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Dutch Design Quality Mark

Last week the Dutch Design Quality Mark was launched.  Not everyone agrees on its worth.

By Gabrielle Kennedy / 31-03-2011

The Dutch Design Quality Mark is the brainchild of MarieL Vieira and Eelco Jager.  Part marketing, part branding, the mark is designed to establish trust and offer consumers and clients a guarantee of quality.  

The commercial initiative was introduced, according to the press release, to introduce new, upcoming and experienced designers to clients and consumers.  While the usual slew of big names are well known in the market, there are a lot of less established and newly emerging designers that potential clients are not familiar with. Apparently these clients need an “official” way to establish trust.

“The mark will help businesses understand the Dutch Design landscape,” says Vieira whose background is in brand consulting.

Based on their research, Vieira and Jager say Dutch design has bounced back from its tough times and is once again hot.  “The industry needs to ride that wave,” says Vieira.  “There are 27 000 monthly Google searches about what and who is Dutch design.  The Dutch Design Quality Mark will make those queries clear.  It will help interested parties to see what is and isn’t fake.”

The criterion for membership is based on education, experience and media exposure. It is true that anyone can call themselves a designer and the term “Dutch design” is not owned or protected. But when Vieira and Jager say they want to protect consumers from people who misuse the term “Dutch design,” alarm bells ring in some quarters.

Who are Vieira and Jager, and who are they to be determining who and who is not qualified to be called a Dutch designer.  Vieira’s background in brand consultancy was focused on the fashion industry and Jager’s experience is in online Imagineering.

“So what happens if you are kicked out?” asks Bas van Beek, head of the Designlab at the Rietveld Academy. “Would I get an ‘I Am Not To Be Trusted’ mark instead?”

“This all reminds me of the guys who George Lucas fired for playing with his toy figures,” Van Beek continues.  “They ended up starting ‘Banned From the Ranch’ and were later involved in films like Star Ship Troopers.”

Other problematic issues with the whole initiative are how it will deal with the post-modern era of Dutch design culture - amateurism, open-source design and autodidacts – all of which are playing vital roles in further building on contemporary Dutch design culture.

Vieira does not cower at the criticism. “In life there is always going to be someone bigger, larger richer or stronger than you,” she says.  “It doesn’t matter if we did this now or in twenty years time, people will say we are not experienced enough.  We are not new to the subject of design.”

If a member is found to be violating the Dutch Design Quality Mark rules or if a consumer files a complaint, there will be an investigation and an attempt to solve the problem. “In extreme cases, participation can be cancelled,” goes the official explanation.

A lot of these rules already apply for membership to the BNO.  “As a member there, you can’t mock or even make fun of a fellow colleague or you will be kicked out,” says Van Beek.

Rob Huisman is the director of the BNO and is familiar with what the Dutch Design Quality Mark is doing. “I think they are being quite clever about this,” he says, “but if you are a member of the BNO you get more quality control anyway.”

Membership of the BNO also depends on education and there is an added strict code of honor as well as terms of agreement.

“Designers need to decide what works best for them,” Huisman says.  “For only a little bit extra money, you get so much more from the BNO like access to a lawyer, advice on how to run a business and various discounts.”

Vieira doesn't see it so much as an either or.  “We are different to the BNO because we are a portal,” she says.  “We are not an agent and will only ever act as a go-between between a designer and a company.”

Van Beek remains skeptical.  “Really I just see initiatives like this as a way of making money off the back of Dutch designers,” he says.

For 2500 euros people can become a special benefactor of the Dutch Design Quality Mark.

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