Dutch Design Week 2020

Published: 29 Oct 2020

Dutch Design Week 2020 (17-25 October) went virtual this year due to the prevalence of Covid-19 in The Netherlands but despite the lack of face-to-face experiences, more than 1,500 designers, both local and international, took part with products displayed in 3D viewing rooms (750 of them) along with virtual tours and livestreaming of talks and workshops.

The Eindhoven-based event was  themed ‘The New Intimacy’ and spoke to the impact of the pandemic on personal relationships and social habits. It also had a strong focus on social issues, sustainability and innovative materials with projects also looking at emerging talent, designing a digital world, colour and textile research and furniture design.  

There is love and grief, there is loneliness and togetherness, people are sad and witty

Renowned trend forecaster Li Edelkoort showcased The New Melancholy, a combination of objects collected by her and by the Van Abbemuseum in which the exhibition is on display. ‘The pandemic has made it clear that social injustice, racial divisions and ecological evils are increasing, with possible consequences such as civil war and economic crisis,’ said Edelkoort.

‘The feeling of emptiness is nourished by the social distance and digital communication, the grief of farewells of parents who are dying alone and students who have to take exams in isolation. The joy of being together and the discomfort of confinement alternate in a game of cat and mouse. There is love and grief, there is loneliness and togetherness, people are sad and witty.

‘These complementary emotions will lead to a feeling of melancholy that will influence our culture near future, with sometimes even sentimental manifestations. We search for the right word, the flawless note, the perfect dance step and the best bread to express the poetry of the ordinary.’

Other highlights of Dutch Design Week included…

The Embassy of Rethinking Plastic

Supported by Yksi Expo, the platform that brings Dutch design, technology, architecture, and other creative disciplines together, and curated by Dutch designer Leonne Cuppen, this multi-project looked at ways of designing plastic products that last longer and are easier to separate and therefore recycle and re-use, and when creating with it, giving items emotional value so that users experience plastic differently.

Projects included Sarmite Polakova’s PineResin, a byproduct of the timber industry transformed into a sleek glass-like composite, and Plasticiet’s quest to make recycled plastic into a desirable, collectible series of objects through its Mother of Pearl collection.


Mumbai-based designer Sachi Tungare was inspired by the Hindi philosophy of using ‘the flexible approach to problem-solving using the limited resources at hand innovatively’. She used this approach to look at waste as a resource, using both organic materials such as dried flowers from religious ceremonies, and man-made waste such as cigarette butts. The former was used to create a new, alternative plastic that is suggested as a substitute to single-use plastic found in hotel amenities and toiletries; the cellulose acetate found in cigarette paper wrapping was dissected, treated to make it toxin-free and melted to be cast into various shapes (pictured above).

The Envisions Hackathon

A collective of twenty creatives  – Envisionaires – from a wide range of disciplines, such as photographers, graphic designers, concrete craft workers and 3D printers, dealt with different everyday utilitarian objects in two-day sessions each. For instance, the washing machine was ‘hacked’ with questions as: why does this always have to be a white box? And why can’t it be a show-piece in the middle of the room?


The Milanese design district, Isola Design Community, showcased research projects on biomaterials and innovative sustainable furnishings for a look at what designers could be working with in the future. These included Chilean designer Caro Pacheco’s Calcáreo, a composite made from algae and mussels, Telluride, a volcanic porcelain by Tellurico and Bio-Plexis, a bio-yarn from UK-based Nikoletta Karastathi, that’s infused with bio-active marine algae with a scope to nourish the skin and act as a protective shield

Geodesign: Sand

Organised by Design Academy Eindhoven and curated by Martina Muzi, ‘Sand. The Building Block of Modernity’ looked at the second most used natural resource after water. As well as fast running out, the extraction of sand is often a primary cause of ecosystem collapse and the exhibition invited visitors to consider sand as the oil of the contemporary digital age and encourage the creation of alternative production systems.