Practical Matters

The Design Academy Eindhoven’s annual graduation show in October is so popular that it spawned Eindhoven Design Week. For the past four years international visitors have flocked to the small city to attend exhibitions, lectures, workshops, and parties—but mostly to see what students at the visionary school have conceived. “The show this year is very diverse,” says Bas Berck, coordinator of cultural and commercial affairs at the Design Academy. “There’s not one common denominator. It’s a little more serious, less humorous; work that’s more pragmatic and engaged in problem solving, more humanitarian.”

Students from design’s conceptual hothouse are producing pragmatic work? Among the projects that stand out for tackling social issues constructively are the Domestic Rollator vacuum by Wouter Haarsma and the 1/2 bra by Marly Huibregtse. The names may be familiarly dry but the work is quite serious. Haarsma’s vacuum is an addition for a rolling walker/buggy commonly supplied to the elderly through the Dutch health-care system, making it possible for people to use equipment they probably already own to more easily perform a routine domestic chore. With her beautiful 1/2 bras, Huibregtse celebrates asymmetry, defying the aesthetic of prosthetic mastectomy bras and traditional lingerie, both designed to make breasts appear as identical as possible. Pieter Maes’s Self-assembly Radio brings to electronics the kind of customization already available in areas of design such as bicycling and skateboarding. “This is a more down-to-earth period, economically,” Berck reasons. “People are more concerned with trying to find a job and are seeing the profession a little more straightforwardly.”

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