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Daan Roosegaarde on Design & Science #DDW13

As one if its official ambassadors, Daan Roosegaarde was in Eindhvoven during Dutch Design Week with a discerning eye and a refreshingly upbeat spirit.  We had a quick chat over a morning coffee.

By Gabrielle Kennedy / 07-11-2013

Daan Roosegaarde is without doubt the most interesting Dutch designer working today. His devotion to creating non-downloadable experiences that are focussed on the future is unparalleled.

“Nobody can see into the future,” he tells me, “but what a good designer needs to be doing right now is hacking that future in order to claim it.  It is the only way to materialize a dream.”

If Roosegaarde has any criticism of DDW it is that young designers are not motivated enough by this need to claim that future space.

“This is the only time in their careers when they will have the money and time to really research this well,” he says.    

Recently in Denmark to collect his INDEX award, Roosegaarde was particularly impressed by what he saw happening in the world of design.  “I saw a fantastic combination of good and imaginative ideas that were properly engaging with reality,“ he says.  “Everything from health, mobility, food and energy is being dealt with there by students and young designers.”  

Roosegaarde says that for any design culture to stay ahead, art and design academies must build better links with knowledge universities.  “We need science to really be more integral to the thinking of designers,” he says.  “The Ministry of Culture wants to boast about Dutch design, but for it to stay alive they need to really invest in hubs and platforms that promote more cooperation … otherwise design will end up being little more then an open air museum.”

That combination of science, entrepreneurship and design is the crossroads in which Roosegaarde himself is thriving.  “I call it merging the worlds of poetry and pragmatism,” he says.  

Like how he convinced a conservative road company to take a design idea seriously and invest in “smart highways”.  Roosegaarde refused to accept that everything embraced technology except for roads especially give then the possibilities are endless – glow in the dark road markings, interactive street lights, battery re-charging e-lanes, and illuminated foul weather warnings.   Next up he will be hacking smog in China by using static electricity to create clean holes in the sky.   

“There are so may crazy insular scientists out there who are sitting on some amazing research and information,” Roosegaarde says, “but it is locked in their top drawers.  I have started talking to them to explain my ideas and they say ‘yea sure we can do that’.”

The issue is creating a balanced relationship between design and science – the platform can’t be for one or the other. “Design isn’t just about facilitating science,” he says.  “We need to work harder at connecting the dots, linking everything up.   A good designer needs to be thinking more about hacking other worlds, about creating networks, relationships and being in a collective, but most importantly deriving satisfaction from that.  In Holland design can be too individualistic.”