— Things get complicated on their own, but simplicity must be designed.’ That was the title of an article I was reading just after the jury meeting for the Best Commissioning category. A title that perfectly summed up for me how I had experienced the description of the category.

In 2016 Brabantia participated in the Dutch Design Awards. Really exciting, of course. As we were a traditional Dutch company with an image for reliability, we weren’t particularly well known for our beautiful and sustainable design. We had already invested heavily in design in the years before 2016, by paying a lot of attention to the design, styling and photography of our products, and to the way in which our products and brand were communicated to the outside world. But still, to be measured alongside other larger companies, with ditto budgets – such as Transavia, which had just undergone a complete facelift – was still nerve-wracking. But it was not only the competition that made it so exciting. The category definition also played a role. I did not immediately understand what the Best Commissioning category exactly entailed. And to be perfectly honest; now that I’m jury chairman for this category years later, I still don’t understand it very well. 

Design as a strategy

This category is ultimately all about clients using design and designers as part of their strategy to create a high-profile end result. Admittedly, now I’m making it a little more complicated than it actually is. But anyway, I am a fan of what the American writer and philosopher Henry David Thoreau wrote to his colleague Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Simplify, simplify, simplify”. Or rather: could it be easier? I understand this because it is something that works well in the design of Brabantia products. So let’s see if we can apply the same principle here too. In our opinion, Best Commissioning is about the successful use of design in a core strategy aimed at reaching your target group. Emerson’s response to Thoreau’s statement was: “One ‘simplify’ would have sufficed’, so let me try to make it even simpler. I think it is basically about design as a strategy.

If you realise that I am only talking about the title of the category here and not even about the content of the submitted projects, then you will understand the scope of the challenge faced by organisations to use design as a strategy to reach your target group. The nominees for Best Commissioning have at least understood the challenge. Under the guidance of Fabrique, Service Apotheek takes its franchisees on a journey through design thinking with a fresh and consistent style. Morrow manages to make a particularly sensitive topic (sexual abuse) very clear and accessible for the target group of Slachtofferhulp. And Vlisco translates – in collaboration with Simone Post – its designs down to the tiniest details (in this case their building on the other side of the canal in Helmond). Nicely done. The design world is changing at lightning speed. Just take the possibilities that have arisen with the emergence of digitization – from augmented reality and virtual reality and increased connectivity – to the increasingly narrow definition of target groups and blockchain. Too many to mention. Which doesn’t make things any easier. Simplicity is complicated. But maybe that’s putting it too simply.

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