tool designers: interview with Studio Ludens

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

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


design for download: watch the video

Come by via Alserio 22 to see the video presentation about a new platform for downloadable design, followed by a showcase of products by EventArchitectuur and Minale-Maeda. You can try out the design tools to customize the designs for yourself.

Here’s the video:

Designers for download: EventArchitectuur

At Design for download we will present furniture and accessories by EventArchitectuur. Stay tuned to see the results or come by.

EventArchitectuur is an architectural design studio that tries not to define its style. It aims deliberately to make the outcome of projects a result of theinteraction of different participants in the design process. A design firm for time and experienced based architecture, EventArchitectuur communicates by redefining space—a three dimensional organization of light, sound and movement—whether in moments that last five minutes or 15 years, dependingon the assignment.

EventArchitetuur was founded in 1993 by Herman Verkerk, who was trained as an architect at the TUDelft and ETH Zürich from 1984-1990. In 2003, artist Paul Kuipers joined the studio, a graduate of thedepartment OK5 / Visual Arts and Public Space at ArtEZ, Institute of the Arts in Arnhem.

Tal Erez, trained as an industrial designer at the Holon Institute of Technology, Israel and honourgraduate of the IM Masters program of the Design Academy Eindhoven, began collaborating withEventArchitectuur in 2009.