Interaction as current trend

The interaction between non-industrial design and industrial production is not only historically interesting, it is also one of the current trends in the international context. Contemporary designers are allowing experimentation and their own handling of material to evolve into a situation in which production takes place industrially. The new digital techniques are also having an impact on design, research and production. Computer programs enable 3D simulations and Rapid Prototyping produces a physical version without the designer’s hands having to come into contact with material and tools. In addition, the design world has expressed a clear interest in incorporating an artistic or craft-based culture into the machine-produced mass product. This is a trend which Dineman Kuilman, director of Premsela – foundation for Dutch design – characterises as ‘room to experiment’. (1) Here, he is referring to Richard Hutten (and others), who has his furniture designs produced in his own cabinet-making workshop. It is not nostalgia that guides this Dutch industrial designer. His workshop is fitted with contemporary technology and his furniture is perfectly finished. The traditional character of his work is the result of his conceptual design philosophy and of the imperfection inherent in the material. (2)

Room to experiment is a good summary of cross-pollination. In 2003, when Thimo te Duits, curator of the design department of the Boijmans van Beuningen Museum, was asked to give the state of the art of crafts in the Netherlands, he put the Knotted Chair (1996) by Marcel Wanders at the top of his article. (3) This chair combines a manual macramé technique with carbon and aramide fibres which harden. The knotted chair came about as part of the Dry Tech project set up in 1995 and 1996 by Droog Design in collaboration with the Faculty of Aviation at Delft Technical University. Other designers also took part in this project. Hella Jongerius designed a knitted lamp made of glass fibre threads (1996). For her, the experiment was a quest for a symbiosis between traditional techniques and new technology, without a trace of cynicism.(4) She insisted on not having the material research controlled by computer but by an open, unconditioned mind – she describes her interaction with technology as childlike in its naivety (5) - although she was able to make use of the knowledge available at a high-tech laboratory. The fact that this research does not always produce satisfactory results should be no reason to write off the non-industrial experiment in the industrial sector as irrelevant. This is because working unconventionally with material provides an insight into both familiar and unfamiliar qualities and possibilities. Designers such as Richard Hutten and Hella Jongerius are therefore happy to get their hands dirty and they are not designers on the fringes of the world of design.

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