Dutch Design Week has always been the most thoughtful of design fairs, so it makes sense that in this especially troubling year of our Earth, the theme would be so keenly stated: “If not now, then when?” The theme echoed a feeling of urgency that’s being felt across much of design education and industry — a need for a shake-up, of systems of production and consumption, of established hierarchies and assumptions. It was clear from many of the works on show that the focus of the designer is shifting; no longer is good aesthetic judgment and a well-designed clever product the aspiration. Ego and vision are going out of style, to be replaced by attempts to understand the inter-connected system in which design sits.
The challenge for many designers is to combine their aesthetic sensibility with these more complex investigations and proposals. Objects here were not only designed using responsible materials, but with their disassembly and afterlife in mind, and with an in-depth understanding of their wider implications. Conversely, and sometimes jarringly, we saw spaces and products designed to inspire feelings of escape, connection, and joy — moments of relief amidst the serious undertone across the fair.
Making work at the intersection of these areas is perhaps where most success was found. Future design icons made from recycled synthetics, repurposed waste, and biomaterials that were actually designed to one day disappear. Here are a few of our favorites.