Dutch Design is a bi-annual research project documenting design and innovation in Northern Europe through interviews with leading designers.

I was fortunate enough to be selected as one of 13 senior design students to travel to the Netherlands in 2013 as part of the first official Dutch Design field school. The team underwent an intensive fourteen week research period examining Dutch design, history, and culture in preparation for our in-field experience.

The core of each field school is the interviews that the team conducts, and preparation is paramount for interview sessions that are focused on creating intelligent dialogue with our subjects.

Each team member brought to the table a varied set of skills. In field, I served as sound engineer for many interviews, which in some cases, happened in difficult environments which required quick thinking and adaptability in order to maintain high quality sound recording.

With my research partner, Vivian Hu, I conducted the interview with notable dutch designer, Daan Roosegaarde of Studio Roosegaarde. A thorough understanding of the designer's philosophy, approach, and works was necessary in order to build credibility with him.

I engaged in a discussion with Roosegaarde in a variety of topics including nature and technology, adaptable architecture, and affective computing, speaking particularly to his notable works Dune, Lotus, and Smart Highway.

In our off time between interviews, the group went out into the cities with the goal of putting on film what we saw and felt. The films we released both captured the essence of these places, but also aided in telling the story of the field school itself. I aided in storyboarding, videography, and scoring several of the cultural films that appear on the website.

Justin and I were interested in how sound could be used to distinguish urban centres in our videos. We spent time capturing how places sounded and used those recordings to bring out the character of those locations.

In my role of user experience designer, I wanted to make a radical departure from previous field school websites in terms of what kind of content lived on our website. Inspired by photography blogs and portfolios, I designed an experience that let the raw beauty of what we captured through photography and video take center stage.

Text content would be limited to the masthead for the field school; information about the designers we interviewed or the locations we visited seemed superfluous to the website experience as we didn't want to duplicate what a quick Google search could produce.

To make each interview more digestible, I developed a drawer system containing shortcuts that let visitors navigate to sections that we identified as topics of interest.

The team was fortunate enough to experience some of the Netherlands rich contemporary graphic design as well as design history. The visual design for this website was inspired heavily by what we saw, and I asked Steven Phan to create a series of splash images for each designer that characterized their individual ethos.

Dutch Design's website was my first project to use a responsive design philosophy to produce a consistent experience across devices. This approach would also carry on to future field schools' website offerings.

The field school experience is more than just putting together polished interviews, it's also a unique learning experience. It felt necessary to include how the team grew through our interview experiences. Since each designer contacted for interview is provided with a link to the previous years' website, incorporating behind-the-scenes photography became a communication tool for future potential interview subjects.

  • Dan Nanasi, Elan Asselstine, Vivian Chan, Justin de Freitas, Rachael Eckersley, Joanne Goh, Vivian Hu, Christine Huynh, Kenneth Lai, Steven Phan, Jeffrey Qua, Robbie Queton, Yvonne Ren, Russell Taylor
  • sfudutchdesign.ca
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