Jul 13, 2009

TalkingDesign: Nederlandse Stijl

Praten over ontwerp, Part 1

AIGA XCD TalkingDesign goes to Rotterdam! Our TalkingDesign Session features graduates from the Willem de Kooning Academy (WDKA)


The Academy has just launched the Cultural Diversity minor, in collaboration with students from the Department of Cultural & Social Studies (CMV) at Rotterdam University.

Research for the Project is commissioned by a partner from the City of Rotterdam. This season’s partner was the Historisch Museum Rotterdam (HMR), initiator of the Roffa 5314 project, named after Rotterdam South, zip code 5314. The programme focuses on Dutch youth’s life-style, i.e, clothing, style, language…as well as publicity about events organised by HMR.

WDKA’s primary goal is to get more involved with the City’s urban culture and cultural diversity. Research topics covered streetculture, social design, global design and non-western typography.

Many thanks to Mark Mulder, Programme Coordinator, for facilitating these interviews.

Praten over ontwerp 1 features:

Karlijn Brent = KVDB
Lisa Clair Pearson = LCP
Marloes Engelhart = ME
Peter Aquino = PAQ
Natasja Draer = ND

AIGA XCD: What is your name? Where were you born and what neighbourhood did you grow up in? Where were your parents born? Why did you participate in HMR-Roffa 5314 project?

KVDB: Karlijn, I was born and grew up near Rotterdam. My mother comes from the northern part of the Netherlands and my father was born in Indonesia after my grandparents moved there.

I participated in the project because of my ‘Cultural Diversity’ minor. I thought it would be a good chance for me to learn more about museums, exhibition set-ups, etc. I am originally from the Department of Cultural & Social Studies.

LCP: Lisa Claire Pearson. I was born in Amsterdam, grew up in Monnickendam, a little town along the waters of Markermeer which is a part of the IJsselmeer.

The neighborhood is quiet and family-oriented. The most people know each other, and the some families have lived in Monnickendam for generations. I left Monnickendam, because I think the world is bigger then the town you live in. I’ve been working on Roffa 5314 (linkto http://www.roffa5314.nl/site/) because it is really interesting to do research about people, and explore their world and prejudices.

ME: Marloes Engelhart, born in Gouda, in a neighbourhood that lots of young families moved to in the late 70s to early 80s. My parents were also born in Gouda. I’m participating in this project because I enjoy different cultures, their rituals and religion, I love to travel I am very curious about people. It’s also why I choose to study Lifestyle and Design.

PAQ: Peter Aquino, born in the small city of San Pablo 80 km south of Manila (the Philippines). Technically, I’m not Dutch. Our neighbourhood was composed mostly of lower to middle-middle class families, and most are distant relatives and acquaintances. My parents were also born in the Philippines. I participated in the Schielandhuis-Roffa 5314 Project as part of my minor in Cultural Diversity.

ND: My name is Natasja Draer, I was born in a regular appartment in the center of Schiedam, the same city my parents were born in. I participated in the project as cultural diversity assignment. I’m an Advertising major, extremely interested in group dynamics and behaviour.

AIGA XCD: Which description of today’s changing world makes most sense to you? Which one best describes your personal experience and why? (choose one of the 3 below)

a. multiculturalism (that means you experience different cultures as distinct and separate)
b. crossculturalism (this means that you experience different cultures, some changing the other, you tend to pick a little bit of this and a little bit of that)
c. globalism (this means you feel that all the cultures are melting into one style, and everyone’s pretty much looking the same, inspired by the same things)

KVDB: Crossculturalism, because I think that in a country like the Netherlands (and maybe other countries as well, but I have no knowledge of that) there are a lot of different things going on. Things too numerous and diverse to ignore. But you are still you, and the other is not, you can’t just all be the same. That’s why I think that while you experience different things –in this case cultures– you may pick things up, but again, you are still you. It’s a difficult thing to explain really… Another piece of evidence maybe that cultures are intertwining..?

LCP: I think I would choose ‘crossculturalism’. This is how I see things around me, in my world. People influence on each other, and I suppose you could say that cultures do melt into each other, but not “globally”. People preserver their uniqueness and evolve differently. People need to keep their identities, but ironically they need to “change to stay the same”.

ME: crossculturalism

PAQ: It depends. Speaking of values and cultural heritage, I believe I see cross-culturalism most often, when cultures intersect and influence each other to varying degrees, but not necessarily combine or melt into each other. Trends and Pop culture, on the other hand, seem to be more and more global, because these are closely tied to global media and commerce.

ND: Globalism, I believe most of the modern world is inspired by the same things these days, for which I think the internet and easily accesible technology is mostly to blame. Through media, trends and ideas are being spread across the globe. Of course, this doesn’t apply in censored environments.


AIGA XCD: What music are you listening to these days? Which movie or TV show has impressed you the most in the last 12 months? Any Dutch movies or shows? If not, why?

KVDB: I listen to different kinds of music, ranging from Metal to Celtic/Folk to J-Pop/Rock. The TV show that impresses me the most is ‘Lewis’, because I’m just a sucker for a good detective story. Haven’t really watched any movies, so no comment there. I’m not particularly impressed with Dutch movies or series. I don’t care too much for the themes (too much sex = really boring) and I find the writing poor… I prefer British/American movies or Japanese ones.

LCP: Music: I love UB40. Lately I’ve enjoyed watching ‘Samantha Who?’, ‘Being Erica’ and a Dutch show called ‘Single’. These all are “feminine shows” but one learns so much about oneself… ‘Samantha Who?’ is about a girl who lost her memory with a car-accident, and she tries to find out who she is or was. ‘Being Erica’ is about a girl who regrets things she did in her past, and gets the chance to go back and change the happenings and makes things worse! These shows draw a lot on classical philosophy, actually. ‘Single’ is a Dutch show about three single girls who sometimes have boyfriends, but also end up single, a little like ‘Sex and the City’, but less glamorous. They could be the girl next door, or even me :)

ME: Jazz, Hiphop and Soul but also Pop. The last movies I saw were Benjamin Button and Coco avant Chanel. I really like movies, especially art house movies! I also like ”De wereld draait door”, a hosted program that explores current events and the audience reaction. Like reading a newspaper on television.

PAQ: I listen to diverse musical styles and groups, from all over the world. To keep in touch with music trends, I watch the TV programme of Jools Holland on the BBC. Otherwise, I watch very little telly, except for the news, and have very little time to watch films regularly, unless it is required for our film analysis subject. The most recent film I have seen which has impressed me tremendously was Henry Selick’s Coraline. I enjoy craftsmanship as well as good storytelling.

ND: I’ve been listening to a lot of different kinds of music, I pick up a bit of everything, but I mostly listen to soul and hiphop (Talib Kweli, The Roots, Erykah Badu) I also like to put on some old records like Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, Shirley Bassey or Dusty Springfield every now and then.

I download most movies and TV shows – essentially American — from the internet. Recently I discovered ‘Weeds’ and ‘The L word’, ‘United states of Tara’ all series from Showtime. I like them for their witty dialogues, good editing and provocative (for the USA) subjects; Weeds is about a widow mother dealing weeds in the suburbs, The L word about a group of Lesbians in LA and United States of Tara about a schizophrenic woman. My favorite movie this year, so far, has is Slumdog Millionaire, which I suppose isn’t disciminating of me since it’s already won an Oscar.


AIGA XCD: Which cultures do you think about most when you are designing or creating art? Why do you reference these cultures? Do you feel they represent or inspire you more than other cultures?

KVDB: Though I am not in the Art Department and currently do not really create or design, I am deeply inspired by Asian cultures. The fascination began a few years ago. I think it’s because it such a different way of living, of believing, that it has struck a cord in me.

LCP: I think a lot about sub-cultures. Lately I use a lot of styles like hiphop, snowboard, breakdance or other dance forms in my work. I relate to these styles because I like the clothes they wear, and snowboarding is my passion. I love to see the weird moves people make, the choreography is beautiful.

ME: I like real old, “nature-based” cultures like the Aboriginals, Indians, African…because I feel very connected with Nature. I also feel inspired by the thing currently known as “street culture”… just the mix of everything that happens in my home city, Rotterdam.

PAQ: I am an animator, so I always think in terms of stereotypes and clichés, which are mostly Western. This is probably due to influence from Western media. Otherwise, I think of my own culture, when the concept is appropriate for a particular project. More and more, I am also influenced by Japanese and Chinese styles.

ND: Usually I don’t make my own ‘art’, since I’m being educated to be an Art Director in advertising. Who I think about in the process depends on who my target group is, because the concept and form need to be something they would be attracted to.


AIGA XCD: What does the Dutch visual language feel like? Do you use it a lot in your work? If not, why? Do you feel like your cultural values are well reflected in your neighbourhood? Do you have any ideas why?

KVDB: As I stated before, I am not an artist… My work deals with social work and education in culture. I haven’t thought of this question before in my work and am afraid I can’t really think of what the term ‘visual language’ really entails.

LCP: I’m not really sure what you mean by ‘Dutch visual language’. It makes me think about the Dutch flag, color orange, tulips, cheese, cows, clogs and the ‘delfts blauw’. I never use these thing in my work, because I don’t relate…my family comes from England, and I love to buy Dutch souvenirs for them. The reality is that my neighborhood could be anywhere. I can’t name anything that would be typical Dutch. In fact, I experience Dutchness only on the days like ‘Queens Day’ or when the Dutch football (soccer) team plays. Then the whole street changes turn orange, and is full of Dutch flags.

ME: I think it is very clean and clear but I dont know if you can say that always “works”. You tend to see minimalism more in Dutch design, but I don’t know if this reflects our cultural values…

PAQ: Dutch style and design is traditionally very European. Minimal, clean and neat, but nevertheless always fresh. They are not afraid to use colour or new techniques. And visual trends turnover quite often. I believe I am influenced by this but can’t say I use a particular style, including Dutch, all the time. As mentioned above, it depends on the project and the visual design needs thereof. Unfortunately, my cultural values aren’t reflected much in the neighbourhood I live in. I stick out well enough as a non-white person in a predominantly white neighbourhood. At least they know I live there.

ND: Referring to my answer to the 2nd question, I think style has become a lot more global. I find it hard to describe a specific Dutch style, though a lot of times I can recognize something made by a Dutch designer. Trying to put my finger on it I would say the Dutch style is quite sober and down to earth, such as the overall Dutch mentality.

Like our Princess Maxima said, I don’t believe there’s such thing as the Dutch culture, cultures have been living together for decades in my neighbourhood and everybody is picking up little things from everyone. I think one of the most important ‘Dutch’ virtue is tolerance and everyone around me is tolerant of each other, so I guess that means our values are well-reflected in our design.


AIGA XCD: Do you think this programme will help you develop a “Dutch style”? Or should you be free to develop whatever style you want? What was the most important thing you discovered during Het Schielandhuis-Roffa 5314 project?

KVDB: I don’t think there is anything like a ‘Dutch style’. Everyone has their own ‘uniqueness’ in how they do things and how they think. Should there be a unique style? I personally think that would only slow me down and am therefore glad I am not limited in any way during this project.

The thing I feared most during this project is that there would be too much emphasis on ‘design’. I have no experience whatsoever in this. But I noticed that concepts and teamwork are more important so I could easily import my thoughts and expertise into the experience.

LCP: I don’t think it is relevant anymore to develop a ‘Dutch style’. Holland has so many cultures… I think everybody should be free to develop whatever style they want, because we all are individuals. The most important thing I’ve learned during ‘Roffa 5314’ is to discard the prejudices I had about the youth on the streets. Not that my thoughts were negative, per se just uninformed and coloured by stereotypes.

ME: I’ve learnt a lot! To transform ideas into reality and products and also how to work productively on a team. Basically, just be open and non-judgemental.

PAQ: A particular Dutch style can’t really be “developed,” I think. I believe styles in general get more and more subjective and personal, and speaking from a design point of view, I think it is more important to develop one’s own personal style, to which potential clients would be attracted to. The most important lesson I learned from our project is the enormous influence of street style on today’s style trends—a good source of fresh ideas and inspiration.

ND: The design style I used for this project reflects current youth trends I observed during my research, so I hope they feel some connection to our final work…

AIGA XCD: Where do you see yourself 5 years from now? Do you think your Design style will be the same?

KVDB: I have no idea where I’ll be in five years. Possibly working in a theatre or in some international organisation that helps the disadvantaged in my community (or in another country). I expect I will grow a lot and experience more. Staying the same isn’t really an option, it would only mean that I think I already know everything there is to know…and I do not!

LCP: I see myself as a mother, married and settled. As an artist I see myself a teacher, giving workshops to people who want to learn how to draw, paint and model clay. I don’t see myself as an artist who creates a style. I’d rather help others to create their style.

ME: I think I will be more like myself! And have my own style. Now and then, I have to make concessions or simply figure out what my style is going to be. But I know my “style” and work will always have a hint of the Romantic, Optimist and the Alternative.

PAQ: I believe I shall be running an outstanding animation studio, doing freelance and subcontract work. My housestyle will be mixed, inspired by European and Asian influences.

ND: I hope and think my style will grow and change just as the rest of the world will develop, so it will still be new and surprising 5 years from now.

Photo credits: Vincent Dekkers

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