An Afternoon Between Graduate Projects from Design Academy Eindhoven, On the Hunt for New Talent

Rosario Spagnolello
·5 minuto per la lettura
Photo credit: Courtesy Roberta Di Cosmo
Photo credit: Courtesy Roberta Di Cosmo

From ELLE Decor

Those who have been to the Dutch Design Week of years past know that the Graduation Show from Design Academy Eindhoven is the most interesting and engaging event around. In 2019, the school moved from its central space to colonize the former Campina Milk Factory, whose immense environments proved perfect for a design showcase. Each year, nearly 200 theses are exhibited between Bachelor and Master projects and you can expect to spend an entire afternoon pouring over all of them. The competition is almost tangible, with students vying for the vastly influential attention of collectors, gallerists, curators and journalists. In fact, last year’s design duo OrtaMiklos wound up on display in the Friedman Benda gallery of New York — one of the most important showcases in the world — just a few months after graduation.

But due to the Coronavirus, this year’s Graduation Show at the DAE has been moved online. No more chatting with young designers, no warm soups at lunch, no beers after the show. Those interested in the projects are given a long list of images and texts to observe on the academy’s website, along with the occasional live stream on Instagram. So, I’ve attempted to scour the website in search of the most interesting projects. Obviously the creative inspiration overflows, but I must admit to some major limitations in my analysis: my level of concentration is much lower before a computer, some projects appeared too complex and would require further explanation, and, most importantly, I love to touch (and feel) design.

In any case, I’ve attempted to make a selection of seven projects (five Masters and two Bachelors) that I hope can recount the many design prospectives and trends that the Design Academy Eindhoven has developed over the past few years.

Roberta Di Cosmo: Re-birth. Trauma as a performative process


Photo credit: Courtesy Roberta Di Cosmo
Photo credit: Courtesy Roberta Di Cosmo

An installation and performance in a public space recalls memories that are still part of the local identity in Racale, a small town in the province of Lecce. In Puglia, Xylella bacteria has ravaged the rural landscape and local economy, killing millions of olive trees, where Roberta Di Cosmo reinterprets tools and gestures linked to the harvesting of olives in this project inviting us to collectively rethink our relationship with the landscapes and community.

Lotte Ottevanger: Kidfluencer starterkit


Photo credit: Courtesy Lotte Ottevanger
Photo credit: Courtesy Lotte Ottevanger

“This installation is a critical comment on the exposure of children today by their parents without their consent.” What is clearly a critical project could be, as far as I’m concerned, immediately commercialized, as the trend that Ottevanger speaks of is now widespread among new parents. Just look at the son of Chiara Ferragni, born in front of the screen and accustomed to seeing himself through Instagram filters. Little Leo is exploited to advertise children’s products and, unknowingly, has already become an influencer. We can also add that the vibrant and attractive forms and colors of the thesis project perfectly capture the overall concept.

Tadeáš Podracký: The metamorphosis

Photo credit: Patrik Borecky
Photo credit: Patrik Borecky

This project is based on the emotions of decisions, unpredictability and freedom of expression. Podracký designs a series of furnishings openly opposed to serially produced design and the homogenization of style. In the video presented, the iconoclast designer transforms a celebrated Gerrit Rietveld chair into a new amorphous piece, obtained through a series of instinctive and brutal operations. His is a project perfectly representing the Academy’s provocative attitude — one we might even say has been homogenized to a formal aesthetic trend commonly found at Eindhoven for some years now.

Matilde Losi: The exhibition complex

Photo credit: Courtesy Matilde Losi
Photo credit: Courtesy Matilde Losi

This Italian designer presents a work of great substance void of any superfluous frills, exploring the role of design museums in contemporary society. We might even say that her research questions the sense of speculative design, which is conceived to be exhibited in museums more than for daily use. “How can contemporary design use exhibition spaces as a tool? And how can institutions provide a toolbox for design?” asks Losi. Beginning from a particular case study, the creative observes the development of speculative design over time and the relationship between project, institution and public.

Jean-Baptiste Gambier: Cut, peel, stick and seal!


Photo credit: © Jean-Baptiste Gambier
Photo credit: © Jean-Baptiste Gambier

Color, simple usage, improvisation, pastiche in forms and materials. Gambier experiments with the properties of adhesive tape, connecting scrap wood in various ways. The tape is simple, accessible and fast to use — the perfect convivial tool. What’s more, it has its own aesthetic fascination with vibrant colors and casual geometric forms. These casual assemblies remind me of those more sophisticated examples by Martino Gamper, but for beginners.

Coltrane McDowell: Olfactory bio-politics: Nairobi

Photo credit: Courtesy Coltrane McDowell
Photo credit: Courtesy Coltrane McDowell

The Canadian designer explores the role that scent plays in structuring everyday life. Through a series of documentary videos, McDowell studies cases in Mathare, Kenya, spanning from the low-cost distillery to the production of roses, which suffered a hit in recent months due to the pandemic. His research combines community engagement, the observation and profound understanding of a complex context, and a high-quality visual narration, which begins from the unusual sense of smell to recount design.

Meghan Clarke, This Work of Body / This Body of Work

Photo credit: Courtesy Meghan Clarke
Photo credit: Courtesy Meghan Clarke

To infinitely repeat the same gesture. Knots upon knots. Story upon story. Meghan Clarke is a contemporary Penelope and her canvases acts of graceful sabotage. Hers is a “critical and paradoxical act of non-productive productivity by engaging in devoted repetitions and an embodied occupation of time” — a constant act repeated 1,110 times per hour, 18.5 times per minute, “keeping pace to the contemporary rhythm of Netflix autoplay”. The designer looks to jam the (invisible) assembly lines of contemporary work, like workers once did in the factories just decades ago, blocking the machines. The designer does so by simply — and productively — occupying her time, so that it cannot be occupied for her.

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