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Dear graduates

Our school is going through an important phase. I see it as a fundamental change, a paradigm shift. The second in the history of our school.

We began as a school for industrial design right after WWII. In the 80s we adopted a new approach – more focussed on man-centered design, which was conceptual and often critical which meant that design was competing with art in the cultural field.

Now, mid-way through the second decade of the twenty-first century, we have set our antenna to new territories. Yes the crisis has a lot to do with that as the market for collectibles has dried up, but we face other serious problems. Problems associated with ecology, energy, water, politics … and I see references to these big issues in many student projects.

We have been criticized for addressing these big issues. People say the problems are simply too big for individual creatives in a small school, in a small town, in a small country to deal with.

But we believe individuals can make a difference. Our aim is to educate designers who can make a difference in the world – as individuals. Big structures have caused our problems so why should we expect big structures to solve them?

And besides, our goal is not always to solve problems.  Our goal is to foster an independent and inquisitive mind and most importantly a pioneering spirit. We are committed, but we are also playful and form our vantage point the world is our playground.

At the Design Academy Eindhoven each student defines his or her own world. The world of climate change or the world of ceramics. These worlds - no matter how big or small - coexist in the school. You have the freedom to choose where you want to make a difference.

Today you passed a critical evaluation. But the presentation you gave is much more than just that. The presentation you made is a bridge between your design and the real world. The presentation you gave today is a reality check. At this school we take presentations very seriously. From the first year to the last, learning to make them right is a big deal. In October it culminates in an incredible graduation show, which is part of your curriculum. Over 30.000 people visit us.

We want you to think about how your work resonates amongst people, how does it interact with an audience, how is it understood, how is it seen. Does it express your intentions? Does it mediate your sensibility? Does it capture our attention in the right way? Is it clear enough? Is it deep enough? Is it poetic? Does it capture the time? Does it function? Does it ooze the right newness? Does it set a trend? Does it respond to questions that are urgent here and now?

Today we saw many projects that did all this and more.

Jason Page surveyed 50 years of design academy catalogues. He took an icon – the chair – and curated a chronology of change – depicting has this object been designed and represented by our students over the decades.

Eline Hasse dared us to join her creactivist movement and proved that design thinking can help people to stay politically engaged.  

Simone Post took the formidable Dutch company Vlisco, with its exacting quality standards, and created stunning tapestries and curtains out of waste, which would otherwise be burned.

Olivier van Herpt created a beautiful piece of technology with his 3d printer ad extruder.  The result is a combination of innovation and beauty that creates clay objects in a way that I have never seen before.  

Manon van Hoekel in Limbo Embassy designed a place for asylum seekers who have no country or embassy to meet, share stories and even cleverly bypass laws to make money. Her refugees sit wrapped in blankets, a textile generally symbolizing homelessness when worn, but in this case they are regally draped to create an air of dignity.

So congratulations to all of you. Take your talent, your thinking and your commitment, go out and really make a difference.
Good luck

Thomas Widdershoven



Published: 17-Dec-2014 18:59


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  • Go Forth and Change the World

    Charlotte Marabelle's graduation project

  • Go Forth and Change the World

    Thomas Widdershoven in front of a set design by student Charlotte Marabelle

  • Go Forth and Change the World

    Marabelle’s graduation project was given to each graduating student