public and
was promptly invited by Heijmans to come and talk about them. In the
meantime they are working in co-creation on the Smart Highway of
tomorrow. ‘These kinds of experimental projects do not immediately
yield returns, but they lead to new discoveries and that makes us distinctive’, says Schellekens. ‘As a result the market sees us as innovative;
we are no longer a traditional building company, but one that knows
how to bring parties together to create something new’.¶
New construction
We are having our conversation in Soesterberg, where a consortium led
by Heijmans is building the new National Military Museum. According
to Schellekens, they would never have secured this commission if they
had not sat down at the same table as architects, designers, constructional and installation engineers and service companies to develop the
concept right from the start. But it goes further than that: the consortium has also signed a dbfmo contract – Design, Build, Finance, Maintain, Operate – for the next 25 years. This is a relatively new form of
National Military Museum (Visualisation: bmd)
National Military Museum – Entrance (Visualisation: bmd)
contract by which the government places responsibility for a long time
in the hands of the market parties and thereby hopes to stimulate the
innovative force of the market.¶
The cooperation with members of the creative sector in the consortium
is new for Heijmans. Schellekens: ‘In the past the government devised
the plan and programme of requirements, found an architect to do the
drawing, and then a sub-contractor to carry out the work. Now we are
leading and invited the architects Claus & Kaan, landscape architects
h+n+s and exhibition designers Kossmann.dejong to help us to find a
way of securing this job’. The designers were present at every meeting
with the client. ‘They hear different things from what I hear. They are
much more associative, think from the perspective of the visitor, want
to bring the collection to life. That isn’t how I talk about things, but it
certainly contributed to winning the tender’.¶
Intelligent optimisation
‘At first we didn’t want to be too distracted by financial considerations
– to simply make the best without limitations. Of course, that took us
above the budget. To avoid throwing away the baby with the bath­
water, the next stage was to cut expenditure in consultation with the
creative experts, our technical experts and the funders. That resulted
in different choices from what we would have done on our own. A subcontractor would have scrapped the tower costing 700,000, but it was
kept because of its crucial importance for the link with the landscape.
We weighed up the pros and cons together down to the last moment.
We really needed one another to be able to optimise in an intelligent
way. As a result, all of the parties are now the owner of the result’.¶
The design delegation does not consist of architects alone. Mijksenaar
(routing), Bruns (exhibition building), Shosho (animation and films)
and Fabrique (house style, digital media) are also involved. Integral
design may not be easy, but it is worthwhile, Schellekens believes: ‘I’m
convinced that this approach yields better results. But of course the
risks you take involve other concerns too’. If it is to work, he says, you
must not be afraid to give other disciplines room. ‘Parties must dare to
show their vulnerability and be able to deal with uncertainties. And
after all the free associations, everyone must be able to conform to the
constraints of time and budget – at some point creative minds have to
stop designing, which they find rather difficult. And yet it is precisely
the different contributions of the various disciplines that yield a good
result in combination with one another. For if we were all to play the
same game, nothing new would ever emerge’.¶
National Military Museum – Theme (Visualisation: bmd)
philips design
Inventions with a spectacular effect
Philips welcomes design as an essential
success factor. The company employs
no less than 500 designers, but is quite
happy to bring in an outsider if necessary. ‘By integrating design better in
your company you arrive at innovative
solutions’, says Paul Gardien from Philips Design.¶
‘Design now plays a much larger role in the differentiation of products
than in the past’. As Vice-President of Philips Design, Paul Gardien is
familiar with both parties to a commission. ‘The discipline has become
very mature in the last twenty-five years. While in the early 1980s it
was still mainly about thinking up a shape and colour, by now design is
capable of influencing the entire business strategy of a company’. He
and a colleague wrote an essay about this: Walking the Walk, Putting
Design at the Heart of Business. It describes how Philips Design was transformed from a sort of external design agency to become an integral
part of the entire organisation that is involved in everything that the
electronics company does.¶
Human aspect
In the past the electric lamp factory used to launch new products on
the basis of a technological invention, but today the starting point for
innovation is the demand of the consumer. And that is where the
expertise of the designers lies, as Gardien is aware: ‘Design is peopledriven. It brings the human aspect into the picture, and that is what
Philips needs’. With more than 500 designers in 18 locations, Philips has
a good deal of in-house design disciplines, but it still tries to cooperate
with external designers. ‘There are so many factors involved with a new
product: it is not just a new coffee machine, but also packaging, instructions, a marketing campaign, website and shop concept. All of that has
to be designed. We have a lot of in-house expertise, but you can’t have
a first-class retail designer or fashion designer on your permanent staff
as well. If the product calls for it, we – very selectively – bring in external experts’.¶
Next step
Innovation is of vital importance, Gardien confirms. It is not for nothing that the new slogan has become Innovation and You instead of
Sense and Simplicity. The concern hereby emphasises that it wants to
serve people’s interest through innovation. Gardien distinguishes two
forms. ‘You have the design of the next tv or mri scanner: that means
looking for the next step in a structured way. But we also aim for innovation with a much broader reach. That is more about socio-cultural
trends of the future. We do not think about those on the basis of existing Philips concepts, we invent new ones after thorough research
has been carried out’. So you can find research papers on the Philips
website about a new approach to urban development, the improvement of the living and learning conditions in Chinese schools, or the
search for solutions for health care that is under heavy pressure as the
result of ageing.¶
Growth market
The direct challenge to Philips is in the field of health care too. ‘We are
active in three areas: consumer electronics, information, and health
care. The third is the least visible to the consumer, but it is certainly
the largest growth market. Hospitals are increasingly judged in terms
of performance, not only medically but also in terms of how customerfriendly they are. We respond to that challenge with crossover concepts
and products that are developed in close cooperation with medical specialists and scientists’.¶
The example of one of those concepts that has won loads of design
prizes in the last few years is Ambient Experience, a line of products to
make hospital visits less intimidating for the patients while at the same
time creating a more pleasant work atmosphere for the medical staff.
Gardien: ‘Ambient Experience is about the complete experience of the
patient in the hospital. We have not just looked at the equipment, but
we have scrutinised the whole context’. This resulted in a series of products in which light, video, audio and interactivity reassure patients,
such as an mri scanner in which patients can wrap the whole space in
warm colours and choose visual projections and sounds with which
they feel comfortable. And for children there is the Kitten Scanner, a
small replica, in which they can scan their doll while an animated
explanation is given of how it works.¶
Great improvement
The results of Ambient Experience are spectacular: both adults and
children feel more relaxed, with the result that they are better at lying
still, there is less need to repeat the procedure, and the expensive
equipment can be used more efficiently. The project is not just about
expensive equipment in inspection and operation rooms. It has been
extended to include, for example, a lighting plan for the wards in which
the light is a little more yellow when they wake up, brighter at midday,
and agreeably dimmed at night. It is a simple principle, but it does help
the patients to feel better. ‘Ambient Experience is a good example of
design-based innovation’, says Gardien. ‘If you innovate on the basis of
technology alone, you never arrive at these kinds of solutions’.¶
Ambient Experience
Programme Council
Jeroen van Erp, Creative Industry Topteam
Kitty Leering, picnic
Madeleine van Lennep, Association of Dutch Designers – bno
Janny Rodermond, Creative Industries Fund nl
Chris Gruijters
Koert van Mensvoort
Interviews, cases & editing
Willemijn de Jonge
Piet Gerards Ontwerpers
(Piet Gerards and Maud van Rossum)
Amsterdam Economic Board (AEB) stimulates innovation and cooperation between governmental agencies, research institutes and the business world to promote sustainable economic growth in the Amsterdam metropolitan region.
Dutch Creative Council is the independent strategic advisory council of and for the creative industry, which it aims to stimulate and develop to become a nationally and internationally prominent top sector.
CLICKNL is the national research and innovation network of and for the creative sector.
Federation of Dutch Creative Industries (FDCI) links eight branch and professional organisations from the creative commercial services: bna, bni, bno, dga,
Fotografen­Federatie, Modint, pibn and vea.
Lidewij Veenland
Chamber of Commerce and Syntens Innovation Centre joined forces in 2014 to help entrepreneurs with a successful start, the innovation of services and products, and the achievement of their growth ambitions.
Studio Mason ai Monti, Rome
PICNIC is an international platform for innovation and creativity that matches people,
organisations and ideas to devise solutions for the future.
Federation of Dutch Creative Industries
Cross Innovation promotes collaborative and user-driven innovation that happens
across sectoral, organisational, technological and geographic boundaries.
Zwaan Printmedia
978 90 821762 1 6
This publication is the second in a series about how designers can contribute
to solving problems in other sectors. The cases included have been selected
primarily for the lever effect they have produced. This initiative is part of
a broader movement to convey the importance of the creative industry
for other sectors. Besides this brochure, meetings are organised in which
designers enter into dialogue with producers, principals and researchers
from other sectors. All these activities are supported by the parties listed
on the next page.
Creative Industries Fund NL provides project subsidies to strengthen quality within the creative industry, to promote innovation and cross-sectoral working, and to professionalise entrepreneurship both nationally and internationally.
Waag Society is a pioneer in the field of digital media, a platform for artistic research,
and a breeding ground for cultural and social innovation.
All descriptions and data of the published projects are based on the material submitted by the participants to the publication Crossover Works.
The editor is not responsible for errors or incomplete reporting of project data.
© 2014 Federation Dutch Creative Industries, Amsterdam
Bulletproof skin, an app that can suppress
panic, a fair smartphone. It sounds like
science fiction, but it is already here! More
and more creative minds are joining forces
with experts from other sectors. This leads
to surprising discoveries: attractive solutions
for social and economic challenges. And that
is just inspiration for more. Crossover Works!¶