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Written by Žan Kobal (MA Contextual Design '20)

As the world settles into the new realities brought by the Covid-19 pandemic, Design Academy Eindhoven celebrates the beginning of a new academic year.

Taking place on the first floor of the De Witte Dame on September 3, new and returning students alike, were greeted by the Director of Education and Research Raf De Keninck, who opened the year and introduced this year’s key speaker Dan Hill. The programme was concluded by Creative Director Joseph Grima, with a presentation of the school’s new visual identity and website. Following new protocols to ensure a safe environment for everyone, this year’s opening took a slightly different format than previous years.

Through the day, De Keninck and Grima welcomed new students in a series of 4 smaller events, urging them to hold on to their ambitions and dreams, even in the uncertainty of our times. As a picture of the graduating year of 1955 appeared on a screen behind him, Grima reflected on the longevity and shifting identity of DAE, one that is shaped by its students and alumni.  “It is not giving you a career path, a job or even giving you a body of information, but to learn to learn,” he stated when talking about what makes a successful graduate. “It is providing you with the tools to do so and open you to a permanent state of curiosity” he added.

After the pre-programme, De Keninck kicked-off the official opening to a limited audience, which for the first time also took place in the digital space through a live stream. He acknowledged the upcoming year as a year of change, some as a result of the pandemic and some as a result of years of planning and hard work. He emphasized the institutions commitment to on-site education, only made possible by following the new rules and guidelines developed to ensure a safe working environment in these unprecedented times.

The programme continued with an online lecture by our new visiting professor Dan Hill, the Director of Strategic Design at Vinnova, the Swedish government’s innovation agency, and the author of the seminal ‘Dark Matter and Trojan Horses’. “We are taking 21st century challenges, evaluating them with 20th century ideas and responding with 19th century tools,” Hill started with a quote by Madeline Albright, the former US Secretary of State. He emphasized the importance of looking at the big picture, finding new modes of intervention and working to affect change.

Through the example of the Incomplete City, collaborative weeklong experimental workshops ran by Hill, Joseph Grima and Marco Ferrari, first at UCL Bartlett School of Architecture in 2016 and later again at University of Michigan in 2019, Hill stressed the importance of the design of the decision-making process rather than the final solution. How can we facilitate ambiguous, grounded, adaptive, collaborative, engaged, transdisciplinary practices and implement them in our cultures of decision-making?

These ideas are very much at the core of DAE and are reflected in the new visual identity, revealed by Grima at the end of the programme. After a transparent and democratic process, involving the whole student body and staff alike, the job was awarded to Simone C. Niquille who looked at how we embody what it means to gather, store and transmit information. The result is a stripped down and humble visual language “that captures the pragmatic nature of the institution,” stated Grima. The new website, that will go online by the graduation show, does not encompass the values of DAE only visually, but will work as an open forum. “Design is inherently a political act, with information and its control ever more important,” started Grima, revealing that everybody who is a member of the Design Academy community has equal access to change or generate new pages and contribute knowledge.

The event was concluded with a small toast, celebrating the upcoming year and all of the thrilling developments coming to DAE in the next couple of months. From new courses, such as the new Geo-Design MA department and the launch of the Foundation year preparatory course, to the school’s new visual identity, we are promised an exciting school year.

Published: 11-Sep-2020 16:35

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