During this year’s Dutch Design Week – completely virtual due to Corona – four leading figures in the digital design world shared their ideas about the future of digital design, and its contribution to different aspects of life that (will) make a genuine difference to our future. Brought to you by Dutch Digital Design – a collective of Dutch agencies and brands sharing and celebrating the very best of Dutch digital work.

Enjoy reading our recount of the DDW Talks live panel discussion between Harald Dunnink – founder and creative director of strategic design agency Momkai and the online platform for unbreaking news The Correspondent, Luna Maurer – co-founder and partner of interactive design Studio Moniker, Jeroen van Eijk – founder and CEO of production invention lab Handmade, and Michiel Knoppert – creative director Advanced User Experience at Dell. All beautifully moderated by Emily Hinks, founder of facilitating agency Mischief Makers.

From what angle are you entering into this discussion?

Harald would like to share his vision on the future of something he calls memberful design. At Momkai they no longer speak about user experiences. They feel that is too generic, calling them users. They prefer to call them members and offer them meaningful member experiences. To give these members a reason to subscribe. To a membership that supports the cause. The Correspondent digital news platform is a great example of this.

Luna agrees with Harald’s point about the generic term of users. In all the work Studio Moniker creates, they aim for users to be participants. To invite people to participate within a playful environment. To add a human aspect to the digital surroundings. But with a focus on more serious aspects/issues in life, raising awareness. Luna illustrates this with one of their projects called Paperstorm – dropping virtual leaflets on a Google map supporting the cause of net-neutrality.

Michiel comes from a more technological angle. At Dell’s Advanced User Experience Lab they like to look ahead, to visualise what might be needed in 5 to 10 years. To develop prototypes that can be turned into a real project or product. For example, AR can give us the opportunity to create a better, more beautiful vision on how things could work – by trying, failing and trying again. To look at a different way of working. For example, they have looked at evolving interfaces. To re-connect by making your interface experience more human.

Jeroen’s angle is also technology-based. At Handmade they explore future products by bringing different experiences to life. Their way of testing a product before it gets manufactured. For example, with regards to the automotive industry, they look at the future of cars, including sustainability and mobility. Designers can look at and address all of these issues with the current digital technology, and try to design the perfect car.

It’s a time of great change. What changes are you seeing related to your work, in response to all that is happening now?

‘The internet is no longer an open network. People do not really browse the web anymore.’

~Luna Maurer – Studio Moniker

Luna feels that we are moving towards a closed internet that is ruled by the major social networks. Therefore, people’s mentality has changed, and the market is saturated. She feels that the internet is politically loaded, and would like to raise awareness on how to position yourself within such a saturated environment.

Harald agrees. His and Momkai’s mission, therefore, is to create online spaces of calm. To be constructive and help each other, rather than causing division. An online experience should trigger meaningful behaviour and be more than just using your mouse and staring at your screen.

When looking to the future, are you an optimist or a pessimist?

‘Apparently, 55% of our non-verbal communication is now missing.’

~Jeroen van Eijk – Handmade

Our more technology-focused panellists, Jeroen and Michiel, feel that designers should always look at both sides of the coin. Their focus should be to do good with technology. However, to do so, they also need to consider the bad side of what this technology could bring.

For example, 5G has incredible potential. It offers ample opportunities to create products that use data streaming. These products need the 5G band-with. However, on the other side, it could also be used as an espionage tool. It is the designers’ responsibility to consider both sides.

Michiel adds to this that technology enabled us to work from home, enabled us to adapt to a new normal. However, we are now all craving contact. We suffer from ‘zoom fatigue’. We are missing the human touch as we are humans after all.

Our future – what role do you feel digital design/technology has in this?

‘We spend 2.5 hours per day looking for information on any device.’

~Michiel Knoppert – Advanced User Experience Lab at Dell

Michiel’s desired future is for digital technology – for example, AI – to enable us to manage our days better. To have the desired information delivered to us. This will save time and give us more time to focus on other things.

Luna feels that we need change. Change in the current digital climate. Requiring new non-finance-driven business models that can re-create a truly public, digital space.

In the current digital world we want everything to go quicker and run smoothly. Luna believes it is time for the opposite: to design hurdles and create the unexpected, always combined with fun. She compares Google Quick Draw – a completely safe, never inappropriate doodling tool – with Studio Moniker’s ‘donotdrawapenis’ doodling platform where the algorithm created by them will always spot a penis in everything.

How do you feel about the relationship between the digital and physical world? How do you see this evolving over the next few years?

Jeroen starts by saying that the internet is everywhere, and, therefore, the need for physical products is becoming smaller. However, he feels that we should always focus on the people who use a product. What is their need? Consequently, most things should exist in both worlds. Products should be intelligent and meaningful, not just convenient.

According to Harald, our focus should always be to bring people together, to connect. Therefore, when starting a business, we should always write down our principles and consider the hurdles first. Momkai’s focus is to aim for minimal data collection in any project: both a hurdle but also a Momkai principle. We should not focus on selling the data collected but let members control the data and, thus, create an online space of calm. Without feeling tracked.

What is your one piece of advice when it comes to ‘shaping tomorrow’?

‘It is a great gift to be able to design something out of nothing.’

~Harald Dunnink – Momkai/The Correspondent

: leverage all kinds of technologies in order to enable rapid ‘design by making’, with as little as possible as quickly as possible

Michiel: not take anything for granted. To force yourself to look at things with fresh eyes and learn something new every time.

Luna: put your device away. Force yourself to be without, without technology. Cause and feel friction in order to feel how you would like things to be.

Harald: always consider your moral compass, what you believe in, and make those ideas tangible.

Intrigued and inspired by the above discussion, have a look at the full video here: https://vimeo.com/475174280

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