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Written by Sofia Irene Marmolejo and Colin Keays

September always arrives earlier than expected. Before we know it, DAE inaugurates the new year with its annual opening ceremony. Exciting times for Eindhoven await, not only for the Academy but for the city where design continues to be at the center.

During the event, Mechtild van den Hombergh, Director of Operations, welcomed newcomers, existing bachelor and master students, colleagues and tutors. Addressing a school with over seventy years of experience, she introduced the appointment of Raf De Keninck as new member of the Executive board. Before welcoming Creative Director Joseph Grima to the stage, Mechtild also addressed the severity of the day-to-day concerns of Design Academy students including housing and limitations of the workshops, which will be taken care of in a serious manner.

Joseph Grima continued the welcome with some words of inspiration. He began by asking “What holds us all together as an academy? It’s a special place because of its community, committed and searching for the same thing.” 

New students arriving at the Academy are well-aware of the status of design today. Is design still an excuse to encounter new problems to solve? Design education is not solely about stylistic differences or production – it can be seen as a cultural practice that percolates into people’s daily lives. Grima further emphasised his previously documented vision of the profession today, “in which designers have unparalleled influence and responsibilities for the future of the planet and humankind.

He then reflected on some humorous images of obscure and obsolete mass mobility projects from the 70s and 80s. Although the projects themselves did not prosper, the common thread of these projects was a utopian vision towards an efficient public transportation. He recalled Dan Hill, who was invited to lecture last semester, with ‘Cities that cars built when we were not looking.’ Grima then bravely stated that ‘the automobile has to be banned’ using this as an example of one of the many big questions for the current generation of designers looking to provide alternatives.

As the focus throughout the day steered away from the centeredness of production, Grima further emphasised the role of design as the frame to come up with ideas and bring them into the public discourse. Focusing on the social responsibility and an ethical attitude towards the world and our community around us, he finalised by asking the students “What reality can be”, and that forming such a reality "starts today.

The evening continued to present the Jan Lucassen prize, which was awarded to Gert Staal from our MA Information Design department as the ‘Best teacher’. The award is given to a tutor or mentor that knows how to develop content and didactics in the interest of the students. Staal was chosen by the body of students who voted from the list of nominees.

Earlier that day, during a morning of presentations from the Masters department Heads, the focus was equally on change and risk-taking decisions. The departure of Jan Boelen as the head of Social Design, who led the department for 12 years, was met with the ritual of welcoming a new head, Saskia van Stein, formerly director of the platform Bureau Europa. Saskia takes over the smallest – yet most risk taking – department, formerly known as Design Curating and Writing now called The Critical Inquiry Lab. The programme has been reset and reformatted and seeks to enlarge this emerging field to look at new topics and formats. “We wanted a new position, to move towards the world with a critical but also inquisitive lens. Criticality alone, perhaps doesn’t bring much. We are thinking of an inquisitive trajectory”. The five pillars for the new programme are critical theory, curation, editing, publishing and mediation. Grima reflected that these changes are pivotal, remaining close to the core of the school with its attitude of research.

Each Masters head focused on the unique perspective of their department. Information Design Department Head Joost Grootens focused on an analysis of “Complexity of tools”. As Louise Schouwenberg welcomed the largest group ever into first year Contextual Design, she recounted another mobility-related project, Olafur Eliason's ‘Your Mobile Expectations’ for BMW. Reflecting upon notions of mobility and design – an incidental theme of the day – she introduced the project as an attempt to marry the market and the art world to evoke critique and ethical responses. She concluded by inviting the newcomers to hone their personal drive, intuition and imaginarium.

With this, and after some groovy tunes by Tom Jabocs; the Academic Year was officially opened and the whole community at Design Academy Eindhoven looks forward to a promising new year ahead.

Published: 11-Sep-2019 13:52


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  • Opening Academic Year 2019

    Photography by Boudewijn Bollmann

  • Opening Academic Year 2019

  • Opening Academic Year 2019

  • Opening Academic Year 2019

    Mechtild van den Hombergh, Director of Operations

  • Opening Academic Year 2019

    Joseph Grima, Creative Director

  • Opening Academic Year 2019

    Gert Staal, winner Jan Lucassen prize

  • Opening Academic Year 2019