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

green greek greet by droog

We’re coming to Athens. The exhibition opening is tomorrow and a lecture by Renny Ramakers follows on Saturday.

June 4th – July 25th, 2010
Opening: Thursday June 3rd, 20:00
Benaki Museum, Building at 138 Pireos St., Athens, Greece

Workshop Dionisis Sotovikis and Mariolopoulos Kanaginis Foundation for the environmental sciences, in collaboration with the Benaki Museum, present the exhibition ‘greek green greet by droog’ at the Benaki Museum, Pireos St. Annexe, Athens, Greece, from June 4th until July 25th, 2010, with an opening event on Thursday, June 3rd at 20:00.

The exhibition ‘greek green greet by droog’ is the largest retrospective Droog exhibition in the world since 2007 and it will present Droog by exploring, investigating and discussing the concepts of recycle, re-use, recreate, reinvent, clarity of concept, memory and nostalgia. Our Greek partner since 2007, workshop’s purpose is to draw the attention of the general public in Greece, providing information about contemporary design with environmental concerns worldwide.

Design, Architecture and Sustainability Conference
featuring lecture by Renny Ramakers

Benaki Museum amphitheatre
Saturday, June 5th

Within the framework of the exhibition and on the occasion of the World Environment Day, Mariolopoulos-Kanaginis Foundation in collaboration with the Benaki Museum, organises a scientific one-day conference on ‘Design, Architecture and Sustainability’, which will take place at the amphitheatre of the Benaki Museum, Pireos Annexe, with invited speakers from academia and practice, from the fields of architecture and environmental design. There will be two sessions: ‘Sustainability in Architecture and the Built Environment’ and ‘Environmental Design in Architecture’. The event will begin at 10.30 on Saturday morning and will end at 15.00, with a closing speech and presentation of the exhibition ‘greek green greet by droog’ by Renny Ramakers, co-founder and director of Droog. The conference will be conducted in English.

Information for the one-day conference
+ 30 210 610.0.610
+ 30 210 362.3.861

About workshop
workshop is an animated entity, a vessel exploring the intersecting trajectories of architecture, art, design and construction that emerge from the dialectics of ideas and the processes leading to creation.

About the Mariolopoulos-Kanaginis Foundation
Mariolopoulos-Kanaginis Foundation for the Environmental Sciences was established in 1993 with the objective to develop and promote the sciences relative to the environment, as well as the study of human’s interaction with the environment and the cultural heritage of Greece.

About The Hellenic Institute of Architecture
The Hellenic Institute of Architecture pursues the development of architecture in Greece and is also interested in improving the legal framework of production, in protecting the environment and its relation to new building construction, as well as in preserving Greek architectural heritage, old as well as new.

Museum Opening Hours
Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday 10:00 – 18:00
Friday & Saturday 10:00 – 22:00
Monday & Tuesday CLOSED

Curated by: DIONISIS + KIRKI
Consultant: D.art