Dutch Design: Study Based on Dutch Designer Marije Vogelzang
Dutch design has several unique qualities, all of which combine together make Holland a worldwide design pioneer. The design and the path to it have the beauty of simplicity and purity. Dutch designers build community and connection between people. They are also good at capturing and reflecting sensitivity and emotion through design.
Marije Vogelzang is one Dutch designer who exemplifies these qualities; she designs eating experiences instead of merely designing the food itself. Vogelzang uses food as mediium to give simple and straightforward proposal, such as create a communal eating experience. She also creates community and connections through her projects. She captures sensitivity and emotion and then visualizes them in her projects.
On a long dining table, the tablecloth was one single large piece of white cloth. The end of the tablecloth was extending and suspended to ceiling. This created a clean and independent space based on the proportion of the dining table. The participants sat with their heads and hands inside the cloth and their body outside, which concealed people’s clothes behind the tablecloth.
The food in plates was also presented intentionally. Sharing food on a table is an uncommon custom in Europeans’ dining table. In this dinner, each side of the people have one kind of food with two servings. Everyone had the serving that was different from the one face to this side, which meant the food was ready to be shared to the opposite person.
It is unusual to see designers playing with their food as a material and experience. The Sharing Dinner is quite an experimental design even in the field of eating experience design.
Dutch designers favor the simple material and form. In many of Vogelzang’s projects, I find she often uses white as the main tone. The large white tablecloth in the Sharing Dinner kept the space pure and clean. All the participants are naturally included in this isolated space. I can’t get distracted by form and surface of Vogelzang’s design, the only information I read is about sharing and connection. However, the tablecloth is not only a connecting media, but also works to dissolve the social hierarchy in the company.
Moreover, the design path that many Dutch designers take is simple and straightforward. Instead of brainstorming idea widely, they often choose a unique point and develop it further. This path looks like a real experiment which has a clear subject or clue in the beginning. The typical method they use to develop their ideas is making
things, which is similar to experiment but it is much more practical than brainstorming on paper. All the experimental actions are built on the clear subject and expand the possibilities related to it.
In Vogelzang’s Sharing Dinner, there were not overly-designed tableware and decorations in the space. The main subject - connecting people physically - was enhanced thanks to other elements had been downplayed by using simple white tablecloth, dishes and unornamented glassware. Thus, The message through design is quite simple and straightforward to both diners from Droog and the readers like me.
Dutch design is also the pioneer of exploring the relationship and connection between people. Much of today’s popular product and service designs are single-user-centered, designers provide people the customized design for private and personal experience. However, Dutch design takes the different path. The Sharing Dinner was designed for community. Everyone was physically connected by the tablecloth. When people were moving, the movement would fluctuate to the nearing participants. In additional, the food sharing action reinforced the connection between people. In this company dinner, all the typical boundaries and cautions between people were dissolved. The status of the participants were erased and only the pleasure were left on each participant’s face.
Dutch designers plumb the depths of emotion and sensitivity and transfer their abstract inspirations into physical and readable language through design. In the Sharing Dinner, the food was no longer about nutrition or gastronomy. Just like Vogelzang said, “Food is the most rich and important material in the world.” It played the role of physical and chemical catalyst to increase people’s emotion and happiness as a design material. The designed movement of tablecloth and the dissolving of hierarchic identity were so subtle but natural. Though I am from the eastern culture in the world, I can get the idea of Christmas spirit through learning about this project.
Dutch designers are able to scent out the trends of design. They don’t chase after the individual needs and popularity. Dutch design is the process of exploring, testing and even tasting! Designers are willing to break and redefine the rules that we often follow. Instead of calling herself a food designer, Vogelzang tags herself as an eating designer. She is not only a pioneer of design experiences, but also the space and systems used to create these experiences. "When I think about food I think about something much bigger than only cooking. Food is agriculture, biology, psychology, transport, human connection, animal connection, waste, health, nurture, nature, science, and also gastronomy.”2 Vogelzang said this insightfully when she was asked about the education of eating design. This reveals that the design is no longer a single object now, it is all about the presentation of experience.
These qualities of Dutch design encourage me a lot as a designer. In the future, when I design the object, I will think more about the core utility and experience of the object instead of its traditional definition and frame.
In additional, I will try to focus on one material and explore it with practical experiment and prototyping, then reducing all the unimportant elements of my work. The reason is that I was encouraged to be imaginative and creative in the past, the approach I took is to keep distracting myself from the main subject. Sometimes, people cannot get my main point when I am trying to sell my ideas or presenting my work. This is a frustrating experience as a designer.
Also, I am not worried about the commercial value of the design. I believed the deeper I
will get in my design development, the more practical and understandable my design will be. Then the suitable consumers will be convinced by my design.
Dutch design really gives me many valuable suggestions about simplicity and designing experiences.
• Ramakers, Renny, and Gijs Bakker. Droog Design: Spirit of the Nineties. Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 1998. Print.
• Betsky, Aaron, and Adam Eeuwens. False Flat: Why Dutch Design Is so Good. London: Phaidon, 2004. Print.
• Klanten, Robert. Create: Eating, Design and Future Food. Berlin: Gestalten, 2008. Print.
• Droog & Dutch Design. Utrecht: Centraal Museum, 2000. Print.
• Thomas Howells and Leanne Hayman. Experimental Eating. London: Black Dog Publishing. 2014
• Dezeen. Food is "the most important material in the world" says Marije Vogelzang. 8 July 2014. http://www.dezeen.com/2014/07/08/marije-vogelzang-eating-designer-interview-food-course-design-academy-eindhoven/
• Dutch Profile. Marije Vogelzang. http://dutchprofiles.com/profile/412/marije-vogelzang
• Issuu. Eat Love. http://issuu.com/bis_publishers/docs/eat_love
• ⾷食物設計的2個「餵」什麼，⾷食物設計師 Jinhyun Jeon 與 Marije Vogelzang 的飲⾷食⾰革命. http://www.mottimes.com/cht/article_detail.php?serial=673&type=1
• Marije Volgezang. http://www.marijevogelzang.nl/www.marijevogelzang.nl/home.html
• Zahid Sarder. Hands-Off: New Dutch Design at the Confluence of Technology & Craft. Design speech in California College of the Arts. March, 2015.