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The Stone Twins to Leave Design Academy Eindhoven

It’s been a tough year for the DAE, but things seem to have quietened down since the appointment of Thomas Widdershoven as the new creative director.  That was until this week when The Stone Twins  - heads of the Man and Communication department – sent around a press release announcing their resignations.

By Gabrielle Kennedy /asdf 27-06-2013

Declan and Garech Stone (The Stone Twins) have headed up the Man and Communication department for the last five years.  They inherited an outdated and languid curriculum that lacked relevancy.  One Eindhoven City Councillor even suggested at the start of their tenure that their department was the one about small comic strips.

The twins changed all that.  “We made enormous progress in shifting the department’s focus from design as a form-giving process, to design as a process of facilitating dialogue,” says Garech.  “We really encouraged students to work on issues that resonated in the wider society. More Dialogue, Less Monologue.”

Their tenure wasn’t without controversy.  They overhauled their teaching team claiming that more dynamic and talented minds were needed.  They employed cross-media designers like André Thijssen, Anne Miltenburg, Maureen Mooren, Lernert & Sander and Freek Lomme, who all embrace a broader definition of Visual Communication.

“In the last few years, we were really proud to see graduates of Man and Communication presenting final projects that revealed a rich diversity in subject-matter and media,” says Garech. “They had become skilled designers with a conscience, an attitude and a provocative mind.”

Both Garech and Declan say that they want to go back to their studio to devote more time to upcoming projects, but unsurprisingly the chaos and changes at the DAE are what ultimately drove them out.

“I guess it was about two years ago that things really started to go awry,” says Garech, “and Widdershoven says he plans to change that, but we started to feel like it was a bit too much like a moving train – impossible to stop.”

Garech talks a lot about the unique DNA of the Design Academy saying that new management seem unable or unwilling to acquaint themselves with it.  “There have always been very strong-minded, visionary and autonomous department heads at the academy,” he says.  “All of them spend 80% of their time in their own practices and 20% of their time at the academy, which means they are very in touch with changes in the industry.  They can communicate that realness and passion for the business directly with students.”

But in the last two years that autonomy has been eroded.  “The clarity and transparency with which decisions are made vanished,” Garech says.  “It feels like, even recently, some fundamental decisions were being made in a stealth manner.  It was like management wasn’t on our side anymore and without that trust insecurities are borne.”

The field of visual communication is in a state of flux so it will be fascinating to see who is appointed to this gig.

And in the meantime the road ahead for Widdershoven looks as tough as ever – he needs to eliminate the insecurities that have built up over the last two years.  He needs to strike a delicate balance between government demands for more pragmatism and streamlining, and ambitious design teachers who can only function in a free thinking educational space.  

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