Archive for April, 2011

Sample floor plans

Posted:  April 27th 2011

Homeowners could adapt their existing homes to incorporate a service that is open to the public. Here are some examples which were presented by Charles Renfro at the Open house symposium on Saturday, April 23rd.

Extended living and dining rooms.

An art gallery.

A public library.

An extension for bed time stories.

A love hotel.

Dog sitting and backyard walking.

For more information, visit



Anything can be a service

Posted:  April 27th 2011

And anyone can become a service provider. Here are some of the service providers the team met with during the research phase of the Open house project, ranging from image consultants and luv coaches to a service that cuts and reassembles your sofa if it doesn’t fit going up your stairwell.

Read the original project brief and see the full list of service providers who shared insights with the team here.



The symposium

Posted:  April 27th 2011

Studio-X New York hosted the Open house symposium on Saturday, April 23rd, which was fully booked.

Co-founder and director of Droog, Renny Ramakers presented the goals of Droog Lab’s series of projects, each inspired by a different location.

Charles Renfro of Diller Scofidio + Renfro presented an overview of the design process and potential outcomes for Open house.

Mark Wasiuta presented an overview of suburban developments.

Economist Heleen Mees talked about the benefits of a service economy, comparing the situation in New York to that of Amsterdam.

Author Roo Rogers discussed the rising trend in collaborative consumption.

Artist Mary Ellen Carroll discussed her experience in working in suburban areas, including her project prototype 180.



Under construction

Posted:  April 27th 2011

On Friday, April 22nd we went by the houses to see work in progress.

Open house #7: House of Signs

Open house #1: House Dress: not quite the same without the curtain.

Open house #5: PS 72: a preview of the lesson on photo book making.



Meet the homeowners

Posted:  April 26th 2011

Meet the homeowners who participated in the Open house event on Saturday, April 23rd, 2011 in Levittown, New York. Thank you to each of you!

Lisa and Rich Santer of Open house #1

Anita Thompson of Open house #2

Lisa and Leo Vanderberg of Open house #3

Dawn Occhiogrosso and her daugher, Breannan of Open house #4

Phyllis Dalton of Open house #5

Polly and Bill Dwyer of Open house #6

Jim Hudak of Open house #7

Ann Torcivia of Open house #8 (Ann is also the homeowner coordinator)

Jose & Carina Barsallo of Future open houses (the showroom)



The suburbs: no big investments necessary

Posted:  April 21st 2011


by Renny Ramakers

Since we ran a store in Manhattan, I have been travelling a lot to New York in the past two years. It was an exciting time, not only to have a store over there but also to get to know this fantastic city and its inhabitants better. One of the first things that struck me was the enormous amount of outsourcing and the variety of services I had not seen before. On the street I saw people walking ten dogs, in restaurants I noticed that some servants did not do anything but pour water in your glass and at the hairdresser’s I noticed a multitude of separated tasks. Reading the book “Between Greed and Desire – The World between Wall Street and Main Street” by Heleen Mees, I learnt how typical this attitude is in New York and how many jobs it creates for people who otherwise might be unemployed.

Discover your inner service provider

These experiences inspired me to start a Droog Lab project in New York with the theme of the service economy. Led by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, our team investigated the theme on the spot and they discovered that providing service also has a psychological dimension. They came up with a proposal to help people discover their inner service provider. Since Manhattan is already saturated with these kind of services, they wanted to find a different context for the same dynamics. And they found the suburbs, which are desperately hit by the economic crisis and where emptiness and boredom are omnipresent. By stimulating a network of personal services, they wanted to bring new life into these dying neighbourhoods, bringing in more density and encouraging cohesion among the inhabitants.

Levittown, NY

They went to Levittown, the archetypical post-war US suburb, and found Ann, a very enthusiastic homeowner who activated a number of neighbours to create businesses in their homes. These businesses will be revealed in a one-day event on Saturday, April 23rd. We have organized a symposium at Studio-X New York in collaboration with Columbia University followed by a bus trip to Levittown. I can’t wait to see the businesses the homeowners have created.

A model

I see this as a model for suburbs worldwide, especially in the sprawling suburbs. A range of personal businesses can bring more capital and density to the neighbourhood. It also encourages social cohesion and can have a strong psychological impact. It also can have a sustainable dimension because it means less commuting. No big investments are necessary to revive the suburbs—in this model, the people can generate earnings. Just let them do it themselves.

If we really take this seriously we definitely have to refresh the architecture of suburban housing. We’ll have to find a new balance between the public and the private spaces of the house. A prerequisite is an adaptation of regulations. Therefore we invited a number of New York architects to come up with proposals for new housing configurations and regulatory modifications. Their concepts will also be on show in Levittown.

More information:

Image by L.E.FT


Open house #6

Posted:  April 18th 2011

This house in Levittown, owned by Phyllis Dalton, will soon become an Open house.

Phillis is collaborating with architectural design studio Austin + Mergold. Stay tuned to find out more, or join us on April 23rd.


interview with Renny Ramakers

Posted:  April 16th 2011

Wall of furniture parts by Studio Makking & Bey (2008), Droog New York

Why did you embark a project on downloadable design?

Renny Ramakers: In 2008 we were working on the interior of Droog New York. The store featured Wall of furniture parts by Studio Makkink & Bey—a wall next to the stairs made of CNC cut furniture parts that can be taken out of the wall as needed for use. It turned out that the idea in principle was strong, but the design was not optimized for downloading. We wanted to explore in more detail the possibilities of developing products that can be downloaded as a file and an online distribution platform to enable this.

What were some of your findings?

RR: Three main aspects make this platform unique.

It will have a curated sphere next to an open sphere. The curated aspect is very important as we anticipate that the open sphere will give rise to a lot of low quality content.

Another important decision was to incorporate both digital producers and ordinary workshops in the network of manufacturers. I like the idea that through a digital network one can enhance crafts. In bridging high- and low-tech it becomes similar to our Dry tech projects. Our goal is to create a network of certified producers, and in some cases the files will go directly to the producers and the consumer will receive the finished good.

And, the platform will feature not only furniture and products but also food, architecture, inventions and fashion.

It’s important to note that this platform will not be a Droog platform. We will invite other companies and institutions to have their own curated stores on the platform and they can create their own business models on it. Droog will be one of the curated stores on the platform.

How did you work with the designers for Droog’s presence on the platform?

RR: We invited a team of designers to develop designs specifically for downloads. We also encouraged the designers to create a business model for themselves. Should the downloads be for free or should they cost something? Perhaps the designs ask for additional services? These were all considerations for designers.

For some of the products, software has been developed for downloaders to be able to customize the design. These design tools give users the possibility to change the design from a functional perspective. Customization goes further than just picking from a standard set of colours or materials. The interface also makes it possible for ordinary computer users to change the design. User involvement has always been important for Droog.

Do hit chair by Marijn van der Poll (2000) was an early example of Droog’s interest in user participation. Photo by Bianca Pilet.






tool designers: interview with Studio Ludens

Posted:  April 15th 2011

We asked Eindhoven-based design company “whose mission it is to give people the creative freedom to design their own products,” Studio Ludens to develop design tools for the project, design for download. At our presentation in Milan, we  spoke with Alexander Rulkens and Wouter Walmink about the tools they created for Box-o-rama and Facades and functions by EventArchitectuur and Wanna-be wardrobe by Minale-Maeda.

Tell us about user involvement in the design of the products. What can they customize?

Each of the designs in their own way offered meaningful customization for the user. Customization is not a value in itself. It is only a means to something. Customization might offer functional or aesthetic choices, and on a meta level it gives users the possibility to be creative, which can be a very pleasant experience.

Wanna-be wardrobe offers a way for the user to determine the functionality of the product. The user knows what he wants and can make that. What’s strong about the digital tool is that it has a very low threshold; everyone can use it to make functional design decisions.

The tools we developed for EventArchitectuur ask for more creativity from the user. The user can make something that feels like it is his own design because the product is ultimately a composition. In Box-o-rama, the user can arrange boxes and this changes the whole shape. It’s not about adding things but about deciding on the whole design.

What was your role in relation to the designers in developing these tools?

The designer was the guardian of the concept, the product and had his own idea of what the changeable options could be. Our role was to be a guardian of the user. We always asked whether the tool was accessible enough and how the options were presented.

What are some of the things you have learned from the process?

Over time we’ve learned that it’s best when the interface is simple, playful and when there is an element of surprise. It’s important not to have too many features or options. That’s one of the biggest pitfalls of all website and interface designs. Sometimes two options are better than a whole range. It’s the paradox of choice; too much is overwhelming.

Do you think that the platform will be successful?

There are many open design initiatives out there. What is quite unique about this project is that we are working with products that have been designed well and that are actually producible. The production and the interface has been integrated into the design of the product. A good designer and a good platform are essential for the success of our tools. If the platform won’t work as it should then our tools won’t have a chance. All the components must come together, and here, we feel it might happen.

Try out the tools for yourself at design for download, via Alserio 22.


designers for dowload: interview with EventArchitectuur

Posted:  April 15th 2011

design for download

Founded in 1993, EventArchitectuur is an architectural design studio that tries not to define its style. It deliberately aims to make the outcome of their projects a result of the interaction of different participants in the design process. We asked founder and designer, Herman Verkerk and recently joined collaborator, Tal Erez a few questions about their designs for download.

When Droog asked you to design for download, how did you approach the brief?

Herman Verkerk: We were working on installations of a cupboard system and we wanted to standardize the design to make it more accessible to people. Digital media came as a good tool for us to communicate the design to the customer, and for the customer, to be able to interfere or interact with it. Ultimately the customer makes the design decisions. We wanted to make a framework and not to define the final design. We made building blocks and the interface so that people can add or transform the design. That gives a lot of freedom.

Tell us more about the kinds of design decisions that the customer can make. What’s the line between you and the customers?

Tal Erez: The process was about simplifying the design and giving options that are very clear. Our designs offer endless possibilities within very simple boundaries. Take for example, Box-o-rama. Dragging and dropping boxes gives an endless range of options. It is a fun process that normal computer users can understand. And this process gives people programmatic choices; functional choices which will eventually determine the design, rather than just decorative options.


box-o-rama by EventArchitectuur

Did working with digital media influence the designs?

TE: It certainly does by considering the interface from the very beginning. We have to think of an interface that is digestible. And, since a 3D representation on a 2D screen can be confusing, it means the core of the interface should be in 2D. This affects the design, which also starts with a 2D existence. We played with a dotted line, which is a very common 2D representation. Using Illustrator, we applied the same thickness, but modifying the gaps to achieve a specific tone or a unique rhythm in a dotted line. This was then transformed into press fit connections in 3D. The process went back and forth, like a ping-pong game between 2D and 3D in the design, interface, detailing, decoration, manufacturing and assembly. The ping-ponging gave it a specific character. It created a certain visual language that is recognizable. Whatever you do with Box-o-rama it will always be Box-o-rama.

HV: The interesting part of dealing with digital media is that they have their own limits. They give input into how they would structure the design, which is interesting for developing new products. The biggest and most difficult aspect is that there’s no sense of touch involved. You get into this virtual world and there are only fragments of the real thing. We love the gravity tool, which comes into play in Box-o-rama when customers put boxes on top of each other. Gravity is introduced in a digital sense and it’s one of the first steps for getting a feeling for the object. The other interesting thing is that the tool makes decisions of its own, making some options impossible. It ensures that one cannot order something that cannot exist.

How do you feel about opening up design to customers?

HV: We treated the assignment as a way to communicate not only the possibility for a consumer to be able to transform the design and to make his own stuff, but also to communicate about our office and our attitude towards open design. This system is not star designer based.  Making a framework instead of defined and finished products is where I see the difference between star design and non-star design.

How do you think people will react?

HV: Knowledge is still transported through humans, institutes, or some other kind of “real world” channel. The internet is able to distribute, but I’m not sure it is able to educate or make people change their behaviour. But once they get started, a big universe all of a sudden opens up.

Since you don’t control the design completely, can you imagine some unintended consequences?

HV: It doesn’t matter that there might be unintended design consequences. What matters is that the process gives rise to a community, one that communicates through design. We really would like consumers to upload what they have designed and made. Or maybe even what they have designed, without making it at all. It is more a way of showing and communicating diversity. We are looking forward of a library of examples, which are ugly or beautiful, but certainly interesting.

Are you not afraid that people will copy your blueprints?

TE: With Box-o-rama and Facades & functions we are not selling a design but a tool. Besides the fact that the tool was not easily developed and therefore is not easily copied, the design is only complete when the user is involved. The thought of the user completing the design actually takes quite a bit of the edge of copying it, because what exactly is it that you copy?

design for download