Saturday, December 13, 2008

Writing Workshop-Gert Staal

Vlag group: Fumiko Ito, Youngshin Sim, Saara Järvinen

Date: 12 November & 26 November 2008
Article: Youngshin Sim, Saara Järvinen
Photography: Fumiko Ito, Youngshin Sim, Saara Järvinen

The writing workshop conducted by Gert Staal was meant to support research and writing skills of master students in Design Academy to express their ideas and intentions and also to improve their critical understanding of journalists, critics and curators who might publish their work.
The lecturer, Gert Staal is a writer on design and architecture since early 80’s, staff-editor of major Dutch newspaper and has been a visiting teacher for master students in Design Academy since 2005.

In the first session, Mr. Staal emphasized on the importance of interview. Although some interviews might not be published or broadcasted for different reasons, they can deliver background information for a research project or an article. He gave some guides of interview to students. Towards the interview, the subject has to be recognized, a direction and a strategy have to be planed and a list of questions to be prepared. In between the interview and the writing, he advised students to take time, shortly after the interview, to ‘empty their memory’ and write down things that stood out, intrigued them or made them doubt. And tell them to identify the important themes in the conversation but also sidelines that might reveal an aspect of the personality. Finally, in order to put everything into a story, he advised to establish which elements are vital or necessary and to identify in what form the contents of the conversation to be represented. Regarding the writing, Mr. Staal made a point on the importance of using appropriate style and vocabulary.
From the participant’s point of view, it was a profound lecture on interviewing, especially it was interesting to hear how to get answers out of a reluctant interviewee, and what a good technique it is to empty your memory after the discussion and get everything you heard on paper. After preparing us for all the things that need to be considered when making an interview, we got an assignment. The class was put in three person groups in which there was an interviewer, interviewee and an observer. We got to put in practice all that we had learned. The results were promising, as Mr. Staal said. We managed to write some interesting texts in the very limited time.

The next session dealt with reportages and reviews. Mr. Staal proposed to students to practice on writing reportage which offers an editorial format that students might want to use in their thesis and the format necessarily combines ‘neutral’ representation of researched facts with personal perspective position. Moreover, as a journalistic tool its well suited for documenting research projects in a non-academic environment like Design Academy. In terms of the review, Mr. Staal stressed on that writing a review forces students to structure their thoughts and knowledge on an event, book etc. in an organized framework that consists of such as introduction, body and conclusion. The purpose of a review is to analyze critically a segment of a published body of knowledge through summary, classification, comparison of prior research studies, reviews of literature, and theoretical articles.
In this session, we learned the difference between the two and wrote about Don Norman’s lecture based on this knowledge. Surprisingly everyone had a different approach to the subject, and we got to hear some good reviews and reportages. Clearly many of us got very into the writing and Mr. Staal was happy about the texts.
Gert Staal gave useful tips for writing, and actually managed to make it sound easier for us. He told us about fruitful mistakes that can according to his experience lead to good results. “Interesting things tend to happen on the sides” was one good tip Mr. Staal gave, to make us pay attention to what the interviewee says after the actual interview is over.Mr. Staal is an absolutely devoted teacher and he clearly enjoys working with us. It was good that he actually made us write during the lessons and the assignments were not intimidating big. He gave us time during the day to complete the writing, so that everyone got something concrete done. Gert Staal is used to working with design students so he understands that we have limited time and energy to use on his course. He certainly succeeded well in making the most of it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Demakersvan 19 November 2008

VLAG group : Carl Harris, Nichon Glerum, Lucia Garcia Velez, Mie Frey Damgaard and Naomi Solomaniuck

Article: Demakersvan – Jeroen Verhoeven

Demakersvan are a design team comprised of Jeroen Verhoeven, his twin brother Joep and Judith de Graauw. They graduated from Eindhoven Design Academy in 2004 and set up Demakersvan ‘the makers of’ in 2005. Since their graduation they have experienced a considerable amount of success, collaborating with companies like Nike and Swarovski, enterprises such as Droog and have a permanent collection in MoMA.

On Wednesday 19th 2008 Jeroen Verhoeven from ‘Demakersvan’ took a moment from his busy schedule to give an insightful lecture and interview. The interview started later than arranged as Jeroen was touring the academy reminiscing with his previous mentors. Once seated he began by giving a judicious analysis of his academy life: reflecting on the more negative aspects such as workshop space and his insecurities upon graduation. He described his relationship with the academy as love/hate and stated that the academy was a ‘communist system’ that ‘is a victim of paperwork’. However turbulent his time was, he still has admiration and respect for the academy. ‘They created the essential publicity that launched us onto the international stage.’

Jeroen talked briefly about how ‘Demakersvan’ works and the relationship with his twin brother and Judith de Graauw. In doing so, his posture became more relaxed as he stated the importance of working with good people. It was very evident that jeroen is a humble person and cares a great deal about Demakersvan success. This drive and need to prove mentors, critics and ‘the design village’ wrong has led him and Demakersvan to experience success in such a short period of time.

As the interview continued I warmed to Jeroen and felt admiration for his dreamlike ideals. He uses naivety as a tool to challenge any preconception of what design is. When asked if he were an artist or designer he stated ‘why do I have to put myself in a certain box? I don’t like labels’. This makes it very easy for jeroen to wonder through the design world choosing what commissions and briefs best fit his design style. This is a freedom bought from the success of the Cinderella table and something that Jeroen knows only too well.

After the interview finished I was eager to hear his lecture. I wanted him to elaborate on statements such as ‘functionality is only important if that’s the subject’ and ‘dream impossible things’. It became apparent that the lecture would be an overview of Demakersvan and targeted towards his new factory that was built in India. One main difference with other lecture’s given at the academy was audience participation. Jeroen stated that he would like students to ask him questions throughout the lecture, making the event more productive and as a result informal.

He started the lecture by reminiscing about his time at the academy. He stated ‘ we had no plan to start Demakersvan, but they are two people who I could not live without’. He talked with enthusiasm about Jeop’s graduation project ‘lace fence’ and the quick offers that came after graduation. This led him to reminisce about the factory in India and the fact that his brother is currently living there. It was apparent that the situation is difficult for Jeroen who acknowledges that he’s a better ‘designer’ because of his relationship with Jeop. This created an air of nostalgia, which lingered for the entire lecture.

His style of presentation was very loose, fluid and not scripted. He switched from slide to slide and back again; taking time to find the correct picture that best described his topic. It was slightly too sporadic and felt a little clumsy, as if he had created the presentation on the train coming to the academy.

He quickly spoke about a previous commercial project ‘Fatboy’, mentioning the royalties from that project helped fund his creative mind. He talked about his new idea for a chandelier made from 30,000 butterflies. The project was received with mixed emotions. Some students just smirked; others were perplexed by the ambitiousness of the idea. What it emphasised was Jeroen’s dare to dream big mentality, and his love of naivety. He gave an insightful anecdote regarding MoMA and how when asked to meet with them he did not know who they were or how big an achievement dealing with MoMA is. Yet it is this naivety that has shaped jeroen and his limitless approach to the design world. Whilst mentioning MoMA he was asked by a member of the audience to explain what it is like dealing with museums like the V&A. He gave an honest and frank answer ‘ Working with museums are great they pay for everything’.

He finally talked about the Cinderella table and how he made it. The audience seemed interested in the manufacturing process, something that Jeroen is very passionate about’ you have to see the positive side of manufacture, find craftsmanship in India for example and exploit it in a positive way’. This ambitiousness to make something that meets resistance shows how much resilience Jeroen has. He stated that the Cinderella table was something he just wanted to make, he did not think of ‘limited editions’ but merely the love of creating a form from his imagination or dreamlike reality. 

He concluded the informal lecture by giving a somewhat motivational speech. He exclaimed that the master students should act, do, and be productive and naive at the same time. It felt warm hearted and honest, but was not particularly appreciated by some of the audience.


Carl Harris

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Review: a day with Don Norman

Sourcegroup: Anne-Marije, Tom, Hanna, Chester & José
Location: Designhuis, Eindhoven
Who: Don Norman
What: lecture sociable design
When: 20 November 2008, 12pm

As we were in charge of guiding this day, we started of with meeting Professor Don Norman. Although his picture showed us a friendly, social man, the first moments were quiet awkward. We were busy arranging the setting and he was guided through the Designhuis and preparing for lunch.

At two o'clock people started entering the Designhuis. Quickly the 70 placed chairs were occupied, while the rest of the 430 people started looking for a good spot. This was more than we expected, but for Mister Norman nothing new.

The introduction by Kees Overbeeke was absolutely not in place, he did not add anything to the day. Luckily Mister Norman took over the mic and set the tone for his lecture. Talking about sociable design, he sounded as he was doing this for the million times. The content of the lecture was really interesting and he had nice examples. Unfortunately the interaction with the audience about the subject was forced. Was this because of the unexpected high number of listeners or because of mister Normans well prepared footnotes?

The amount of people also had an impact on the "questions and answers". Only one question was asked and after the lecture people lined up to ask their question in person. Those questions could really add some value to the lecture. Mister Norman was very patience and took the time to answer all the questions. This leaded to a delay in our schedule and therefore we did not have the opportunity to interview him.

We took him back to the academy and on the way he opened up. We saw him observing street situations and he shared his personal vision on the Dutch street policy. During de guided tour in the academy we also shared our positive and negative thoughts about the Design Academy. This was appreciated by Mister Norman who, we assume, is always guided by high positioned persons. At the point that the personal contact was established, it was time for him to go to Amsterdam.