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The Two Best of Inside Design Amsterdam

Printing with bacteria rather than ink, and marrying technology with a love of the simple life were two of the most exciting projects on exhibition this last weekend during Inside Design Amsterdam at the Lloyd Hotel.  Both projects offered answers to some of the design quandaries of the future.

By Gabrielle Kennedy /asdf 21-09-2009

The Inside Design Amsterdam for Dutch Design Double event at the Lloyd Hotel was more commercial than last year, but some projects stood out for their vision.

Since graduating from the Design Academy Eindhoven in 2006, Jelte van Abbema has been refining his idea about printing not with ink but with bacteria.

The idea started while he was still at design school, but back then he didn't really have a formal knowledge of microbes so experimenting was hard.  “After design school, I went and studied at Wageningen University,” Van Abbema says.  “They taught me how to interact with microbes, bacteria and fungi.”

After that, Van Abbema started with the question of what would happen if a book were alive.  “First I noticed that bacteria grow on paper,” he says.  “The information actually grows until it eventually moves over the border lines and takes on a life of its own.”

But beyond books, Van Abbema wanted something bigger and more communicative.  Biking through Eindhoven he spotted a glass encased poster box used to hold electronic advertising.  Thinking of the space as a giant Petri test, he started experimenting with adjusting the heat and moisture conditions inside the box to grow bacteria. “You can actually control when an image appears and disappears by adjusting the conditions inside the box,” he says.  “In that way, the material has a life of its own.  Whereas ink is stagnant, bacteria keep growing until they eventually even digest the paper.”

The motivation behind Van Abbema’s desire to continue working on this idea comes from the realities of a disposable society.  “Everything we produce stays to haunt us,” he says.  “Plastics and metals are here to stay.  What I want is to produce products that have a life cycle – they live and die.”

At the Lloyd Hotel this past weekend individual letters and small petri dishes containing individual letters were exhibited as part of the nominations for the Rado Young Designers Award. Van Abbema will exhibit his larger glass boxes during Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven.

Also, Van Abbema in collaboration with Kossmanndejong has begun work on a project with Artis zoo in Amsterdam that focuses on designing a microZOO for the tiniest forms of life.

One of the other more visionary exhibits in the Lloyd Hotel was Marlies Romberg’s “Dear Diary” table.  Constructed from wood and brass, the object is a very natural and organic table with a built-in computer modeled on a Mac.

Romberg, who graduated this year from the Utrecht School of the Arts and who is now undertaking her Masters in Applied Arts at the Sandberg Institute, is concerned about how digitalization is so rapidly taking over our lives.  “Soon none of our private or domestic memories will mean anything in the modern world,” she says, “and it seems like for young people nothing is private anymore.”

Her long-term aim, therefore, is to design products that fuse new media and technology with an older, simpler way of living.  “I really just want to give nostalgia and opportunity,” she says.

Romberg will also exhibit her “Dear Diary” project at Dutch Design Week.

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