Label a Designer

If you would ask me what I call myself, I would say “a human being – just like you”.

I don’t like labels and I remember that, on my first business card, I titled myself as an Illustrator. My second contained Illustrator, Designer and Artist. I was trying to identify tags that could explain the kind of work I do – or at that moment did. I was struggling to find my place in the Design – Art World. I was considering to have all round designer on the next one, but I realised that it actually didn’t say anything. Nobody would understand what I actually did by calling myself all round. On my current business card, there is no title. I do have 3-4 web links on them, which I hope explain or cover my field of work.

During my post graduate study, I designed another card, to use for my project. Here I had a different approach. On the front it simply says “YOU ARE GREAT”  and on the back of the card there is a web link to my project. The approach, in this case, was to focus on my receiver and use positive affirmations. Instead of explaining what I did, I attempted to provide him/her an experience.

Recently, I was asked to teach the 1st year students of my former academy. Showing my graduation project, tell about Relational Design and what that means in a SRVD ( Socially Responsive Design) context. There were two things that struck me. 1) even though quite some of the students knew about my work from before, it was still very odd and new to them. 2) they didn’t understand what I did or how I could make a living out of ‘my way of design’. Questions as “So what do you call yourself?” “How do you earn money?” ” How do you approach organisation and institutions, when you want to work for them?” were asked. I felt my answers didn’t satisfy them in the sense that, it didn’t fit their reality of what a designer does, what a designer is and how a designer works.

At that moment, I found it quite surprising. Apparently my work was so accepted during my studies, that I saw it as something so natural and obvious, that I stopped questioning the label it should have. I just didn’t see the necessity of it. Now, I see that for certain groups it needs an explanation and every group needs a different language, a different tone of voice wrapped around the same arguments. Arguments yes. Sometimes it feels like I need to defend everything I stand for, even though I use design for the social good. These students were new to this field of Design and I know that, in their BA education the notion of  more traditional design departments prevails. When you are not exposed to other ways of thinking and working, you can’t know. When you are not encouraged, stimulated and incited to explore every kind of boundary there is – and dare to cross it – you don’t look further. Another experience related to this, was working – voluntary – for I was asked to help and organise actions and events for this cause. I found out, that I was perhaps thinking too much in my own language and forgot that I wasn’t working with people who have a creative background. All well hearted people, coming from fields as biology, economy, environmentalism, activism, ecology, etc.

We all had the same aim.

We all had ideas about how this should be done.

Our ideas didn’t align.

I felt and feel that I have some expertise in this. Studying and experimenting on how to reach, engage and empower people, for over 2 years in theory and practice. Though, in the end of this collaboration between various fields – something I like to see as THE solution for many issues – I felt left alone. Likely, because I wasn’t explaining my arguments and reasons in the right way.

Back to my starting point: I still don’t like labels. But I understand the need to be able to explain what I do, to various kind of people. Preferably short and concise. So what am I then? Let’s try some terms and see how that feels and what it says:

Social Designer

Conceptual Designer

Meta Designer

Process Designer

Queen of Creativity




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Design Sucks

speaks for itself.

Thanks Renata for visualizing this problem (and creating a solution)

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Case Study Daniel Eatock

A collection of small tests of social dialogue, which all together say something about our society.
The work of Daniel Eatock creates places in space to re-evaluate society. The rituals and traditions in our society are mostly taken for granted and reasons for why they exist and how they work are unquestioned. Without judgement or imposing opinion, Eatock gives the audience the opportunity to explore and investigate their surroundings and system.

Why do we behave and act as we do?
Why do things look as they look like?
Why are things called as they are?
What does our language mean?
What is the definition of a word?

Through social dialogue and playful exercises we can dematerialize the meaning and value of objects, patterns and systems in our society and then, without the previous beliefs, re-building, re-doing, re-designing and re-visioning them. Find his (participation!) projects at


Pedestrian Project

The other  day I found this great performance in the public setting called The Pedestrian Project by New York artist/designer Yvette Heijne. The performers are acting out every day life, but it has a great impact because of the costumes they are wearing which resemble the traffic light icons for pedestrians. Brilliant!!

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Theatre Reflection

I had a lot of meetings with people connected to the Black Nordic Theatre so far I met 3 actors/performers (former students) who gave me a lot of good feedback and want to create some events with me. Next to that I have suggested some ideas to the teachers of the theatre school of Black Nordic and I will be doing an afternoon workshop with their students the 19th of January. The teachers were very critical and these questions make me think about the uncertainty and vulnerability of my project..and me. Learning by doing is a sentence that repeats itself all the time. Creating an open participative framework means placing oneself in uncertainty. The end is open and unpredictable, the white spots will be colored in the process. The colors can be defined and analyzed afterward. BUT as the teachers said or asked: “what is the pedagogical part in this for the students and what is my experience in this?” pedagogically I reckon it is being open for improvisation and working with a social dialogue and the 4th wall theory.

What will be important is that I write a script for these students with a strict framework as a guidance and a scenario with specific roles. So this test-project will be a more directed and maybe more closed performance/theatrical setting than the thing I hope to be doing with the 3 actors (and hopefully some more participants). Today I also met a man who is a sound-painter, which is a lot about experiment and improvising and could be interesting in a guerrilla setting.

I notice that these meetings give me a lot of feedback and input, but I need not forget some design reflection and keep in mind what the visual communication part is in this theatrical setting. Next to that I have some fears or better called challenges with organzing these events/interventions in the public space. Will I be able to arrange them in this short time left? Or will I be able to just do small tests which will give me clear (enough) conclusions? It is a lot of work and I need to make some distinct decisions, to have a strong focus.


Problem Intervention

Today I started spreading these in public transport:

A gift package with a one of the problems I have collected in it and printed inside is a voting form. I hope to encourage people to vote for the best problem on and for the best problem of the month I will be doing another Design Intervention which will bring a possible solution!! So come on everybody, VOTE!


Blog Action Day

We have global problems, which we have created ourselves and we are also maintaining them as they are, or even making them worse. On the other end we have the individuals who aren’t reacting to these problems, because they are not part of our present and everyday life. I call these  global problems or far & away problems because the consequences:
-will appear only in the future:  environmental problems as pollution, global warming, rising sea level, etc.
-are felt and taking place in other parts of the world like: poverty, hunger, etc
What these consequences have in common is that, we helped to cause them and
we have the power and resources to tackle them. To sum up, it actually is our problem, but we do not do anything about it. Why?

in between the ‘world’ and the individual are several levels as the family, community, government, all kinds of institutions and organizations as non profs, artists designers, science and technology.  The individual of my target group which is in the age between 15-35, has not experienced a war or a direct effect of the global problems and has only dealt with their local problems, which makes it harder for them to feel empathy or act. Maybe he sees and knows about the global issues going on, but since he is not experiencing them, he feels there isn’t much he can do about it. Consistently focused on status and objects, we are not engaged with the society. There is no team spirit, no compassion, no social conscience. Selfishness, pessimism, apathy and ignorance is a sort of behavior that cuts us off from the society.
Even if we try to take some actions, we feel they are turned down by government or restrictions on the market. For instance if you would try to buy products without plastic, you walk quite quickly upon a wall. Thus my individual feels it is up to authority and technology to solve.

Until a certain point it might be true that the government has the power and technology the solutions. We could say that it is up to the state to solve the problem, to tell their inhabitants how to live. However, the government is limited in influencing  choices and behavior of their inhabitants.
Moreover, there is also the issue of knowledge; technology and science have so many ideas, answers and initiatives that it is confusing even for them. There is so much information around and yet so much is unknown. The endless possibilities for what we can do and make, causes a luxury problem of choice. In a society where power, wealth, education and opportunities are the largest, the people are most unhappy.

It is up to the public to come with the demand. The past couple of decades consumers have demanded choice and convenience; now it is all there. If we would ask for conscience we would get it.

The question is not: how should we live?– waiting for someone to command us- but: how do we want to live?

What I want to say with this -and I can say much much more- Is that the way how visual communication has tried to sell awareness and change our behavior until now, does not work. I mean, I quite like these posters I made, but it doesn’t change a thing. What I am doing in my MA is finding this trigger and the perfect design to activate and change and maintain our behavior. I know, it sounds like a lot, but I think it is possible!!



Definition according to wikepedia (in short); Fair trade is an organized social movement and market-based approach to empowering developing country producers and promoting sustainability. The movement advocates the payment of a fair price as well as social and environmental standards in areas related to the production of a wide variety of goods. It focuses in particular on exports from developing countries to developed countries, most notably handicrafts, coffee, cocoa, sugar, tea, bananas, honey, cotton, wine, fresh fruit and flowers.

Ecology is the scientific study of the distribution and abundance of life and the interactions between organisms and their natural environment. The environment of an organism includes physical properties, which can be described as the sum of local abiotic factors such as insulation (sunlight), climate, and geology, and biotic ecosystem, which includes other organisms that share its habitat.

The word “ecology” is often used more loosely in such terms as social ecology and deep ecology and in common parlance as a synonym for the natural environment or environmentalism. Likewise “ecologic” or “ecological” is often taken in the sense of environmentally friendly

No I am asking..(1) Why do a lot of so called Fairtrade and Eco products have such plastic and environmentally unfriendly packaging (or does this happen to be, so conveniently, the good plastic)??? (2) Who is to blame for this, the designers, the company or…?? I had an envelope ready, to send it back to the producer, when I realized that, of course, that wouldn’t be very environmentally friendly. I actually wanted to make a stand and ask everyone to send their leftover packaging back to maker. Instead I have send them a mail with these pictures. (3) Do you have more examples of this? Send your picture and I will use it for my project. Curious and a bit scared to find out how bad the packaging business is.

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Fijne Dierendag

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