Here, There, Everywhere a 4-year journey

Droog releases Here, There, Everywhere, a visual and textual anthology of realistic and imaginative design projects by Droog Lab in collaboration with Winy Maas, Metahaven, Jurgen Bey, Richard Hutten, TD, Mieke Gerritzen, Erik Kessels, Bas Princen, Diller Scofidio + Renfro and others.

Edited by co-founder of Droog Renny Ramakers and Droog Lab curator Agata Jaworska, and designed by Thonik, the 224-page book is a compilation of 16 projects in nine chapters, with essays, conversations and talks by David Allin, Jurgen Bey, Koert Debeuf, Theo Deutinger, Greg Lindsay, Winy Maas, Justin McGuirk, Heleen Mees, Charles Renfro, Wouter Vanstiphout and Daniel van der Velden.

Here, There, Everywhere is a journey through diverse places of the world, from the Canadian Arctic to the deserts of Dubai, with outcomes ranging from a luxury brand inspired by Russian consumption patterns with Metahaven to an imaginary society with space for a million identities inspired by Belgium’s apparent lack of a singular national identity with Erik Kessels.

The projects are a culmination of four years of self-initiated work by Droog Lab in collaboration with partners, designers and clients. Initiated by Renny Ramakers in 2009, Droog Lab scans the world for emerging developments, exploring the broader relevance of local findings.

Here, There, Everywhere will be available on and at the Droog store in Amsterdam for 39.00 EUR (ISBN 9789090281735).

Here, There, Everywhere is supported by the Mondriaan Fund.

MCBW LECTURES – Design connects

Renny Ramakers will present a lecture at the MCBW LECTURES in Munich. In line with the guiding principle of MCBW 2014, Design connects, MCBW LECTURES will serve to illustrate the key role design plays as a moderator and as a motivator, as a questioner and as a consultant. Design connects users with the environments around them. Design facilitates new perspectives for the development of products and services.

Renny Ramakers: the Best of 4 Worlds
February 26th, 2014
5:30pm – 6:45pm

Renny Ramakers one of the 150 Women Who Shake the World

Art historian turned curator turned environmental trendsetter, Renny Ramakers has put a different kind of green conscience into design with UP, the Dutch innovator’s latest venture. Initiated by Droog, a firm she cofounded that took the design world by storm, UP is a collaborative effort among companies to cut down on waste by using surplus materials to create new goods. The movement’s many partners have created a rapidly growing line of chic “leftover” products from dead-stock items repurposed in inventive ways.

“It is one of the best kept secrets: everyday, tonnes of sellable products are recycled or simply destroyed worldwide, resulting in an unacceptable loss of material and energy. Recycling in practice is down-cycling; many recycled materials are processed into inferior products,” (Renny Ramakers, October 2011).

Read the article here

Open house: what a concept

by Renny Ramakers

In Suburbia: What a Concept published by the Opinionator of New York Times, Allison Arieff is certainly right when she says: “Addressing suburban ills requires massive change to systems, to finance, to transportation and infrastructure, and perhaps most challenging, to a culture deeply wedded to suburbia as emblematic of the American Dream.”

Most ills in this world (and we know there isn’t a shortage of them) require massive change on systematic and ideological levels. Indeed, it is a capacity—and many say, a responsibility—of design to address the many pressing problems facing the world today.

But is this the only role for design? Is design solely a form of crisis management and problem solving? Or can design also offer a different perspective on a problem, without having the aim of solving the problem entirely?

Service exchange in the suburbs

Our inspiration came from New York City’s service economy. In collaboration with Diller Scofidio + Renfro, we realized this system does not only create jobs and encourage social encounters, but also plays a psychological role for the service providers, in stimulating them discover something they are good at. We saw that the habit of outsourcing all kinds of life tasks by people in New York encourages others to invent their own professions.

We also noticed that many service providers we met created their profession with little investment and new infrastructure. Dany the trainer visited the homes of his clients to do training on their floor, Joshua the psychic held his practice in his home and Brian the dog walker only needed leashes and trust. It turns out that starting your own profession is possible with little or no capital.

photo by James Morris

We thought these dynamics had broader potential. Entering the suburbs, we did not intend to resolve the issues it faces, but rather to explore what value personal service exchanges might offer to suburbia.

We see Open House as a movement in which homeowners consider home business as a viable way to create a new role for themselves, which also increases interaction with neighbors, and possibly supplements one’s primary income. The one day event offered ideas and illustrated potential outcomes—some more realistic and some more speculative (or even fictional) than others. As a tool to help people discover their inner service providers, the event served to provoke visitors and participants to think for themselves about what might be useful for them as a business. We didn’t expect that the homeowners participating in the event would open up a business overnight.

Many services we encountered during our research in Manhattan appeared to be absurd at first glance (think of hiring someone to follow your spouse because you are suspicious of misbehavior, hiring someone to cut up your sofa so you can get it up your stairs, or signing up for a service to do yoga with your dog). The service economy has shown that what might start off as a strange business proposition, often turns out to address people’s actual needs and transforms into a serious business.

photo by Naho Kubota

That’s what seemed to have happened at Open House #6: Attention Clinic by Claudia Linders. Though its inspiration, the Monty Python Argument Clinic of 1978, is more comical in its intent, the one-day Attention Clinic at 39 Old Oak Lane turned out to be surprisingly real for homeowner Polly Dwyer: “When you are 82 years old, people often ignore you because they think you don’t know anything. I was thrilled to find out people wanted advice from me. It turned out I had a lot of life experience that I could call upon and it wasn’t so difficult for me to do so. I wasn’t expecting this at all.” Though Polly does not plan to pursue the Attention Clinic (she has her plate full curating Levittown Museum and taking care of her husband), her participation in the one day event revealed a hidden capacity she hadn’t considered before.

open house nr 5 photo by Spencer Lapp
photo by Spencer Lapp

A less unusual but equally earnest proposal was Open House #5: PS72 Porch-Side Lessons by Austin + Mergold with Spencer Lapp. PS72 was a teaching facility hosted at 72 Knoll Lane by Phyllis Dalton, a teacher and school principal who has been out of a teaching position for a few years. Designer Jason Austin explains: “Phyllis asked us to give her back her classroom. It was obvious to us that she had a lot of talent, but she seemed not to be able to market herself and her talent. The architecture became a platform for her service. We wanted it to support and display her talents and presence within the neighborhood.” Adopting a suburban vernacular, the materials for PS72 came primarily from Home Depot, including off-the-shelf plywood and lumber, lawn-mower wheels, plastic tarps and the American flag—an off-the-shelf garden accessory. The designers also adopted an institutionalized aesthetic to make the experience reminiscent of elementary school. “All aspects of the project were about developing infrastructure that was familiar and accessible to the suburban community.”

We also spoke with Phyllis after the event: “Once a teacher always a teacher,” she said. “I enjoyed passing on something that was not academic to people. I was able to use the teaching skills I had from my career for something that I was more passionate about.” Teaching the visitors two personal hobbies (collecting Hummels and making photo books), the 15-minute school session offered visitors a classroom experience, complete with a miniaturized version of a gymnasium, a library, a graduation ceremony and class photos.

photo by Austin + Mergold

The bigger issues

A few keen early-adopting homeowners with new business concepts are not enough to start the Open House movement. There are bigger issues to tackle, like outdated suburban regulations, and other issues rightfully raised by Arieff, including finance, transportation and infrastructure. The ninth house on the Open House tour addressed some of the broader implications of the Open House proposition.

photo by Naho Kubota

image by EFGH

In what was deemed the neighborhood showroom, Future Open Houses by EFGH (Hayley Eber & Frank Gesualdi) with Irina Chernyakova challenged existing rules of the suburbs and visualized the potential outcome of a bottom-up service economy on six blocks of Levittown. Regulatory modifications were proposed, including the possibility to convert private property (for example driveways) into public right-of-way (in for example, an drive-through service for sales or rentals), joint-use easements for two or more property owners to share a common feature (such as a mini storage facility or performance space built between two homes) or the modification of a occupancy group classification for the setting up of a public amenity (like a public theater, for instance). This house also presented sample floor plans of houses modified to host public services such as an art gallery, a love hotel, or a dog-sitting business.

art gallery by Droog

Art gallery

love hotel by Droog

Love hotel

Next steps

We see the event as a model for a future suburbia, which is not the model to solve all possible problems facing the suburbs. It is just a model to revive—to get more life—into suburbia.

The one day event was the first phase of the project. We are currently working on a publication which will deepen our insights, including those raised from these discussions.

In our work, we approach many serious topics, such as the rise in single living, sustainability, the increasing pace of life and the economic crisis in a playful way. We want to continue to generate debate by presenting models and possible scenarios with a light-hearted spirit. We are glad the debate has started.



The suburbs: no big investments necessary


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

interview with Renny Ramakers

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.

Open design: an interesting but tricky concept

by Renny Ramakers

Open design is a hot topic. The 3D printer is applauded as a device that is going to revolutionize design, manufacturing and the distribution of goods. Consumers can design the products themselves and manufacturing is just a matter of printing. There are even speculations on printers becoming a household item. Finally, Alvin Toffler’s notion of prosument will come true: the customer as a proactive and capable producer.

Don’t underestimate good-old shopping
Technically this concept may sooner or later become possible but for now 3D printing is still expensive and slow. And so far the results are not very interesting. I see wild shapes that show us that everything is possible but also make me wonder where this will end. In an endless world of the most complex figurations? At the same time, on the internet I see a flood of poorly designed stuff, ready for digital production. Open design is an interesting concept but also a tricky one. Do we really want our world flooded with a stream of ugly objects? And is the consumer really prepared (or capable…) of designing for himself?  I think that the fun of shopping around, whether online or on the street, should not be underestimated.

New possibilities
There is no reason to ignore the open design movement though. On the contrary, it opens a lot of new possibilities. It could enable people to customize the products they want to buy. It happens so often that you find the ultimate piece of furniture but the size does not meet your needs or the colour does not fit. Another pro is that sending blueprints instead of products over the world saves a lot of transport. And last but not least, because there are fewer middle-men in the system it can make high-end design affordable for a wider range of people. They can even make the products themselves, if they wish.

Upcoming platform launch
That’s why Droog is working on a digital platform for downloadable design. It will be launched as later this year. During Salone del Mobile in Milan we will reveal the principles behind this platform and show products specially designed for download.

Curation is key
On this platform, quality and diversity will be at the core. We will invite product designers, architects, fashion designers, design brands, schools and other institutions to participate and to open a ‘shop’. In this sense, the platform is curated. We want to create an environment for a wide range of digital high-end ‘shops’. The shops can decide for themselves how much customization they want to offer and how open they want to be. Consumers, on the other hand, can decide how much customizing they want to do. And for those that don’t want to make it themselves, we will offer a worldwide network of certified local manufacturers. This network will also be curated. We want high quality production and reliable producers. The local manufacturers can operate with digital technologies but we also want to include small handicraft workshops. After all, downloadable design is just a set of instructions that can be executed in various ways. The idea that high-tech developments can revive local crafts is exciting.

Who’s involved & more details
Design for download is an outcome of a project by Droog Design and Mediagilde. For this project we have collaborated with consultants Cathal McKee (CMK1), Catherine Jasserand (Ivir), Hans Lensvelt, Institute of Relevant Studies, Joris Laarman and Michiel Frackers. The project has been initiated by Droog and was made possible by Agentschap NL.

Featuring designs by EventArchitectuur and Minale-Maeda, Design for download will be presented in Milan from April 13th – 17th.

Wednesday – Saturday 11:00 – 21:00
Sunday 11:00 – 19:00

Via Alserio 22,Milan, 20159, Italy

Why are you doing this?

by Renny Ramakers

This question was asked after my talk at Design Indaba, where I introduced the Droog Lab. The Lab is working on a series of eight projects from 2009-2012, each with a unique theme inspired by a different location.

To answer, let me go back to the beginning. In 1993, Droog created a movement in conceptual design by combining simplicity, irony and a no-nonsense mentality. Its uniqueness contributed to the Dutch design mentality, and eventually had an impact globally. But what was new then has now become common, and therefore has lost a sense of urgency. In the meantime, the design world has become introspective, celebrating star designers and “art design”. The amount of new products churning out of the industry is increasing every day, and most of them are are not even worth mentioning.

It is time for a paradigm shift.
In other words: it is time for a paradigm shift. And yes, the signs of such a shift are already there. Sustainability and social issues have become part of the design agenda. Designers are incorporating processes and scenarios in their work. We see the connecting power of digital media and how this affects design, generating the notion of open design. All of these strands are aiming to bring relevance to the design profession.

Droog is playing an active role. One of our current developments is MakeMe, a platform with new interactive design tools for designers and consumers for downloadable design and local production. Another one came up when we learned that yearly millions of totally new products are destroyed for the simple reason that the factory made too many of them or because there’s a small mistake. We launched We Want Waste, a project that makes leftovers accessible to designers for redesign, considering rejected products as raw materials for creative re-interpretation.

Beyond the “do good” approach.
But structurally I think there is more work to do. We have to go beyond simply the “do good” approach to design, a design approach justified solely by doing good for society and climate. We have to stimulate creativity on more levels and with more objectives.

The Droog Lab is looking beyond the world of design. We are interested in creative energy that is not necessarily associated with design. All over the world people have been, and still are, creative. People build houses, design tools, create economic and social systems and decorate their spaces, not only in the past and far away but also now and nearby. The world is full of identities, not created by designers but by people themselves. The Droog Lab visits local communities all over the world because we see value in their way of living. We take a theme as the starting point, we visit the place for inspiration and translate this theme to an universal level, to the world of contemporary design. We take one step back and two steps forward—one step back to take distance from our prejudices and preoccupations and two steps forward to change patterns in the design landscape.

One step back and two steps forward.
So a design team went to Dubai, leaving their prejudices at home. The designers were impressed by the enormous sense of ambition that created Dubai, the fact that it came out of nothing, and that everything seemed possible there. This inspired them to create a parallel world where designers could work collaboratively and anonymously, not bothered by real-world economic or social restraints and where payments could be done with time instead of money. And this parallel world can be made possible thanks to social media.

The proposal by the design team touches upon several topics that currently are affecting the design profession, such as the impact of digital media, how to deal with collaborative design, designer autonomy and intellectual property, and the possibilities created by alternative currencies. We are deepening these themes in the project publication.

Whether it is the level of ambition in Dubai, the service economy in New York, the way people survive in the harsh conditions of Northern Canada, or the seemingly superficial way of consuming in Moscow, we learn from every location we visit. Our insights from these areas stimulate us to go into matters as versatile as food production and city planning, the design of services, transparency in design, shifting public and private relationships, the meaning of ownership, the future of the suburbs, the importance of fantasy and fiction in design, to name a few.

So, back to the question: I see Droog Lab as a methodology to change our perspective by going back to society as a source of inspiration for the next generation of design. The Droog Lab aims to intensify the paradigm shift that is already on its way in the world of design.

photo by Jonx Pillemer

Discussing Dutch fashion

In 2011, Amsterdam International Fashion Week and Vodafone presented the first Vodafone Creative Corner – a space at the main location of AIFW where visitors could meet each other and discuss.

Renny Ramakers was invited to participate in a discussion at the Vodafone Creative Corner together with participants from the fashion industry on Saturday, January 29th, 2011. The public discussions were led by Professor of Industrial Development and Innovation and lecturer in Art, Culture and Economy, Dany Jacobs.

Watch the video:

And read the reflection by Renny Ramakers.

Pioneers of Change – the video

Pioneers of Change, the festival of Dutch design, fashion and architecture that took place on Governors Island in New York in September 2009 now has a video. The event was curated by Renny Ramakers and attracted over 25,000 visitors over the course of two weekends.

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droog manifesto

by Renny Ramakers

Sustainability is still a buzzword in today’s design society. I’ve even heard the word sustainism, in line with modernism, futurism and all the other isms that have been created in the past. I don’t understand why we should invent a new ism for an attitude that should be part of people’s everyday life.

With all this sustainability talk we should not forget that design is also about aesthetics, emotions and experience and that we can only succeed if there is a balance between everything that makes a product desirable.

In April 2010 Droog presented a manifesto (pictured above) in which we state that we want to redirect creative energy and to redesign the lifecycle. This manifesto was part of saved by droog., an experimental project in which we asked designers to redesign products that we bought from liquidation auctions.  Now we are working on the next step, a platform on which companies can offer their dead stock to designers.

If we simply redesign what does not sell, we can save a lot of energy. Not only because it saves the products from becoming waste  but also because this will redirect creativity. We all know how much time and effort it takes to design new products from scratch, trying to invent something new because so many versions already exist and it takes a long time before a designconcept has been developed into a functional product. If we start with what is already there, we can give the notion of styling a new dimension, no  longer as something superficial  but as something that is needed to save the product and that gives the designer more space to create what really matters. Of course it would be better just to design less products but companies  need to survive and the demand for new products from the emerging countries will continue to grow. So if we don’t supply, others will. And by redesigning the existing, we can do it quickly because the most difficult part of the design and development process has already been done.

Read more articles by Renny Ramakers.