Interview with Jorn Konijn, Head of Program at Dutch Design Week

As the 20th edition approaches, one of its key figures—Jorn Konjin, the annual event’s Head of Program—explains this year’s theme and tells us what to expect

Globally renowned for its experimental focus and daring spirit, later this month the 20th edition of Dutch Design Week will take place with the overarching theme of “The Greater Number”, a theme that will highlight the value in less consumption and less production. We sat down with Jorn Konijn to get a better idea of what to expect.

With this theme, DDW on the one hand calls for less and, on the other hand, acknowledges that less isn’t always possible and that when it comes to more, it should be better.

It’s an example set recently by other comeback events including Milan Design Week, Copenhagen’s 3 Days of Design and the newly launched Stockholm Creative Edition, which all built on a “new consciousness” in design when it comes to the environment.

Not limited to sustainability, Dutch Design Week will focus on other areas of importance including inclusivity and the wellbeing economy. In this regard, the aim here is for design to enable a better quality of life as well as to highlight the need for diverse representation in the industry.

The event will take place in Eindhoven from October 16-24, and thousands of designers will participate across 110+ locations in the city – © Cleo Goossens – Interview with Jorn Konijn

How these themes and areas of focus will unfold remains to be seen in Eindhoven from October 16-24, when thousands of designers will participate across 110+ locations in the city. 

“The starting point of the theme is the change the world has gone through. In the last one and a half years, the world has changed radically because of the coronavirus pandemic,” says Jorn Konjin, the Head of Program for Dutch Design Week. “But has our behavior also changed?”

After teasing an exciting programme with over 320 events, we sat down with Jorn Konjin to get a better idea of what to expect…

Jorn Konijn is the Head of Program at the annual event – © Dutch Design Week

Who should attend Dutch Design Week and what makes it a unique design festival?

Jorn Konijn:

“The uniqueness of the festival is that at times it is rather conceptual and experimental but still accessible for large crowds. It is a festival which is less about selling and much more about the experiment. We try to view the festival as a design playground without becoming too abstract. It really finds a balance between that and hands-on products.”

[ Read also Dutch Design Week 2021: The Greater Number ]

Konijn explains that they view the event as a large playground as they want the designs they show to be accessible to the public – © Max Kneefel – Interview with Jorn Konijn

This year’s theme is “The Greater Number”: how will “the search for the better number” help designers in shaping a better future?

Jorn Konijn:

“If this crisis has taught us one thing, then it is the fact that we simply cannot continue the constant surge of overproduction and overconsumption. We have to find a new balance. One that represents less consumption and embodies more equality in society. We have to search for a better number, The Greater Number.

In 1968 Italian designer Giancarlo De Carlo (1919-2005) was appointed chief curator of the Milan Design Triennale and decided that The Greater Number would be the main theme of the event. De Carlo was in doubt himself. After WWII Italy was in ruins, and there was a huge need for housing. He wanted to build as many houses as possible, but he also heard the discussions of the Club of Rome about limits to growth. Was he to continue to design more? To build more? Produce more? From that moment on, he set out to search for the better number, for people and the planet.

Sadly, the 1968 Design Triennale that would address this, coincided with the large student protests of that time. The Milanese students considered the event as the epitome of the bourgeoisie. They decided to occupy the Trienniale building and destroy the exhibitions. DDW21 is a homage to that triennial and to the realization that we are still searching for The Greater Number.”

This year’s theme is an homage to the 1968 Milan Design Triennale, where the chief curator Giancarlo De Carlo initially tried to address this issue of ‘the Greater Number’ – © Boudewijn Bollmann – Interview with Jorn Konijn

What can we expect from Dutch Design Week this year? What are the main trends on which the program of the event is built?

Jorn Konijn:

“A lot of designers have been questioning the role of design during Covid. Should we design, create and produce more or do we have to reflect more on our profession? They are not only looking at material from a sustainability perspective but looking at the complete chain of making: from the ground materials to the transportation, from the fabrication to the use.

Another trend is that designers are more and more aware of the group they are designing for, and that this group is not a homogenous group but a very diverse group. Issues such as diversity and inclusivity are subjects that designers are very concerned about.”

Designers will be looking at sustainability within the whole designing process as well as inclusivity and diversity within design teams – © Max Kneefel – Interview with Jorn Konijn

We are finally returning to physical events, what has changed from the pre-covid time? Have new themes and macro trends been added to the program?

Jorn Konijn:

“Our main theme really addresses that we can and should not want to have an edition like the one in 2019. Not that there was something wrong with it, but much more because we have come to realise that more and more production and consumption won’t do good.

We have to find a new balance, a new number, a better number. So yes, macro trends have been added to the program. The approach to product showcases in this case has also been changed. I believe that there are more conversation pieces than products solely aimed at selling.”

Jorn Konijn - Klokgebouw © Sjoerd Eickmans
This year, a focus has been placed on conversation pieces, rather than selling, thus addressing the overarching issue of over-consumption – © Tommy Köhlbrugge (left) & Sjoerd Eickmans (right) – Interview with Jorn Konijn

What are your expectations from the event?

Jorn Konijn:

“We believe that participants are very eager and happy to participate again, after being in lockdown for so long. So, in general, we are really expecting a happy and relieved type of attitude in the participation. Designers are not only eager to show all their new works but also to reconnect to the field again.

To meet each other, to engage in the discussions and in the talks so that together they can discuss how to go further. So we expect a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of discussion and a lot of optimism for the future.”


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