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Design Academy Eindhoven #DDW13

The DAE graduation show under new creative director Widdershoven showed an impressive foray into broader territory.  Design has spread its wings and designers are researching ways to tackle society’s biggest challenges.

By Gabrielle Kennedy /asdf 31-10-2013

The show was titled “Self Unself”. The point being that a good design has to be a personal design, but designers do not operate in a vacuum. They interact with clients and society - the “Unself”. 

Information design – a way of coping with the crazy overload of information we are expected to absorb and simply can’t - lay at the core of many of this year’s DAE graduation projects.  A lot of students focussed on how design can be better utilized in the presentation of economic facts and trends, but health care and news media was also tackled.

Renee Scheepers delved into cancer patients and how they absorb and relate to information about their illness.  She discovered that 40 to 80% of the information given to them is forgotten and half of what is remembered is incorrect.

In “A Series of Mnemonics” Scheepers added a visual component to the endless texts regarding treatments, side effects and a patient’s current condition.  She discovered through her research at a radiography center that presenting information visually helped both doctors and patients to better understand one another.

Monica Alisse looked at how the daily news is warped to fit a market and its expectations.  She focussed on the tragic story of Malala Yousafzai – the young Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot and wounded in 2012 – and visually documented how the story evolved in the United States and Pakistan.  Her presentation brilliantly captures how our perception of the news varies greatly depending on how it is presented.  This can be a dangerous thing and create a “story” that spins away from just the facts.

Rather than sort through ways to better absorb information overload, Dirk Smit opted instead to design an escape from the bombardment – a literal escape van made from second-hand materials that does nothing more than take one away from the chaos.

Similarly, Matthijs Holland took the impossibility of real escape given the proliferation of smartphones as his subject.  In his film “Escapism '13” he shows how our own imaginations provide the best escape if only we would let them flourish rather then whittle under the influence of digital diversions.

It was not, however, all doom and gloom in the graduation show.  Mark Berkers’ “Easy Funeral” is a funny and savvy way to deal with the very closed and enormously expensive racket that the funeral industry has become. Capitalizing on a family’s grief, funeral parlours charge exorbitant fees for very little.  Borrowing the visual identity of Easyjet – the budget airline – he designed a fresh approach to funeral arrangements that are transparent, accessible and cheap.

What was often very interesting in this show was how different projects related back to one another.  “Phone Blocks” by Dave Hakkens looked at how millions of phones are discarded annually often only because one small part needs to be replaced (an interesting article on this subject and how it relates to Apple appeared in the New York Times this week).   He designed a phone that consists of simple pieces that click together.  Each component has its own function – camera, WiFi, battery, display -  and can be individually replaced.

Lissa Zengerink, on the other hand, was more interested in looking at how people thought their mobile devices operated.  How does data manifest itself in space?  She translated various explanations about invisible data flowing into a visual story that combines the factual and the imagined.

Some of the stand-out stars, award nominees and recipients were “Single Spark” by Luc van Hoeckel and again Dave Hakkens for “Precious Plastic”.

“Single Spark” is an economic stimulation idea to help the people of Northern Uganda who have been horribly impacted upon by the war.  The project is a starter kit with a dual purpose - an ointment to ease pain, but also an opportunity for economic impulse.  The ointment is a tiny micro approach to a much larger problem, but serves to symbolize how such a concept can work.  Van Hoeckel mentions bread and baskets – both everyday survival items – as other potential products.

Dave Hakkens’ “Precious Plastic” project is based on the sad truth that only 10% of plastic is recycled.  This is a shocking statistic considering it is such a recyclable material that does not breakdown naturally.  The machinery needed though is complex and expensive so Hakkens developed a small-scale recycling workshop that can be used on a very local level.  With all the talk of 3d printing labs popping up on every street corner, it is easier to imagine and possibly more environmentally beneficial to have such facilities within easy reach of every household.

This was an interesting graduation show with students producing a lot of work in that zone between self and unself – where the tension between wanting to stay real and true battles against the need to connect and be relevant.

Images: Large at top Dirk Smit's escape van, small from top - Renee Scheepers' cancer visualization project, Monica Alisse's visualization of the Malala Yousafzai story, Dirk Smit's escape van, "Escapism '13" by Matthijs Holland, Mark Berkers’ “Easy Funeral”, “Phone Blocks” by Dave Hakkens, and “Precious Plastic” by Dave Hakkens.

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