Dr. Love examines the world of design – A load of rubbish


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Rubbish is the distinguishing feature of Dutch Design, and long may it remain so.

Column by Joost Overbeek

For years I earned a living by making ‘rubbish’. That’s what we at the studio call the type of job we do just for the fun of it. Of course it has to bring in some money — we do need to eat — but the point of departure is that it’s simply fun. Collage, animation, game — that kind of thing.

That sort of thing is on the wane now. We have, or had, a crisis, and ‘rubbish’ quickly falls victim to cutbacks. Undeservedly, in my opinion. I agree that education and health care are more important, but things like new airplanes could definitely be put on hold for a while, as could a couple of other things I could mention. Anyhow, to come back to my own profession: I’d rather do something just for the fun than have to follow the rules in some handbook for house styles.

Imagine you haven’t a thing in the world to do as a designer, and a potential client asks how you’re doing. ‘Super,’ you reply. ‘Working on lots of fun things.’ You’re not going to say that you’re out of work and that all the fun has gone out of your life as a result or anything like that.

Well that’s the way it works at a bigger scale too. As long as it’s possible in any way, we have to keep spending money on rubbish — on all forms of art, modern mime, opera. And yes, even on design. Because it’s so much fun. Let’s show we think it’s important, and we’re willing to spend money on it.

After all, as a tiny country you don’t want to be known for how well you enter conflicts, or for how much you contribute to European agriculture or for how many medals you win at a skating tournament. No, you want to be that ‘zany dude’.

Top-notch red light districts, Dutch skunk, gay capital of the world, Dutch Design! Not quite the rubbish I’m referring to, but still.

The economy is bound to recover, since the pendulum will have to swing the other way sooner or later. But that we are such a fun-loving, zany country, so tolerant, with a couldn’t-care-less-about-anybody attitude — if we lose that, we’ll never recover it!

So that’s why you have to head along to What Design Can Do. For it’s a perfect example of what design can do. It allows us to stand out from the grayness, banks, investors, soldiers.

Smart readers will have noticed that design and rubbish have more of less become one and the same thing during this text. Not everybody will agree with that, but I mean it as a compliment. Long may the rubbish continue!

Graphic designer and commentator Joost Overbeek is owner of designstudio Overburen

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