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On Crowdfunding

During Dutch Design Week it became apparent that some designers are shying away from large producers and taking matters into their own hands. Crowdfunding platforms are popping up like mushrooms. 

By Cassandra Pizzey / 07-11-2013

Since 2009, creatives have been able to fund their own projects using Kickstarter, arguably the world’s largest online crowdfunding platform. It works as follows; a creative puts an idea up on the website and asks for funding to get it off the ground, backers pledge money in return for a reward relating to the project. The goal is to reach 100% backing, if you don’t make it to the full amount, you don’t get a penny. 

According to Kickstarter “an impressive 44% of projects have reached their funding goals”. A quick search on the website shows that wallets and iPhone accessories are highly successful but many of the products seem a little gimmicky. 

Not the case at Dutch Design Week where we spotted a number of crowdfunding projects, each with their own USP. Launched during Dutch Design Week at Yksi is Onderstroom. This platform focusses on young design talent fresh from the academies. The platform selects the designers it wants to work with and matches them to a producer. They then agree on a series and price and offer the product for pre-order on the website. Typically, the project will stay up for eight weeks and if the goal hasn’t been reached the project is removed. In this model, designers are promised a higher percentage of sales than they would typically get selling in, say a design shop. Onderstroom aims to support new talent while engaging producers and more established names. 

Among the designers presenting their wares at Onderstroom is Carina van den Bergh, a Design Academy Eindhoven graduate whose work we have seen during the Salone del Mobile in Milan and Elle Inside Design. Over at Sectie C she presents her graduation project NAiF and part of it – LiCHTZiT, a combination of stool and lamp – is available for pre-order. A smaller investment can be made with Nathaly Heesakkers (WDKA) whose lamps Oma’s lampje are a combination of nostalgia and modern design. 

Somewhere between the Eindhoven Central Station and the NS Loods we managed to find CrowdyHouse, a new crowdfunding platform for product design in which designers have 42 days to present their ideas. Floris Wubben’s Pressed Vases are part of this collection, as is a geometric tableware collection by Janet Emmelkamp. A certain aesthetic dominates here, a combination of handmade and industrial materials. Everything looks as though it is made by through craft, even the more industrial products. 

Although the focus was on the products, Mark Studholme, one half of CrowdyHouse explained that this venue is more than just that. “We’ve just had De Culinaire Werkplaats hosting an event here and there was a meet&greet with all of the designers. We’d love to make this place somewhere for people to come and hang out during Dutch Design Week.” Not just a label then, but perhaps a chance for the public to engage with the designers. 

Over at Sectie C it was Dutch Design Starter who had set up shop and were presenting a number of products for the consumer market. “It’s important for us to be able to produce our ideas without making concessions to the design itself,” explains Jana Flohr of House Of Thol. Their project Waterworks is a watering system for forgetful plant owners or ones that are often away from home. The irrigation system works through a terracotta funnel and glass bulb and it’s quite obvious why the design should be left as it is. We can imagine how a commercial producer would simplify the model and use cheaper materials. 

In addition to consumer-based products, Dutch Design Starter also offers products for public space and tech products. The website allows creatives to offer their own products and ideas online and get help from specialized coaches along the way. Another big difference is that you’re not necessarily buying the product here but can choose to back a project at a lower cost, or become a corporate investor in the company. 

Then there is Primal Edition which is not only operating online but is opening a number of concept stores where you can physically see and feel the products. On offer here is a mix of consumer products and furniture, all in the high-end price range. One of the products for sale is a pair of sunglasses made from the hood of a Triumph TR4, a classic 1960s automobile. 

There is definitely a trend to be found in crowdfunding platforms and a more transparent method of producing and selling products. Established designers themselves are becoming part of this movement as they are coaching young designers and helping them get products to market. A good example is Carola Zee with her ceramics brand Label Aleph who offers designers a go in her Chinese factory in exchange for a design. Seems like a fair trade. 

We’re not fearful for the commercial brands however, as the products offered through these platforms are often handmade, special editions or one-offs. What is great is that a designer is given the chance to take his or her product to market and test the water, see how it’s received outside of the academy walls without a great personal  – read financial – cost.

Main image: filanthropium.nl
Other images: 1. Carina van den Bergh 2. Nathaly Heesakkers 3. Floris Wubben 4. Janet Emmelkamp 5-6. Waterworks by House of Thol 7-8. Driven Eyewear

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