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ArtEZ Graduates are Tapped In

Product designers from ArtEZ are tapped in to the biggest movements in design from open source to social design and innovative use of every-day resources.  Graduates are amongst the best and most innovative in the country with an interesting balance between technological innovation and research oriented projects.

By Gabrielle Kennedy /asdf 14-07-2011

A talented crop of product designers heads the list of recent ArtEZ graduates with projects that boast an impressive finesse with materials and an ambitious vision.

Frank Kolkman refers to himself as a design-hacker.  Unraveling taken-for-granted objects and reconstructing them using new technology that can often dramatically change traditional shapes.

“Take an LED light bulb, for example,” Kolkman says.  “There is no logical reason or functional necessity to have it shaped in the traditional way other than so people can recognize it and use it in regular lamps.”

Kolkman took apart an LED light and discovered that the actual light source is tiny.  “It has nothing to do with the language of the fitting,” he says.  Given that, his aim was to redesign an LED in the most minimal way possible.

After sorting through the myriad of possibilities (light can be controlled digital not just analogue technology), Kolkman turned to open source micro processing platforms like Arduino to create lights with various functions like sensor-controlled dimmers.

The one constant throughout all his lights is that form is shaped by technology.  “My drop light, for example, is made from a piece of acrylic,” he says.  “I adjusted the angle of the sheet so that it precisely matches the outreach of the light .  The acrylic works as a prism and distributes the light over the surface.”

Kolkman puts much of his success with this work down to ArtEZ’s Peter Tragg.  “It is unusual for such a high-tech project to come out of this school,” he says, “but all you need is one teacher to get behind and support your work and it makes anything possible.”

Next up for Kolkman is a one year collaboration with two fellow graduates (Anne-Marie Geurink and Wendy Wassink) before heading to the RCA for a Master’s.

Rick Tegelaar’s approach is to look into simple and well-known materials differently to try to discover new ways of working with them.  He started by designing a series of tools that could manipulate chicken wire.  One of them was a reverse press – instead of pressing materials together, it stretched them apart.  

“I can make a tunnel or a sock and then stretch it over a mould,” Tegelaar explained.  “It immediately becomes rigid without heat or chemicals.”

Tegelaar cuts the chicken wire diagonally meaning the patterns are diamond-shaped not square, which makes the final object even more rigid.  Over that structure he wraps bamboo paper to create the finished objects.

“When moistened, bamboo paper expands.  When it is stuck to the wire, it dries and shrinks back down again,” Tegelaar explains.  “That process adds even more strength to my objects.”

Now that he has invented tools and experimented with the endless possibilities of chicken wire, Tegelaar would like to take it one step further.  “Next I will look into even more applications like blowing glass into it,” he says.  “It is all just a matter of perspective.  I believe a small shift in thinking can lead to a whole new range of possibilities.”

Touched by harsh economic realties and media reports about how tough life in the USA without medical insurance can be, Anne-Marie Geurink turned to the Internet and discovered that many uninsured Americans use Youtube to self-diagnose and treat their ailments.

“A lot of health communities have formed to assist people who can not afford insurance,” she says.

From the online world of DIY treatments, Geurink created an encyclopedia of how-to solutions from making one’s own cast to setting broken bones, making fillings and even dentures.  

“Every remedy is created by an amateur, but it is often the only place an uninsured sick person can turn to for help,” Geurink says.

To reinforce the amateurism theme, Geurink used amateur fonts found for free online and all designed by amateurs.  All information is taken from opensource platforms like Youtube and Wikipedia.  

“Even the translations are created by Google Translate,” Geurink says.  “The whole project is based on the idea that amateur information is valuable.  Free access to knowledge is imperative.”

None of her work can be easily categorized as product design, but the project was received well by her instructors.  “I think my teachers like that I work on the edge,” Geurik says.  “I really show what is out there, which makes it easier to discus problems and even to pose solutions.  This situation is in the US now, but we are seeing a new Holland too and people do not have as much money.  We will have to see what happens.”

Images: large at top light by Rick Tegelaar, small from top projcts by Frank Kolkman, Rick Tegelaar and Anne-Marie Geurink.

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