06.05.2019

As well as the annual celebration of recognition and appreciation, the objective of Dutch Design Awards (DDA) is far more nuanced; what is going on within the discipline (trends), how is it connected to the social debate, how can we involve a wider audience in what we find so important; good (product) solutions for society.

It is an ambitious goal. Can you expect a designer to be able to coordinate the design process and end result with, for example, the polarisation of our society or the growing inequality between rich and poor?

You can assume that every educated designer with the right amount of social responsibility will generate an optimal solution within the defined conditions. It is a challenge for the jury to assess whether the designer has succeeded in this, because topics like material use, sustainability, repairability and, for instance, re-usability (of materials of components) often demand much more than one jury session. Research and time (literally, as it takes a few years before the effect of a product or solution can be seen) are required in order to provide answers to complex issues.

That is why it is so great that we can talk about things being beautiful or ugly, as well as criteria that improve the world. It is completely subjective, but with the right gut feeling and a good mixture of judges, this remains a valuable condition for recognition that should not be underestimated.

— Designers have the chance to make the world a slightly better place to live.

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Speaking of beautiful and ugly, once again I was not in Milan during this year’s Salone del Mobile. Why not? Because the Salone phenomenon has become ugly to me over the last fifteen years. You have to be there, but you don’t want to be there. This year I asked my good colleague Peter (thank you) for a regular update of what he came across, and we were kept entertained by the unstoppable development of showy ‘installations’ by bigger brands that often have very tenuous links with design. Creativity is repressed by marketing and then given a design sauce. The city is taken over by big money and the creatives have to search for a new future!

Back to Dutch Design Awards, but not without mentioning the South African Design Foundation Awards. I was there earlier this year, at the awards ceremony in Cape Town. What a positive energy, such a great connection with the design community. And the award itself was also incredibly beautiful; a bronze, pensive gorilla created by sculptor Otto du Plessis. Each and every winner was very happy to be able to take it home. This is also the continued ambition of DDA; to be an annual event searching for change, movement, going against the flow, connection, daring and innovation, with an amazing award for the winners.

Designers have the chance to make the world a slightly better place to live, and although we must always remain critical about overconfidence, we can (and must) share the quality of our joint efforts with each other and with a wider audience.

Joost Alferink, DDA judge and commission chairman in the category ‘Product’.